Hedgehogs are on the decline, according to a new report, but there are plenty of things you can do to encourage them into your garden. They are particularly useful animals for the gardener, consuming large quantities of slugs and snails. They are usually most active after dark in the hours before midnight, often travelling approximately one mile each night to forage for food, find shelter or search for a mate.
To roam freely Hedgehogs need open gardens, but if yours is enclosed and you can create a gap (15cm will do) in a fence or dig a channel under it, this will help them a great deal.
Food supplies can run low in cold or very dry weather and hedgehogs are very fond of meaty dog food, mealworms, sunflower hearts and unsalted peanuts. You can also buy ready-made hedgehog food. Leave out some water (if you already do this for the birds, the hedgehogs will drink it too), but please don't give them milk.
Leave autumn leaves untouched in quiet corners of your garden. This will offer excellent shelter and foraging ground for your prickly visitors.
Gardening organically helps too - slug pellets are harmful to hedgehogs, so if you can use natural deterrents such as beer traps or broken eggshells, this will help to boost hedgehog survival rates. Ensure that ponds have a shallow end to facilitate their escape, should a hedgehog fall in - or place a small ramp into steep sided ponds.
Bonfires, strimmers, garden forks and other tools present grave danger for sleepy hedgehogs. Be sure to disturb any areas of long grass, bonfires or mounds of fallen leaves prior to starting work to give Hedgehogs an opportunity to escape beforehand. Get into this habit all year round, and not just in autumn.
Gardening with hedgehogs in mind will help to alleviate many of the dangers that they face and make your garden a much safer place for our spiky friends. However, if you spot an injured or sick hedgehog, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801.
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