As a team, we’re fascinated by hedgehogs. Spring’s Abbie, is inundated with the spiny fellas. (She lives next to a wood). We’re up for coaxing more of the little guys onto our patch so we thought we’d share some tips with you. We grilled Norman Sellers, MD, Wildlife World, on how we can hug-a-hog (figuratively speaking of course!). And guess what? The night after this interview Stephanie spotted this hefty little ball of spines in her garden! Timely.
Is autumn a good time of year to up your hedgehog fandom?
“It’s prime time because hedgehogs have to reach a good weight to survive the winter when they go into hibernation. There are late litters, born around August, that need to bulk up for hibernation. Baby hedgehogs need to amass 500g-600g in bodyweight or they can’t get through winter. This is where we can help.
Abbie is our expert hedgehog honcho and bought a specialist camera to see how many ate the food that she put out. Problem was, Alf (our Barketing Executive) surreptitiously wolfed it down when he thought no one was watching. They didn’t get a look in. Little did he know he was on Candid Camera but what do we do if we have gluttonous pets?
Well if you’ve got a greedy dog perhaps then a hedgehog house is a winner. Pop the food inside and your pets can’t touch it. They start house-hunting and settle in around early November, hibernating until late March or April. The weather plays a huge part: if it’s dry then they should have no trouble building up. Wet and nasty and the rescue centres need to kick in. Thankfully this autumn looks like it’s going to be on their side.
What’s the deal with hedgehogs right now? Are they declining in numbers?
I’m afraid so, yes. In the last 40 years they’ve gone from 30 million to 1.5 million. And early this year they were put into a new class “vulnerable to extinction”. It’s all a bit scary.
Why do you think the little fellas are having a hard time?
I think it’s mainly intensive agriculture, road kill and predation – badgers will eat them when pushed. Badgers typically look for worms but, if they get desperate they go for hedgehogs and bumble bees. With fewer hedgerows, spraying of insecticides and the use of slug pellets, hedgehogs rely on the good old domestic garden for sustenance.
OK, well we love a list so we asked Norman for his top tips on getting hedgehogs through winter …
- We’re in for another dry spell so put water out as they can be prone to dehydration. They are lactose intolerant so no milk.
- If you don’t have a greedy pet then supplementary food works, like our specialist hedgehog pellets for instance. Or just pick up wet dog or cat food – meat flavoured rather than fish – from the supermarket.
- Log piles and wild areas in the garden are great retreats for the tired hedgehog. Failing that invest in a hedgehog house. You can purchase them from a number of outlets like wildlife charities and here at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
- Make a motorway through your garden! They can travel up to two miles in a night – they’re climbers too and can scale a small, foot-high wall looking for food but much better to make it easy for them. Making a runway through the bottom of a fence creates a feeding corridor.
- Don’t be alarmed if you spot one running round in circles, licking their spines: they are self-anointing!
Thanks Norman! It was a pleasure talking to you. We will do our best to up that hedgehog population from 1.5 million over the autumn.
No problem and if you’re interested in learning more then get in touch with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they are enormously helpful.