Help hedgehogs this autumn
Can you find the cute hedgehog in our Enchanted Woodland Puzzle? While this eco-friendly and adorable puzzle is one of my favourite products in our toy collection, I hadn't yet paid much attention to the little spiky woodland friend in the bottom right corner of the puzzle. This changed, when the lovely Rebecca Howells got in touch one evening. Becky kindly asked about receiving one of the puzzles as a donation for a Christmas stall she runs to raise funds for her local hedgehog rescue centre. Looking into her cause, I was reminded that hedgehogs were troubled and in decline. Luckily, there are many ways we can all help these little chaps out.
We have spoken to Becky about her passion for raising money for the Medway Hedgehog Rescue Centre and asked her how families can support hedgehogs this autumn. Becky and her husband have more than ten hedgehogs visiting their garden each night. They care for them by providing food and water and safe, snuggly hedgehog houses to sleep in.
Why do hedgehogs need our help?
Hedgehogs are Britain's favourite wild animals, yet they are in huge trouble, mainly due to habitat decline. Our preference towards well-kept, paved, and enclosed gardens, together with the loss of natural hedgerows and woodland has reduced their living and foraging areas. In the past decade alone, surveys show that we have lost over half of our rural hedgehogs, and a third from our towns and cities. If this steep decline continues, we could lose our spiky friends for good! Not only are hedgehogs interesting and adorable, but they play a vital role in our ecosystem - they desperately need all the help they can get.
How can families make gardens hedgehog- friendly?
There are so many ways families can create hedgehog-friendly spaces in their gardens, and most cost nothing! Here are some examples:
- Make sure hedgehogs have easy access to your garden - ensure all fences/walls have a CD size hole in them so that hedgehogs can travel from garden to garden (a "Hedgehog Highway").
- Avoid using pesticides and slug pellets - these harm the food chain, and in turn, hedgehogs.
- Check all areas thoroughly before strimming or mowing as this could be lethal for a hedgehog. Do not use netting on the ground.
- If you have a pond, ensure you have a gently sloping edge with half submerging rocks on one side, so hedgehogs have an easy exit.
- Don't leave your garage or shed doors open, as hedgehogs and other wildlife can get trapped in there.
- With bonfires, always check the base and rearrange the materials before lighting, as hedgehogs love to make nests underneath log piles.
- Keep an area of your garden wild - e.g. a pile of logs and twigs/shrubbery/compost heap, or even better, make or purchase a hedgehog house and fill it with newspaper strips, hay, and dry autumn leaves.
Sharon was rescued in early September, underweight and with a broken back leg. Medway Hedgehog Rescue and the local vets tried everything in order for her to keep her leg, but sadly she has had to have it amputated. She is recovering well and when she has recuperated and is heavy enough, she will be released, hopefully before hibernation! Hedgehogs who have had a leg amputated in the past have been fit and fast enough to survive living in the wild on three legs. Get well soon Sharon!
What can families feed hedgehogs?
Leave a bowl of fresh water in your garden and a bowl of dry cat biscuits or specialised hedgehog food. Make sure cats can't get into the feeding stations by reducing the entrance size. It is so important to feed hedgehogs in autumn as they need to build up their fat reserves to survive hibernation. Avoid feeding hedgehogs dried mealworms, sunflower hearts or peanuts as this can cause a calcium deficiency. These foods are the equivalent of junk food for hedgehogs - tasty, but not very healthy! And, despite popular belief, do not feed them bread or cow's milk, as they are lactose intolerant.
When should families seek expert help for a hedgehog?
Some hoglets can be born very late in the year and do not have the time to build up their fat reserves before it is time to hibernate. Therefore, hedgehogs weighing less than 500g will need some extra help, which may involve being looked after over the winter at a hedgehog rescue centre. Also, if you find a baby hedgehog weighing under 300g on its own, it may be orphaned and not yet weaned. If you are sure that there is no mother around and they are found out in the day, then please wrap them in a towel and put them on a warm hot water bottle in a cardboard box with air holes whilst you seek help from a specialist.
If you come across an injured hedgehog who needs urgent attention, wrap them in a towel/blanket, put them in a box and take them to your local vet. They will usually check them over for free.
Please note that seeing a hedgehog out in the day may not mean they are ill as it could be a new mother searching for food, so do not move them unless you fear for their safety.
For underweight, orphaned or sick hedgehogs contact your local Hedgehog Rescue Centre to ask for advice, or call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801.
Colour-in fun for little-ones
Hedgehog facts for children
- Hedgehog babies are born without spines and are called hoglets or urchins. Within hours of being born, their first set of soft white spines push through the skin.
- Hedgehogs have approximately 5000 spines!
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and become active at night, foraging for food.
- Hedgehogs can travel 1-2 miles per night to search for food (and a girlfriend!), so they will visit many gardens on their travels. With their long legs, hedgehogs can run at up to 5 miles per hour!
- A group of hedgehogs is called an array or prickle, but hedgehogs prefer to live on their own.
- Wild hedgehogs generally live for 4 - 7 years.
- Hedgehogs hibernate (go to sleep) around October/November time until March/April time. They hibernate to survive, as in the winter, there aren’t many insects or worms around for them to eat. If we get a warm winter and food is still available, sometimes hedgehogs don't worry about hibernating.
- A hedgehog's diet in the wild consists of worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs and millipedes. As well as these, they also eat a wide range of other insects, and sometimes will take advantage of frogs, mice, baby birds, birds' eggs and fallen fruit. Hedgehogs also really love poultry-based cat food, and special hedgehog food that you can leave in your garden for them.
Thank you Becky!