Hedgehogs Need our Help
In a recent survey the humble Hedgehog was voted Britain's favourite wild creature. Sadly, they are in dire need of a helping hand as their numbers are declining at an alarming rate.
Why Are Hedgehogs In Trouble
The cause of their decline is due in large part to us humans. We take their natural habitat for our own uses, close off their access to food and nesting sites by building our fences, poison them by our use of insecticides, slug pellets and rat poisons. We cause them harm by our use of strimmers and lawn mowers, and burn them in bonfires. And of course they become road traffic fatalities all to frequently.
Will You Be A Hedgehog Hero?
Well, here is your chance to lend a helping hand so some hedgehogs who have had a bit of a rough start and are now ready to go back to the wild. They are languishing in Rescue Centres right now and only need a little help from you to get back to the wild life they were born to.
Some of these hedgehogs were taken in by Wildlife Rescue groups last autumn as they were too underweight to survive the winter. They will have been nursed back to full health, fattened up and now they are awake and ready to start their life in the wild. Some may have been rescued and treated for wounds or injuries and are now deemed well enough to return to the wild.
Why Release in Martinstown?
Wherever possible, rescued hedgehogs are returned to where they were found. However, sometimes this information isn't known or the site is deemed to be unsuitable or unsafe. Martinstown still has many mature native hedgerows, small deciduous copses, and many of the gardens back onto open countryside, giving hogs room to roam.
Is Your Garden Suitable As A Release Site?
If you can meet the following criteria, your garden would make a great release site.
- You have a wild or less cultivated area of garden where hedgehogs will not be disturbed by pets or household members. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and need somewhere cool, quiet and safe to sleep undisturbed during the day.
- Hedgehogs must have access to other gardens, or the wider countryside. So gaps under your hedges and fences (minimum of 13 cm / 4” square) are essential. Hedgehogs need to travel over surprising distances every night to find food and romance.
- You can provide access to safe fresh water. A large shallow dish set into the earth, or access to a wildlife friendly garden pond is ideal. Hedgehogs can swim well, but frequently drown in pools and ponds because they have steep sides and no means of climbing out.
- You are not currently using traps baited with rat poison in your garden. A recent survey found an alarming number of dead hedgehogs who had ingested rat poison. These are legal poisons, but small hogs can enter the baited traps and take the bait.
- You are not using slug pellets. Poisoned slugs crawl away from the treated plants and are eaten by hedgehogs.
- You can commit to checking areas of long grass and under hedges before using strimmers or lawnmowers. Hedgehogs curl into a ball when alarmed and that is no protection against a strimmer cord or lawnmower blade!
- Badgers. Badgers are known to take hedgehogs for food. If you have an active badger set close they may predate your released hogs.
- Dogs. If your dog is the kind to chase small animals, and is likely to worry or attack a Hedgehog, its best not to risk confrontation. Many hedgehogs are injured by dog attacks and both hog and dog suffer, with prickles left embedded in the dog's mouth and paws
- You only use an incinerator for bonfires and don't just light the heap under which hedgehogs could be living.
- You will take care turning compost heaps, as hedgehogs love to burrow into them.
- You will tighten any loose netting in the garden to avoid Hedgehog spines becoming entangled.
- Any drains which a Hedgehog could fall into and become trapped are covered.
So what's involved?
If you would like to release some hedgehogs into your garden they will be collected from the Rescue Centre and delivered to your home in time for an evening release. They will arrive with a loan nest box and feeding station. The feeding station goes some way to ensuring that any food left out by you gets eaten by the hedgehogs and not ‘anyone’ else. You will also be given a small amount of appropriate food to get you started. You will need to provide a few bricks, or stones to weight down the box lids, and a suitable bowl or dish for fresh water.
Once released, the hedgehogs are likely to disappear overnight to explore their new habitat and to find food. They may return to sleep through the day in their nest box if they have not been able to find a suitable nest site or materials. Please don't keep opening the nest box, as this will disturb them and may drive them away from a safe, warm nest.
It's likely that your hedgehogs will come back to your garden to take food from their feeding station. Any uneaten wet food should be discarded and refreshed daily. If the food has not been taken for a few days you can stop leaving it out. The food you are supplying is a suplement to their natural diet and if they can access sufficient territory they will find all they need in the wild,
That's it, if you want to continue feeding you can make or buy your own feeding station and provide supplemental rations for some lucky hogs, but you will have done your bit to help. The loan equipment will be collected after a while to be used elsewhere.
These are wild animals, and must not be made pets of. They should be totally free to come and go and you must never try to contain them. If enough people help out, Martinstown could have an active breeding colony of hedgehogs in the near future.
Want to build your own Hedgehog home?
If you want to do more you could provide a Hedgehog with a winter home or nursery by buying or making a nesting box. The following websites provide instructions on making your box, or buying a ready made.