Friday, 12 June 2015

Want to help nature? - Instalment One

Hedgehogs are one of the UK's most love mammals…unlike the controversy associated with badgers, or the dirtiness associated with rats, hedgehogs seem to be perfect. I use the word 'associated' as I personally don't believe this rubbish.  Even though the hedgehogs are much loved, there aren't many people in the UK actively helping the species. In this blog post I'm going to show you what I have done to make my patch more hedgehog friendly, and hopefully inspire you to do the same. It's an overused saying but 'every penny counts' in terms of turing your garden into a hedgehog haven…the simplest of things can go a long way!

In the 1950s it was estimated there were 36.5 million hedgehogs in Britain; A more recent estimate in 1995 shows that there are now just over 1.5 million. I find it so frightening that if we don't change our ways QUICK the hedgehog will be gone in a matter of years. Their populations pocketed around the UK will continue to fall dramatically until they don't have a healthy threshold population…past the point of no return so to speak. We can change this! But we have to do it soon. If you follow the tips below you could help save this wonderful species and bring them back to both our urban and rural areas.


Some very simple things you can do to prevent directly injuring any local hedgehogs:
  •  Always check before cutting down long grass…and if possible don't cut down the grass in the first place! 
  • Before you light a bonfire ensure no hedgehogs are sleeping inside. This is so important as hundreds of hedgehogs are found in the remaining ashes after bonfire night…and by then it's too late.
  • Designate a 'wild patch' in your garden. Lets the grass grow, make a log or leaf pile and try not to disturb it too much.
  • Drive in 'wildlife mode' in Spring as this is when young hedgehogs are out exploring and are unaware of dangers.
So, those were some pretty simple changes weren't they! None of them take longer than around 5 minutes to do but they will help your local hedgehogs dramatically. If you want to really go to town with it you can do some of the following activities…

Build a hedgehog hotel!

You can either buy one online or make one yourself. I personally think the bought ones are very expensive for what they actually are (essentially a upturned container!) so I would advice to make one. I'm not going to give any specific dimensions as there isn't particularly a wrong or right way. Below is my homemade hedgehog hotel with a relatively larger entrance hole and even a green roof! 


Inside the box there is a small wooden division to try to prevent any larger animals getting in or any badger paws trying to reach in to get the hedgehogs. After placing the box in a quiet spot in my garden I filled the box with some dry leaves and straw to provide insulation for the hedgehogs. I have had various visitors to this box, a minimum of two hedgehog individuals which I have captured on my trail camera. Mice have also visited the box, but mainly for the food which I leave out (wet cat food & water, not bread & milk!) If you want to see my first visitor here is the youtube videoenjoy.



Once you've installed your hedgehog box you obviously need a way for the hedgehogs to get into your garden...because unless there is an entrance/exit even a hedgehog palace won't get any visitors! To do this you need a hedgehog hole like the one below.


I'm planning on doing a hedgehog painting on the slate shown above to make sure my dog knows that the hole is only for hedgehogs and not a escape route!! You could either cut a hole in your fence, clear a path through a hedge or dig a tunnel under a concrete barrier. Another style of hedgehog box is this one…


For this one I used bricks and larger ceramic slabs to construct the structure. I ensured to support the roof with many different items preventing any injuries to the hedgehogs inside. This method is a much quicker, cheaper and easier way of providing a home for garden wildlife compared to the wooden box. However the best way is just to chuck a pile of leaves and logs in the corner of your garden! It's good to leave a little bit of food (wet cat sachets) and water in the box that you can easily refill but this is not necessary.

Make Hedgehog ramps!

With our garden ponds becoming more ornamental and less wildlife-friendly a hedgehog will inevitably fall in one day. Even though hedgehogs are surprisingly good swimmers they will eventually tire and drown if there's no exit. Hedgehog ramps are also needed for exits off patios at a lower level to the rest of the garden…it's all pretty much common sense! I tend to use a long plank of wood with smaller branches of varying diameters nailed on for grip. They are relatively easy to make and you can even use trees from your own garden to provide the timber!


Here's another version which I have made to allow an exit off our patio. It's almost like a wheelchair ramp. Hogs are not only good swimmers but they are relatively good climbers and could probably get up off the patio easily, but I like to make it more comfortable for them!


Finally, if you ever see a hedgehog out in the daytime the likelihood is that it is underweight and needs help. Ring up either your local animal centre or the Hedgehog Society who can be contacted on 01584 890 801. They will give you advice of what to do next. I hope you have found this blog useful, and will take on some of my tips. Spread the word of the hedgehog decline and get your friends to make their gardens hog-friendly too!

More information about hedgehogs, their threats and how to help them can be found at http://www.hedgehogstreet.org