The hedgehog is often considered to be the unofficial emblem of Britain, representing self-reliance and prickliness under threat. Despite our fondness for the UK’s only native spiny mammal, they are an extremely vulnerable species. A report published in 2022 revealed that since 2000, the hedgehog population has declined between 30%-75% across the country. In an effort to raise awareness of their plight, Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
The reasons for their decline include the challenge of foraging in urban areas and the removal of hedgerows in rural areas. As a result, hedgehogs struggle to find places to breed, hibernate and find enough food to survive.
To help, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society encourages members of the public to support hedgehogs in their local area. Making small changes in our gardens, such as creating hedgehog highways, can have a big impact. With good habitat management in our gardens and parks, we can give our prickly friends the best chance of survival.
Hedgehogs - Nature's Gardeners!
Hedgehogs are a wonderful part of our garden ecosystem and are nicknamed the 'gardeners friend' with good reason:
- Pest Control: Hedgehogs are natural pest controllers and can help reduce the population of insects, slugs, snails, and other garden pests. They can eat up to 200 grams of insects per night, making them an effective solution for gardeners who want to reduce the use of pesticides!
- Enrichment: Hedgehogs produce nutrient-rich droppings that can fertilize your garden soil. Their droppings contain high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium - essential nutrients for plant growth.
- Natural Lawn Mowers: Hedgehogs help keep lawns neat and tidy by munching on unwanted grass and weeds.
- Ecological Balance: Hedgehogs are an important part of the food chain and help maintain ecological balance in your garden. They are also pollinators - carrying pollen on their quills from flower to flower.
- Educational Value: Having hedgehogs in your garden can be a great educational opportunity for children and adults alike. It can teach them about the importance of wildlife conservation and how they can help protect the environment.
Hedgehogs are also an indicator species, which means that they act as a gauge for the general health of the environment. When hedgehogs are thriving, it is an indicator that other creatures are too.
How you can help
This year, the theme of Hedgehog Awareness Week theme is 'Think Hedgehog!'. The public is encouraged to consider their gardens from a hog's perspective. This will help them identify any potential safety and access issues.
Hazards that you should look out for in your garden include:
- Uncovered drains and holes in which hedgehogs could fall
- Garden chemicals such as pesticides, slug pellets and poisons which could kill hedgehogs
- Garden netting or football nets that a hedgehog could become entangled in
Apart from checking for hazards, you can easily enhance your garden to create a more hedgehog-friendly environment. Things you can do include:
- Create 'Hedgehog Highways': Make gaps in your garden fences and encourage your neighbours to do the same too - find out more here
- Set up a hedgehog feeding station: Use an upturned bucket with a hole in the side (Make sure it's big enough for a hedgehog!), provide water and hedgehog food
- If you have a pond or fountain, install an escape ramp. This could be a simple piece of wood or some bricks, which will allow hedgehogs to climb out of the water if they fall in
- Log or leaf piles in the corner of your garden will help to create a safe shelter for slumbering hedgehogs
What to do if you find a hedgehog
If you find a hedgehog and are concerned for its health and safety you should:
- Wear gardening gloves when handling them
- Put them in a high-sided box
- Cover the hedgehog with an old towel or blanket to keep it warm
- Seek help as soon as possible by calling the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801
- Hedgehogs are ancient! They have been around for over 15 million years
- Each hedgehog has more than 5,000 spines in its prickly coat for protection
- The hedgehog, along with the dormouse and bat, are the only animals in the UK that hibernate
- Hedgehogs travel around a mile every night
- A hedgehog can visit as many as ten different gardens over several nights
To find out more about hedgehogs and how you can help protect them, visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website.
Read more about small animals:
How to Care for Wildlife This Winter