Helping hedgehogs this autumn
The leaves are changing colour, the nights are drawing in and the jumpers and socks are definitely out!
Autumn is here and it is the season of change, both inside and outside. While we are beginning to think of Halloween, bonfire night and even Christmas, there are a few creatures out there thinking about nest building and food eating ready for hibernation in the winter ahead.
One of these is our native garden wanderer, the hedgehog.
This time of year can be tough for hedgehogs, with juvenile hogs leaving their mums and beginning to fend for themselves. There is an urgency to find enough food and nesting material ready for hibernation before the cold weather sets in. There is also the danger from bonfires to consider.
Hedgehog populations are in serious decline with surveys showing numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century. Rough estimates put the hedgehog population in England, Wales and Scotland at about only one million - compared with 30 million in the 1950s.
There are a number of reasons that have contributed to this decline including the removal of hedging to create larger fields, and the use of insecticides and pesticides diminishing the insect populations that hedgehogs eat.
Another reason is the way we set up and use our gardens; with many gardens fenced and landscaped it makes it very difficult for hedgehogs (who can roam up to 2 kilometres a night!) to move around, forage for food and build nests.
With all these hurdles they have to face it’s easy to understand why they need that bit of extra help at this time of the year, but everyone can do a little something to help.
So here are some tips for how you can help this autumn:
• Bonfires provide an enticing nesting space for hedgehogs so, with bonfire season coming up, please make sure you check bonfires carefully before lighting.
• With hibernation fast approaching it can help to provide supplementary food in your garden. Meat-based cat or dog food, special hedgehog food, along with a few crushed unsalted peanuts, raisins or mealworms are all great for hungry hedgehogs.
• A fresh bowl of water will also be appreciated by the busy foraging hedgehogs.
• Leave an area of your garden a bit wilder – brambles, log piles, leaf piles and long grass or scrub are all perfect places for hedgehogs to make a cosy hibernation nest.
• Try not to use slug pellets or pesticides in your garden as not only will they reduce the number of insects available for hedgehogs to eat, they might also make the hedgehogs very ill.
• With hedgehogs struggling to get from garden to garden on their travels, why not make your own ‘hedgehog highway’ by creating a small hedgehog sized gap in your fence? If you live on one of our developments you may already find you have one!
• Have a look for hedgehog events near you to see how you can do your bit and help out.
They may only be small actions, but you can play a big part in helping the UK’s biodiversity. So no matter how small the gesture, help a hedgehog this autumn!