In the 1950’s it was estimated that there were approximately 36.5 million hedgehogs living in Britain. In 1995 a new survey estimated numbers at 1.55 million. A report in 2018 suggests that numbers have now declined to 1 million.
So how can we help?
It is estimated that the average hedgehog travels 1 mile each night in search of food and a mate. Therefore we need to make our gardens more accessible to them. Hedgehogs hibernate from October to April but can be seen out and about well into November and December during milder winters. If you do see a hedgehog out it’s most likely to be moving nesting sites but if the hedgehog is still and hasn’t moved for some time then it may be injured and a helping hand or professional guidance may be necessary.
If you have an enclosed garden then by making a hole 13cm x 13cm (5 inch x 5 inch) or a tunnel under the fence – provided this is not too steep, this will enable them to move freely as they please, a hedgehog highway sign could be a useful way to protect the hole from being blocked.
Garden hedges are the perfect place for shelter, food and access.
Specialist hedgehog food can be bought but a shallow dish of water and 1 ounce of dog food or meaty cat food (not fish food) can be put out at dusk.
You can also build or install a hedgehog shelter in a quiet part of the garden and if you have a pond then make sure any hedgehog falling into it has access to sloping sides so it can get out – otherwise a pond cover is preferable.
Always check long grass, compost heaps and piles of leaves before mowing the lawn, in case a hedgehog is underneath and avoid using slug pellets and other harmful chemicals.
In this way we may be able to help the numbers of hedgehogs in Britain to increase.