Hedgehogs: Advice on how to help Britain’s spikiest mammal

It is now officially autumn, and gardeners are likely to see hedgehogs popping up in their gardens as they begin preparing for hibernation by foraging food and nest building. 

Gardners should try to attract hedgehogs to their garden as much as possible as not only have they been officially classified as vulnerable to extinction but are a natural way of keeping pests away from your flowers and plants in the autumntime.

Hedgehogs will eat slugs, snails, caterpillars and earwigs as well as a wide range of other insects or pests that are likely to eat away at your crops, which can destroy plants or make them very vulnerable as the colder weather approaches. 

David Domoney, a gardening expert, writer and television personality, has explained that it is simple steps to take in order to “help our spiky friends” in the autumntime. 

In a blog post, David wrote: “Hedgehogs are a gardener’s best friend. In fact, I regard them as one of the best garden bouncers, keeping out unwanted garden visitors like slugs and snails.”

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Feed them

The most obvious way to help hedgehogs is to put out food for them in order to supplement their natural diet, but it is important to know to only feed them fresh water and cat or dog food. 

Fresh milk and bread will upset their stomach and can make them ill, and hedgehogs need plenty of healthy food for themselves at this time of year to accumulate fat before going into hibernation. 

According to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, hedgehogs will benefit from “meaty cat or dog food” being left out. On their website, the charity added: “Water can also be scarce at certain times of the year and is the only thing you should give them to drink.”

David added: “Try putting out a bowl of good quality cat or dog food or some cat biscuits and plenty of water to drink. Remember to clean up any uneaten food daily and wash up the dish it was placed in.” 

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Keep litter away

If attracting hedgehogs to your garden, it is essential to make sure your garden is safe and secure for them to roam around in. 

Make sure any recycling is secure, especially during windy weather, and make sure all bins have their lids tightly closed. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has stressed that is is very common for hedgehogs to be tangled in litter or gardening nets. 

They wrote: “Polystyrene cups, plastic, and elastic bands are all common offenders. Replace netting with a rigid structure or use a thick cordage and keep it taut. Sports and garden netting should be tied up or stored inside when not in use.

David added that hedgehogs are “inquisitive” and like to explore their local area. He wrote: “Some waste can trap a hedgehog which leaves them vulnerable or can cause injury.” 

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Avoid gardening chemicals

Although pests can be very frustrating, many gardening experts recommend against using pesticides, lawn care supplements or harsh chemicals in your garden as it can greatly harm your local wildlife. 

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has warned: “Lawn treatments reduce worm populations. Pesticides, insecticides and slug pellets are toxic and reduce hedgehogs’ creepy crawly prey. They are all unnecessary in a healthy, well-managed garden.” 

David also advised to always avoid using harsh chemicals in the garden as there are many natural and easier solutions to manage pests and weeds. He wrote: “This has an impact on your garden’s natural food chain and hedgehogs may accidentally eat something that will do it a mischief.”

Keep an eye out for them

Other ways to greatly help out hedgehogs is to be aware of them at this time of year and take some common-sense approaches to encourage them into your garden. 

If you own a dog, do not let them out into your garden unleashed at nighttime, as this will greatly stress out hedgehogs. Keep them on a leash and try having a wild corner of your garden fenced away from your dog if you can to make it more likely to for hedgehogs to appear.

Having a wild part of your garden away from pets which has a shelter of some kind, such as a log pile or pile of leaves will make hedgehogs more likely to come into a garden. It should also be noted that hedgehogs should never be seen during the day and should only appear at night. If you see a daytime hedgehog, consider getting in contact with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advise. 

If mowing your lawn, be very careful and to make sure to keep an eye out for them and make sure they have not built a nesting area anywhere on your lawn.The British Hedgehog Preservation Society said: “Hedgehogs will not run away from the sound of a mower or strimmer – check before you cut and avoid causing horrific injuries or death. Single hedgehogs are easily moved, but use gloves! Moving a hedgehog family is more complicated and ideally they should be left undisturbed.”

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has a community called Hedgehog Street of over 100,000 gardeners which help provide some advice and resources to keep hedgehogs safe, as well as provide many adorable pictures of hedgehogs feeling at home in their gardens.

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