The hedgehog is the UK’s only prickly mammal, but it’s in trouble. Despite being voted Britain’s Favourite Wild Mammal, hedgehog numbers have been declining for many years. Although many of you may have spotted hedgehogs in your gardens and parks, these sightings are becoming rarer and rarer! So rare in fact that hedgehogs have now been classified as “Vulnerable to Extinction”.
We all need to work together to reverse this decline before it’s too late. Hopefully, this classification will be the wake-up call to give hedgehogs and their habitats better protection.
So you are working in the garden or taking a nature walk and you come across a hedgehog. You are likely to be immensely surprised not only at its general appearance but also the encounter itself. Indeed, hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, which means that it is unlikely that they will come out in the daytime. There is a high likelihood that they are in trouble, unwell, or injured.
The main problems are that hedgehogs are finding it harder to track down a good place to live and enough food. In the countryside, there are fewer hedges than there used to be, meaning fewer nesting sites for hedgehogs. Crops are sprayed with pesticides killing the hedgehogs’ food - bugs, worms, and grubs. In towns, people have fenced off all their gardens, blocking access for hedgehogs. Because hedgehogs travel around a mile a night, it’s important that they have lots of joined-up gardens to use. Car pads, decking, and slabs take away natural foraging areas for hedgehogs, so there’s less food there too.
Hedgehogs are a good ‘indicator” species. If hedgehogs are in trouble, then lots of other species are probably struggling too. If we take action to improve the environment for hedgehogs we will be helping lots of other wildlife as well.
And there are lots of ways we can help! Why not try some of the following ideas:
Check if they are injured and provide assistance
In most cases, hedgehogs would be out in the day as a result of injuries. In essence, you might want to check whether they have any injuries such as broken legs, or even a spinal injury. Such injuries might necessitate a trip to the vet. We would always recommend consulting with a wildlife rescue. If the hedgehog simply has some cuts or missing spikes, you might want to help to keep them in a warm, dry, and clean place until the specialist care arrives.
Check if there are baby hedgehogs out in the day
If you do see any hedgehogs out during the day looking lethargic, wobbly, injured, or covered in flies, they might need your help. In particular, any baby hedgehogs (hoglets) out during the day with no sign of mum will need help urgently. As members of the public, we are unlikely to be able to uncurl and assess the hedgehog's injuries. The specialist advice is to secure hedgehogs in a high-sided box and contact a vet or a rescue team to further assess and reduce the risk of further injury or causing the hedgehog any pain. There are lots of Hedgehog Rehabilitators around the country; call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 for the contact details for your nearest one.
Check if they are trapped
More often than not, hedgehogs will be caught up in something and possibly have difficulty extricating themselves. Their spikes also increase the possibility that they would be stuck. In this case, determining the best way of rescuing them without harming them is the best. However, in case it appears too complicated, you might want to get professional assistance from the rescue centre.
Hungry hedgehogs - providing proper diet for hedgehogs
In most cases, hedgehogs will be out in the daytime as a result of dehydration, cold, or hunger. You might differentiate hungry hedgehogs from others by their being skinny, which means that they have had problems getting enough food to allow them to hibernate. Providing your garden friends with some food may be most appropriate. Fortunately, hedgehogs eat a wide range of food. You may offer them birdseed as they are often seen eating spilt bird food. They also eat invertebrates and insects. Slow worms and cat food are popular choices of diet for hedgehogs.
Creating a perfect habitat for the hedgehog
There are varying ways you can make your garden welcoming to helpful hogs.
Hedgehog Charities in the United Kingdom
Prickles & Paws Hedgehog rescue https://www.pricklesandpaws.org/
The charity strives to conserve the iconic species especially in the rural areas where they have been in rapid or steep decline in recent times. Stimulated by the increasing recognition of the potential extinction of the species, the organization works hard to rehabilitate and rescue hedgehogs, as well as contribute to raising awareness and promote research in the field.
British Hedgehog Preservation Safety https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/
Founded in 1982, The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is a registered UK Charity (number 1164542) dedicated to helping & protecting hedgehogs native to the UK. The charity uses educational projects, campaigns, and advocates to raise awareness concerning the practical steps we can take to stop the potential extinction of the hedgehogs in the wild, enhance the welfare and future of the hedgehogs. Further, it funds research that offers crucial insights into the welfare and conservation of hedgehogs.
Why not become a Hedgehog Champion? Hedgehog Street is run by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society in partnership with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Just go to https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/ and sign up – it’s fun and free to join!”