It’s difficult to practice wildlife photography and not care about the status of some of the wonderful subjects you come across. That’s why it was a sobering read last week to find that many of the UK’s native species are still declining, some at alarming rates even where concerted efforts are being made to try to boost population numbers.
I was shocked and saddened to hear that Britain’s hedgehog population is now estimated at only 1.5 million individuals, that’s down from an estimated 30 million in the 1970’s. There are of course a number of factors that have led to this, not only a decline in suitable habitat, and a massive increase in the number of motor vehicles on our roads. There are a number of additional factors that affect the population that you could easily help out with.
5 simple things you can do to help.
1. Rescuing underweight youngsters. Autumn is the season where hedgehogs prepare to go into hibernation over the cold winter months. To successfully hibernate they need to rely on the fat stores in their bodies as this will be their only source of energy throughout the winter. Young hedgehogs born late in the year will not survive the winter month’s if their body weight is under 600 grams. Hedgehogs like these may be seen in the daytime as they desperately try to gain body weight before hibernating. If you see a small hedgehog out in the day at this time of the year it may need help to survive.
2. Slug pellets can kill Hedgehogs. Hedgehogs love to eat slugs, garderners hate slugs. Gardeners using slug killing pellets can unintentionally poison hedgehogs who would happily feast on these slimy pests. If you have to use slug pellets please consider removing dead slugs and unused pellets as soon as you find them so that they are not eaten by any local Hedgehogs. This will reduce the chance of them ingesting the poison themselves. If you know you have a local hedgehog please consider not using slug pellets at all. You may find your local Hedgehog will take care of your problem for you.
3. Wire mesh can kill Hedgehogs. Hedgehog’s can and do frequently get their heads caught in wire mesh fencing please consider not using this type of fencing in your garden. If you find a hedgehog trapped in the fencing please do not try to remove it yourself. Contact your local wildlife rescue agency as its likely a portion of the fence will need to be cut out and the hedgehog will require monitoring over the next few days.
4. Leave your compost pile till spring. Hedgehog’s could mistake your compost pile for an attractive place to hibernate during the winter months. Disturbing a hedgehog during hibernation can result in its death. Please wait until April before disturbing your compost pile.
5. Ignore the Old Wive’s tale. Please DO NOT leave milk and bread out for a Hedgehog, although you may be trying to help they cannot digest the bread, and cow’s milk gives hedgehogs very bad diarrhoea. Many hedgehogs die because of this incorrect diet. If you wish to leave food out to help a local hedgehog a bowl of water and a bowl of non-fish variety dog or cat food will probably be appreciated you should mash up the food into small pieces as hedgehog’s have very small teeth.
Get involved further and find out more info:
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society