Keep Hedgehogs Safe in Autumn and Winter alert
As the night time temperature decreases to below 5 degrees Celsius the wild hedgehog is likely to be preparing for hibernation. Hedgehogs hibernate because their natural food supply (beetles, earthworms and caterpillars) is in short supply. If they didn’t hibernate, then without food they would almost certainly die.
There are less than 1 million hedgehogs in the UK compared to over 36 million in the 1950s. There are lots of things we can do throughout the year to keep them safe, but during autumn and winter these simple things will help prevent the wild hedgehog becoming endangered and dying out completely. This may happen before the turn of the next century unless we all take action.
Create access between gardens - Throughout the year hedgehogs need to roam between 12 and 15 medium sized gardens at night searching for food and during the breeding season (June – September) for mates. Please make a gap in or under your fence or gravel board of about 5 inches square so the hedgehog can access neighbouring gardens and find enough food to survive. You can buy hedgehog friendly gravel boards to make access easier. Visit www.jacksons-fencing.co.uk for details.
Provide food and water - During Autumn and winter they need extra food and water. If they a very low weight (below 500g 600g) when they go into hibernation they may not survive They like meat based cat or dog food in jelly, meat based cat biscuits and sunflower hearts. They also need water throughout the year. Please put a large bowl of fresh water (a saucer of water is not enough) out every night to avoid dehydration. Hedgehogs can drink up to 1/3rd of a litre of water each night and dehydrated hedgehogs die very quickly. Follow this link for details of how to make a feeding station to stop cats eating the food..Please do not feed hedgehogs bread or milk as they are lactose intolerant and will be ill.
Watch out for young underweight hedgehogs - These are known as Autumn Juveniles and tend to be born in late August/September. They are at great risk of dying over winter because they will not have gained enough weight to survive. If you see any young underweight hedgehogs (weighing less that 550g) in your garden at night please call your local hedgehog rescue for advice. Do not remove them from your garden and try and care for them yourself, as often they need specialist care and a health check to rule out other health problems such as internal parasites. These, if present, are life threatening.
Take action if you see a hedgehog out during the day - If you see any hedgehog out during the day looking ill, injured or lying around and not moving in a purposeful manner call your local hedgehog rescue for advice immediately, as time is of the essence. Sick or injured hedgehogs can die within a few hours and need specialist care. A hedgehog can look well but have internal parasites or injuries or be severely dehydrated and they can die very quickly.
Other things you can do include………
Check before gardening - Hedgehogs are nocturnal and sleep during the day in leaves, compost, and bushes. PLEASE BE EXTRA CAREFUL IF YOU ARE USING A STRIMMER OR DIGGING as many hedgehogs are injured or killed in this way.
Check before lighting bonfires – Hedgehogs love nesting in log piles and as bonfire night approaches it is crucial to check the wood pile before lighting the bonfire. Use the end of a broom to gently poke around at the base of the fire or if you can dismantle the fire and assemble it in another area of your garden on the day it is to be lit.
Create garden pond access - If you have a garden pond please make a sloped ramp or provide stepping stones for the hedgehog to climb out if it were to fall in, otherwise it will drown. A plank of wood covered in chicken wire is ideal
Raise garden netting above ground level – A hedgehog can lose a leg and die if it gets caught in garden or sports netting. Please put garden netting above ground level and remove sports netting at night
Cover drains and deep holes – Please make sure drains are covered as curious hedgehogs can fall in and injure themselves or die if they are unable to get out
Supervise your dog in the garden – Follow this link for tips on how to keep hedgehogs safe from dog attacks