How To Care For Hedgehogs This Winter
Prickly or Cuddly?
As if hedgehogs fluffy like exterior and sweet, tiny faces were not enough to melt the hearts of many a nature lover – Did you know a baby hedgehog is called a Hoglet? We can hear the collective sound of ‘aaahhhhhh’ from the Ivel Valley offices.
They get their names from the fact they naturally forage in hedges and due to the little snorts they make to communicate; HEDGEHOG!
Hedgehogs are thought to be one of the oldest mammals on earth and have been gracing the earth with their silent and mysterious presence for nearly 15 million years! It is weird to imagine hedgehogs living alongside a Diplodocus or Tyrannosaurus Rex; expertly dodging their large claws and predatory ways.
Although they fool us with a prickly exterior, their quills are not actually barbed. They are surprisingly soft and you could even say cuddly. Unlike many of their cousins (like the Porcupine) their barbed exterior is not venomous – You will be pleased to know!
Diva’s of the night
Hedgehogs are very particular about where and when they choose to visit your garden. Many form routines and habits around the time of night and route they choose to take to find their food source or safe area.
As they have very poor eyesight, they seemingly stick to the same route. Their poor eyesight is made up by a heightened sense of smell and taste.
If you decide to put a new garden ornament or plant a shrub in the familiar route of a hedgehog, you may well just chase them away. Imagine taking the same route to work everyday only for a new building to suddenly pop up overnight and block your way!
Hedgehogs like routine, they like to feel safe and more importantly, they like to know where they are going.
Feast & Famine
Like many nocturnal mammals, the hedgehog will spend most of the night foraging, snuffling and munching on an array of insects. Wild hedgehogs like to feast on worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs, and millipedes.
Hedgehogs only use the food you put out in the garden as a supplement to their natural diet, surprisingly, they are not entirely reliant on us for the food source.
Interestingly, there is currently no evidence to suggest you are causing them to become dependent on you for food. Take a sigh of relief – Maybe you can take that holiday after all and call off the hedgehog sitters!?
However, you can see how the winter months can make it tough going for a hedgehog. Creepy crawlies are not as abundant, so supplementing their diet is a great way of keeping their hunger at bay through the long winter months.
Give a helping hand!
Yes, the rumours are true. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and bread is also a no-no as it provides them with little energy.
When you think about it, humans are suffering from the same intolerance to milk and bread. Maybe this is a leftover from our evolutionary ancestors?!
Many people love encouraging hedgehogs into their gardens and you will often find people have even given their nocturnal visitor a name; Henry seems to be the favourite!
For all you budding hedgehog enthusiasts out there we have compiled a list of very easy ways in which you can give your neighbourhood hedgehog a helping hand this winter.
1. Make a Nest or safe area
Hedgehogs are not the only mammals looking for a night time snack. Cats, foxes and even badgers will sneak into your garden in the hope of a midnight snack. If you want to keep bigger animals at bay make a homemade nest which is only big enough for a hedgehog to make its way in. You could use paving stones, specialist hedgehog houses, or even a plastic container with a door cut out – use your imagination!
2. Join the Hedgehog highway
Yes, there is such a thing! When you have been around for 15 million years; sudden obstacles such as fences can come as an inconvenience. Why not cut a small hole in the bottom of the fences around your garden. You will be helping keep hedgehogs on the move in the night and encourage them into your garden too.
Hedgehogs LOVE a heap. Albeit a compost heap and log pile, overgrown corner or even a large pile of leaves. They simply need to find somewhere to hunker down and feel safe. If you have a pond you will also attract hedgehogs; after all, they get thirsty too.
4. Food glorious food
There are plenty of high quality hedgehog foods available, designed to contain all the proteins and nutrients your garden hedgehog needs to stay warm and plump over the winter. Be sure to place the food in a shallow dish and put in a sheltered area of your garden. The best time to lay down the food is sunset. Sit back and relish the chance to see and hear one of these beautiful little mammals.
5. Predators and Danger!
The biggest predators of hedgehogs are badgers and foxes. Of course, nature will take its course but the more you can protect hedgehogs with safe areas listed above the better. Many gardeners also avoid using slug pellets, no one wants to eat food which has been poisoned.
Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. Many hedgehogs are likely to move home at least once during this period. During mild winters hedgehogs can remain active well into November and December.
Help not Hinder
Anything we can do to help the reducing hedgehog population is a bonus for their ever dwindling numbers. Can you believe the hedgehog population has dropped by over 30% in the last 14 years! That is a staggering reduction.
Unfortunately, the western way of living is in part responsible for their demise. Over tidy gardens, road networks and pesticide usage to name a few.
Hedgehogs are extraordinary mammals, so why not take the time to look after the population in your local area.