Small, round, brown and famously covered in spines, the hedgehog is one of the most familiar of Britain's wild mammals.
Hedgehogs are most commonly spotted in parks and gardens, where bushes and hedges provide the perfect day-time getaway, and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk. Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, birds eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend.
Hedgehogs are in trouble
Hedgehogs are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide
The once common hedgehog is now under threat from development and habitat loss caused by the reduction of hedgerows and increase in intensification of our agricultural landscapes.
In just the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30%, and there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK. They are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide.
What The Wildlife Trust's are doing to help
The Wildlife Trusts are working hard across the UK to restore habitat for wildlife and campaign for better protection for all nature. Many run projects to specifically address the disappearance of our hedgehogs, including raising awareness amongst local communities, recording sightings, encouraging people to take action at home and targeting hedgehog hotspots for conservation effort. In March, 2015 Warwickshire Wildlife Trust launced a landmark project to create the UK’s first dedicated hedgehog conservation area - a ‘Hedgehog Improvement Area’ which aims to put Solihull on the map as a model for hedgehog conservation in the UK.
Here are some examples of how The Wildlife Trusts are working hard up and down the UK to benefit species like the hedgehog:
Ways that you can help the hog:
Make your Garden a Wildlife Haven
Hedgehogs particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend
Hedgehogs are found across the UK, absent only from some Scottish islands. Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, grasslands, parkland and cemeteries are all important hedgehog habitats. Adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over home ranges between 10-20 hectares in size. In suburban areas, this means they range over entire housing estates and neighbourhoods.
Combined, our gardens provide a space for wildlife larger than all our National Nature Reserves, so by gardening in a wildlife-friendly way, we can help our spiny companions to find a home and move safely between habitats to find mates and food.
Create hedgehog highways
Hedgehogs need to be able to roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites. Get together with your neighbours to cut a 13cm2 (5in2) hole in your fence or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to connect your gardens. You can download advice about how to do this and record your hedgehog hole at hedgehogstreet.org.
Keep an eye out for neighbours doing work on their gardens, or using fencing contractors - this is the perfect opportunity to get a hedgehog hole put in and influence connectivity.
Provide nesting sites
Log and leaf piles, wilderness areas and purpose-built hedgehog homes make great places for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate.
Fallen leaves also make the perfect nesting material, so make sure you don’t clear all of these away!
Try to pile these in quiet, undisturbed corners of your garden to allow hedgehogs a safe, secure area to breed and hibernate.
Build a hedgehog home
Offer your local hedgehog a safe place in your garden by building them a home. They are simple and cheap to make! Use Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's sheet to create your own.
Say no to slug pellets
Hedgehogs hoover up over 100 invertebrates, such as snails, slugs and worms every night, so no need to use poisonous slug pellets!
Cover drains and gullies
Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but are quite curious, meaning they fall into holes and get stuck, so make sure you cover up any open drains and gullies. If you have a pond, make sure you provide an access point so that hedgehogs can climb back out - this can be achieved by using a ramp or placing some stones at one end.
Grow a wide variety of plants
Attract plenty of natural hedgehog food by keeping your garden diverse with a wide variety of habitats. Mulch beds with garden compost will encourage plenty of earthworms, woodlice and beetles as it begins to rot down while wood piles encourage a rich feast of earwigs, centipedes and woodlice! Don’t be afraid to let your grass grow a little wild and leave some leaf litter – as both are important homes for the hedgehog’s prey including ground beatles and leatherjackets!
Think about hedgehogs around bonfire time
Every year numbers of hedgehogs die or suffer injuries due to bonfire piles not being not checked before being lit. To help prevent hedgehogs and other wildlife from suffering, it is avidsed by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society to avoid building your bonfire until the day it is going to be lit - this will reduce the chances of hedgehogs taking up residence in the bonfire pile for hiberation. Always make sure you build your bonfire on clearground (not on top of leaf litter) and don't forget to check your bonfire before lighting too!
Set up a feeding station
Set up a feeding station by cutting a clear hole in a plastic storage box and weighing down the lid with bricks: this will stop cats and foxes taking the food. If you are worried about attracting rats, don't put out grain-based foods on the floor and take in any excess food when your hedgehog has been for a visit.
What do I do if I find a sick or injured hedgehog?
If you’re concerned about underweight hedgehogs or hedgehogs active in winter, provide tinned cat or dog meat and fresh water. Contact your local rescue centre for advice before intervening.
How can I help to involve others?
Do you want to get others excited about hedgehogs? That's great news! Why not post some leaflets around your neighbours to make them aware of the Hedgehog Street campaign (http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/).
If you live in a flat, try to influence the management of local greenspace by attending management meetings or joining the 'friends of' group.
You could even throw hedgehog-themed parties!
Live in Solihull?
If you live in Solihull you can use this form to sign up to the Solihull Hedgehog Improvement Area, the UK's first hedgehog conservation zone. You can also help their project by submitting a hedgehog sighting.