Help a hedgehog

Help a hedgehog

© Gillian Day

Should I try to help a sick or injured hedgehog?

Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November through to mid March, but they can sometimes be seen out and about during this period changing nesting sites. It is unusual to see a hedgehog staggering around during winter or in daylight, so if you do see one and it looks unwell, it might need a helping hand.

Handling and care

Hedgehogs are wild animals, so being handled is a stressful experience. If you are unsure, contact a specialist group before trying to help. If you decide to intervene, here's what to do:

Hedgehog being held in gloved hands in autumn leaves, The Wildlife Trusts

© Tom Marshall

Prepare a cardboard box with high sides by lining it with a towel or scrunched up newspaper (so that the hedgehog can hide).

Find yourself a pair of gardening gloves before gently scooping up the hedgehog into the box.

Keep the box in a quiet, warm place: a hot water bottle filled with hot tap water wrapped in a towel can provide a gentle heat source – make sure it doesn’t go cold!

You can provide some fresh water and meaty cat or dog food, but don't try to feed the hedgehog directly.

What to do next

If you haven't already, contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, who can offer in depth advice and help you find a local rescue centre. The Wildlife Trusts do not offer a general service for care and rehabilitation of sick or injured animals, although some individual Trusts may offer local services. For more information on hedgehogs and how you can help them, visit our pages on the subject.

How can you help hedgehogs?

Hedgehogs are found throughout the UK, save a few Scottish islands. Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, grasslands, parks, and cemeteries are all important hedgehog habitats, and adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over home ranges between 10-20 hectares in size searching for food and mates – that’s entire housing estates and neighbourhoods!

Hedgehog - Tom Marshall

© Tom Marshall

Make your garden a wildlife haven

Everyone’s contribution is important. 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 spiky companions move around safely and find a home.

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 a home for hedgehogs

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.

A hedgehog home is simple and cheap to make! Use Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's sheet to create your own

Make your garden safe

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! Less hedgehog food means fewer hedgehogs, and eating the poisoned creatures is likely to be harmful.

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.

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, The British Hedgehog Preservation Society advise waiting to build 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!

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 beetles and leatherjackets!

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. Wet cat or dog food is ideal.

In October, 2015 we worked with The RHS and Hedgehog Street for Wild About Gardens Week. For the week we asked people to make 'hedgehog highway' holes in their gardens, build hedgehog homes and take simple actions in their garden to hedgehogs recover. You can download our free 'Get creative for hedgehogs' booklet here for more information and inspiration of what you can do to help hedgehogs!

What The Wildlife Trusts 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 Trusts run projects to address the disappearance of our hedgehogs, including raising awareness in local communities, recording sightings, encouraging people to take action at home, and targeting hedgehog hotspots for conservation efforts. In March, 2015 Warwickshire Wildlife Trust launched 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.