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Helping Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are found across the UK. Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, grasslands, parks and cemeteries are all important hedgehog habitats. Adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over home ranges as big as 10-20 hectares in size. In suburban areas, this means they range over entire neighbourhoods.

Hedgehogs are one of only a handful of UK mammals to truly hibernate, along with bats and dormice, which hibernate over the winter.  They begin hibernation from October/November to March/April, lowering their body temperature and slowing their metabolism to save energy. Hedgehogs can sometimes be seen out and about in winter, when the weather has been mild.

Hedgehog numbers have reduced by around 30% since 2002. This is due to a number of factors including an increase in the number of roads and traffic, loss of hedgerows, use of pesticides and more fencing between gardens.

Hedgehogs now appear to be declining in the UK at the same rate as tigers are globally - at around 5% a year, both in rural and urban areas.


Ten easy ways to help hedgehogs: 

Create hedgehog highways. The most important thing we can do for hedgehogs is to give them access between our gardens and other green spaces. Get together with your neighbours to cut a 13cm x 13cm (5in) hole in your bottom of fence or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to connect your gardens.

Avoid the use of pesticides and slug pellets if you can.Apart from possibly poisoning the hedgehogs, you need as many different insects in a garden to attract hedgehogs and other wildlife.  The golden rule - the more wildlife, the more predators the less pests!

Create log piles and don't be too tidy underneath hedges and shrubs. These are an attractive nest sites as well as a home for the slugs, beetles and worms that hedgehogs like to eat.

Make a hedgehog home which can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall/fence in a quite part of the garden and covering it with twigs and leaves. Or buy a purpose built hedgehog house.

Make sure there are easy routes out of ponds.  Hedgehogs can swim but not for ever! Also cover drains and other holes that they may fall down.

Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps and leaf mould piles for nesting hogs before forking over.

Check bonfires thoroughly before lighting and build them as close to time of lighting as possible.

Remove plastic netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled, and getting injured. Also pick up litter especially plastic bags and six pack rings.

Leave food and fresh water out in the garden especially in the autumn and winter. Foods like minced meat, tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, sunflower hearts and dried meal worms are all good. To avoid the food you put out being eaten by pets or foxes you could make a feeding station using piping or build a shelter out of wood that is difficult for anything larger than a hedgehog to access.

Never feed hedgehogs milk, they are lactose intolerant and it will cause diarrhoea. Bread is also useless as it is very low in energy.


Further information about helping hedgehogs can be found at the following websites:

RSPCA advice and welfare

Wild about Gardens Week 

Hedgehog Street: City of Wildlife