Spare a thought for our hedgehogs
EASTVILLE Park's Young Rangers are raising awareness about a local endangered species - the hedgehog - and how we can make gardens and green spaces more hedgehog-friendly. Young Rangers Maya Loaiza and Tanika Small write here for the Voice.
THEY’RE cute, they’re nocturnal and they’re the UK's only spiny mammal. Hedgehogs, with 5,000 spines and babies known as hoglets, are adored by all. So why has their population declined by 50% since the turn of the century? Numbers now stand at less than one million and they are vulnerable to extinction in the UK, so now is the perfect time to start making a difference.
To help them, we first need to understand how they have been hindered. A combination of new farming techniques and the introduction of more walls and fences in urban areas has broken up their habitats: hedgehogs can travel up to two miles a night searching for food and mates.
But that isn’t all. Populations of badgers, who regard hedgehogs as a delicacy, have boomed in the last 20 years. They compete for the same dwindling habitat, and have no trouble turfing out a hedgehog. To top it all off, pesticides used on both farmland and our gardens are highly toxic to their little tummies.
From November to March hedgehogs will drop their body temperature to match their surroundings as they enter a state of decreased physical activity due to the lack of food available. Hedgehogs need to put on enough fat through the summer to survive hibernation. A safe weight is 600g, which will ensure they have enough body fat to make it through the winter before waking up again in late March. Underweight hedgehogs will not have enough energy to wake back up.
It is important not to move or disturb a hibernating hedgehog (unless they are in a dangerous place or injured) as they will use vital energy waking up and moving elsewhere.
How you can help:
*Provide a shallow bowl of fresh water throughout the year (especially in summer) to help keep a hedgehog hydrated.
*Provide a wooden hedgehog house (pictured below)
*Create a hedgehog highway by putting a 13cm x 13cm hole in your fence. This allows them to travel through your garden, providing more accessible areas and routes to search for their food.
*Let a section of your garden grow wild – don’t tidy leaves up and allow hedges to grow out, providing an environment they can thrive in.
Hedgehogs play a huge role in nature, eating soil invertebrates, which helps the soil’s condition, and insects, making them a gardener’s best friend!
Do what you can to help our spiky friends – and remember to keep your eyes peeled in March.