Hedgehog Awareness Week, celebrated annually in May, aims to raise awareness about the decline in the hedgehog populations and to encourage people to take action to protect these adorable creatures. At Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital we are excited about Hedgehog Awareness Week as it provides a great opportunity to educate the public on the importance of hedgehogs in our ecosystem and to promote the measures that can be taken to ensure their survival. Through various messages and activities, our charity aims to inspire people to make a difference and help conserve this vulnerable species.
Hedgehogs are wonderful creatures, and one of Britain’s most loved wild animals. Our only spiny mammal, hedgehogs have the ability to curl up and protect themselves with their spines. They are nocturnal animals, and spend their nights snuffling in the undergrowth, feeding on slugs and other invertebrates. In the winter they seek shelter and tend to hibernate through the colder months. In terms of distribution, hedgehogs are widespread across the UK, however they have suffered significant declines - the number of hedgehogs has dropped by around a third in certain areas over the past twenty years.
There are many reasons for this decline, and several threats that hedgehogs face. First and foremost, and the one that is affecting many other species, is habitat loss and fragmentation. Development and urban sprawl damages habitats and often leaves small, isolated pockets remaining. If there is no safe way in or out of these pockets, the populations of species there are at risk of local extinction.
Other threats to hedgehogs include getting stuck in litter, such as plastic bottles and netting, falling into uncovered drains, bonfires being lit where they’re hibernating, people strimming long grass without checking it first, and chemical application, particularly slug poison as slugs are one of their main food sources.
If you have a garden there is a lot you can do to help hedgehogs. Gardens can be fantastic habitats for hedgehogs, and a network of interconnected, wildlife friendly gardens is a great way to help them increase in number. They need suitable habitat, so it’s beneficial to let a little bit of lawn grow longer to provide cover and invertebrates. Log piles and leaf litter are also great for hedgehogs, especially in winter, so pile these up in corners. Please don’t use any chemicals in your garden as this is harmful to hedgehogs and other wildlife.
You can put food out for hedgehogs but please don’t feed them bread and milk - it’s bad for them and can make them really ill. The best thing to feed them is meaty cat food or dry cat biscuits, and water in a shallow bowl. One of the main things that benefits hedgehogs is allowing them to move freely between gardens, so making holes in fences and boundaries means that they can easily pass through to find other suitable areas.
Sadly hedgehogs sometimes do get ill or injured, but fortunately for them, there are places like Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital that care for them and nurse them back to health. Click here for guidance on what to do if you find an injured hedgehog.
By Kayleigh Ann