Wild About West Cumbria: Hedge-Hogging Our Attention
In the second of our wild about Cumbria series, our resident wildlife guru, Danielle Murphy delves into the prickly world of hedgehogs and explains just how we can help to protect them by creating safe havens in our own gardens.
They’re small, they’re super cute and they are covered in prickles. Yes, I am referring to the humble hedgehog. And as spring has sprung, and hedgehogs are starting to emerge we think it’s worth giving our readers a lesson on our favourite garden visitors.
Sadly, there is substantial evidence that hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, numbers have dropped almost a third since 2003 and in 2012 the future looked bleak for our spikey friends. However, the good news is we can help by making just a few small changes!
By adding a few little extras in our gardens, we can help these backyard visitors feel welcome and safe, and luckily Cumbria is the perfect place to source these materials:
- Log piles: By adding a few old logs to your garden you can provide a perfect area for breeding and hibernation.
- Compost heaps: A compost heap can be the ideal nesting site for a mothering Hedgehog and her hoglets, it’s really simple and also attracts scrumptious creepy crawlies to keep mum fat and healthy.
- A messy bit: Here at The Guide, we know how having a good spring clean in the garden can neaten things up. However, this year we are asking that you consider hedgehogs when sprucing up your yard. We’re not suggesting you let your garden become an overgrown mess, but perhaps let a small corner go a bit wild. This encourages hedgehogs into your garden and gives them a place to feast, nest and scavenge.
Did You Know?
- There are 17 species of hedgehog
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal
- Hedgehogs have about 5,000 to 6,500 spines although they aren’t poisonous or extremely dangerous
- A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet
- They communicate using grunts and squeaks
- Although they have bad eyesight they have a fantastic sense of hearing and smell
- Hedgehogs can swim and even climb
- They can live until they are eight years old
- Hedgehogs can carry zoonotic diseases meaning they can pass them onto humans, so you must be extremely careful if handling them. They should only be handled briefly and only if absolutely necessary. Always wash hands immediately after handling ANY wild animal.
There is a huge myth surrounding hedgehogs that feeding them bread and milk is helpful. However, this is extremely bad for them and can cause serious problems. Please, if you do want to attract these lovely creatures to your garden then leave them a tasty and nutritious treat from the following list:
- Meat-based dog or cat food
- Unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts
- Sunflower hearts
- Dried meal worms
- A shallow bowl of water is the perfect thirst quencher for hedgehogs
If you want to prevent other animals such as cats gobbling all the food then you could also build a feeding den. Using a decent sized plastic box cut a hedgehog sized hole in the side.
If you want to learn more about how you can help hedgehogs then visit the Cumbria wildlife trust or the RSPB websites.
Let’s help our prickly pals have a spiketacular year!