Spring is here although by the recent weather it is hard to believe and hedgehogs are starting to wake from hibernation. With 33 in care and 10 of them that have been all winter in our outside area and started to come out of hibernation on the evening of the 16th and were hungry, sleepy and very thirsty. Hedgehogs outside will tend to head for the nearest water. Although good swimmers many die in ponds because there is no way out for them. By putting some green plastic coated wire netting down into (not across) the pond we can provide a ladder for them to use should they fall in.
It is not only hedgehogs that are out and about but gardeners as well. Whilst the hedgehog is the gardeners’ friend the gardener is not always the hedgehogs’ friend. Many of the jobs we do in our gardens can affect and even harm the hedgehogs. So please take care when tidying up, pulling down sheds (a favourite nesting site) and strimming long grass and brambles.
Hedgehogs are not territorial; they tend to have home patches. A females’ home patch will be just big enough to support her and her hoglets. A males’ patch will be much larger in the breeding season as they wander long distances searching for females. Once the autumn comes their home patches will become smaller. So if you see a hedgehog on a regular basis in the springtime it is more likely to be a female. If you are able to leave food out each night then this will encourage any females to stay around and eat your caterpillars, beetles, worms, slugs and snails although we try to avoid the last two as the hedgehogs can get lungworm from them (see post on lungworm). However males, as I mentioned above, will have other priorities and will move away – they are more nomadic in the breeding season.
The following are a few suggestions for feeding stations that can keep the food dry and deter cats from stealing the food. Try a paving slab on bricks (leave a gap between 2 of the bricks as an entrance hole) OR a box with a small hole cut into it OR a large box upside down with a brick propping up one end OR a rabbit hutch with its door wedged partly open OR an upside down pet basket OR an upside down toy box with the hand holds cut away. As a final suggestion try to get one of those blue plastic mushroom boxes. Cut a 5″x5″ hole in one of the short sides so when the box is upside down the hole becomes an entrance. Put the food at the far end and weigh the box down with a stone. Sometimes a brick needs to be placed 4-5” away from the entrance so if a cat has tried to reach in with a paw the brick should make it more difficult.
To find out more about hedgehogs visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s web site at www.britishhedgehog.org.uk Do remember that hedgehogs are nocturnal and usually only come out in the day when they are in serious trouble. If you find a hedgehog needing help or if you need more advice call us or the BHPS on 01584 890801.