In this blog we hear from Anthony Cox, DCRT’s Project Assistant, on how you can help hedgehogs.
Earlier this month I was travelling home from a volunteer day in Chesterfield. That week a road was closed near my home so I took a different route home. As I was passing the former entrance to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park I saw a hedgehog in the road. It was unusual as Hedgehogs are nocturnal so shouldn’t be out in the daytime. I stopped down the street and ran back to look at the poor guy.
By the time I got back to the hedgehog it had gotten across the road and was sitting still. I immediately called Sally Hyslop (Community Engagement Officer) as I thought she would know what to do. I picked up the Hedgehog and carried it back to the car while Sally did some research on where we could take her. Sally called me back after a little while with an address for a rescue centre I could take the Hedgehog to.
When I arrived at the Hog Hostel I was met by a lady called Annie who told me the Hedgehog was a female. She also asked me if I had a name in mind for the Hedgehog but I had none. We had talked a little about my job so Annie came up with the idea of calling her River. River was found to have Round Worm and Flukes and was given a treatment for them. She was nursed back to health and monitored to make sure she was putting on weight. River was released back into the wild on the 22nd June in Auckley. Most hedgehogs are released where they are found but as I found River on a busy road she was released elsewhere.
Recently I discovered I have a hedgehog living in my front garden. It was extremely exciting to see it foraging in the grass. To help my hedgehog I bought a little shallow dish to put water in. Over the weekend my sister captured a picture of it drinking from the dish which was amazing to see but also made me really happy that I had helped it out.
What should you do to help Hedgehogs?
The best thing you can do if there is a hedgehog in your garden is put out a shallow bowl of water out in the garden for them to drink. Dehydration is one of the second biggest killer of Hedgehogs. You can also put out food for the hedgehogs. This can be cat or dog food that does not contain fish. Don’t dig around for worms to feed to them as they only feed on insects that live on the surface. It is a common misconception that we should give milk to hedgehogs. This is a fiction as Hedgehogs are extremely lactose intolerant so milk can make them very ill and cause them to die. The idea that hedgehogs like milk came from Tudor era where people believed they drank the milk from cow’s udders during the night. If you have pets they cannot catch fleas from the hedgehog as the two animals have different parasites that live on them. However it is still best to keep them away from any pets and keep them in a cold place (a shed or garage).
Why is it important to protect and rescue Hedgehogs? Hedgehogs are the declining at an extraordinary rate. Since the millennium hedgehogs have decreased by 30% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas. This is due to the increase in cars which has increased the amount of hedgehogs that are killed on the road. Also there has been a significant reduction in their habitat in rural areas due to the mechanisation and increase in the production of crops. We have to protect them as they have been classified as vulnerable to extinction in the UK. To try to prevent us loosing another of our native species it is best to nurse them back to health and release them.
How do I encourage hedgehogs to visit my garden?
The best way to encourage hedgehogs is by making a hole in your fence for them to pass through. You have to discuss it with your neighbours first but a small hole would allow a hedgehog to have the amount of territory it needs to forage for food. You can also plant bushes and hedges to allow them to have cover to nest in during the winter and when they sleep in the day time. You can also encourage hedgehogs by encouraging their prey into your garden. You can do this by creating areas of wildflower meadow and leaving sections of grass to go wild. This encourages insects to your garden which Hedgehogs love to snack on. Hedgehog houses are good if you want a resident to live in your garden. They provide a hedgehog with a solid structure to nest in which will protect them during the winter months. Please note that houses must be cleaned out once a year to reduce the risk of your hedgehog getting any diseases. It is best to do this between the breeding season and hibernation season – early September.
Anthony Cox has not been the only DCRT-er to rescue a hog this month. This next section is by our volunteer Antony Meadows, who built a hedgehog feeder out of bricks found on our volunteer days!
“About a month ago I noticed a hedgehog in full sunshine on my lawn. A hedgehog “sunbathing” like this is likely to be unwell. He was not reacting at all to my presence and was somewhat inert.
I knew I had to do something, so I discovered online a local hedgehog rescue in Retford. I arranged with the lady there to take my hedgehog along. We discovered it was a male and I left him in her capable hands. She thought he probably had not been able to get enough food.
After about 3 weeks she rang to say I could bring him “home”. He had put on about 200 grams and was ready to leave! I hadn’t fed a hedgehog before, but as he had been struggling to get natural food, I decided to build him a feeding station. The bricks I’ve found while volunteering with DCRT finally came in handy! I’ve made it as cat proof as possible.
Since he’s returned I’ve seen him a couple of times at dusk inside his feeding station, and the food has been eaten. I have plenty of cover in my garden, so hopefully he will do ok now.”