Sadly, the hedgehog population in the UK is declining at a worrying rate. Wildlife charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) recently published a report which revealed that hedgehog populations have plummeted by between 30 percent to 75 percent in rural areas since 2000, with the largest declines in eastern England. What can gardeners across the UK do to make their gardens better habitats for hedgehogs, hopefully preventing their populations from declining further?
According to David Domoney, “hedgehogs are a gardener’s best friend”.
He said: “In fact, I regard them as one of the best garden bouncers, keeping out unwanted garden visitors like slugs and snails.”
David often shares his top gardening tips and tricks on his website, and he has recently written about what gardeners can do to create better habitats for hedgehogs.
Unsurprisingly, a pile of logs is the perfect spot for hedgehogs to hibernate, keeping them warm and hidden from predators.
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David advised: “Start by collecting wood and choose a quiet and undisturbed section of your garden to set it up.
“Log piles or piles of leaf litter are great for shelter but also they’re a great source for food as plenty of insects will find them appealing places to shelter too.”
It is worth leaving part of the garden wild and untamed to attract not only hedgehogs, but other wildlife too.
Creating a “hedgehog highway” is another way to invite the spiky critters into the garden.
To do this, David recommended “cutting a 13 x 13cm (5.1 x 5.1 inches) hole in the bottom of your fence and encouraging your neighbours to do the same will allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens as a larger network”.
This prevents hedgehogs from having to travel on roads, which have many a time proven to be perilous for the mammals.
Grace Johnson, Hedgehog Officer for the campaign Hedgehog Street agreed that hedgehog highways are a good idea.
She said: “Habitat fragmentation and lack of suitable habitat are two issues facing UK hedgehogs.
“Creating a small, 13cm x 13cm square hedgehog hole – or hedgehog highway – in a garden fence is a great way to help, as this will allow hedgehogs to roam between neighbouring gardens in search of food, shelter, and mates.
“Gardens can be a haven for hedgehogs, but only if they are accessible.”
The campaigners at Hedgehog Street also shared that leaving log piles in the garden is a good way to attract hedgehogs.
Compost heaps can make an attractive nesting site for the critters too, the campaign’s website stated.
Open air composting is great for attracting insects, which will in turn attract hedgehogs as they prey on the creepy crawlies.
Additionally, leaf piles, similar to log piles, can be used as a potential nesting site for hedgehogs, as well as for bedding material for any other nest sites or hedgehog boxes in the surrounding area.
Ponds are “under appreciated as a hedgehog-friendly feature”, according to Hedgehog Street.
The campaigners said: “Hedgehogs will benefit from having a year-round water supply, and they with thrive on the added insects that it will attract.
“Hedgehogs are excellent swimmers, just make sure there is a gently sloping edge for them to escape from – you could use stones, or chicken wire – to ensure they won’t drown.”