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Hard Days for Hedgehogs

When I talk to people about my interest in hedgehogs I often get the same response 'oh we used to regularly see hedgehogs in the garden but we don't see them anymore.' Sadly hedgehog- free gardens are becoming more common in the UK.

My interest in helping hedgehogs started about 2 years ago when I was watching one of my favourite shows Autumnwatch with a cup a tea. On the show they were explaining why hedgehog numbers are dwindling in the UK and they were urging people to act now before it's too late. Did you know that the hedgehog population had dropped by nearly 50% in the past 25 years? No wonder people aren't seeing them as often as they used to! There are many complex reasons for this decline and different experts have different options. However the main consensus seems to be:

  • Loss of hedgerows – As you might guess from their name, hedgehogs are partial to a hedge as it provides them with shelter, food, protection from predators and a place to hibernate. Will the mismanagement of our countryside, which has led to less hedges, lead to fewer hedgehogs too?
  • Habitat fragmentation – Once again the changing landscape of our countryside and urban development has appeared to have had a negative effect on hedgehogs. Intense farming has not only led to fewer fields but bigger fields with less field edges. This offers less space for the hedgehogs to forage in. Furthermore urban development results in less fields and more roads and vehicles. Tens of thousands of hedgehogs are killed every year by road traffic.
  • Pesticides – The increase use of pesticides in our farming has led to fewer insects which means less food for hedgehogs.
  • Tidy gardens – While a neat and tidy garden might be aesthetically pleasing it spells bad news for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs need long grass and messy gardens to forage in. They also need to roam through various gardens throughout the night. Hedgehogs can travel up to 2 miles in just one night.
  • Climate change – Our recent spells of colder winters and wetter springs have not done any favours for our prickly friends. Colder springs equal a lack of natural food (i.e. insects and invertebrates) which means many go into hibernation underweight. Due to the cold weather many don't survive hibernation or they wake up late in the spring and they don't have enough time to build up the fat reserves for hibernation. The cycle continues.

The more I read about the hedgehogs' plight the more determined I was to help the hogs in my area. Now at first I just started by leaving out some food but one thing lead to another and I actually ended up creating a mini hog hospital in my garage and looking after 4 ill hogs over the winter. However you don't all need to be as crazy as me! There are many little things that you can do to help the hedgehogs in your area.

  • Create a wild corner in your garden – A leaf pile, log pile, compost heap or just an un-mown wild scrubby corner of your garden will create a safe place for hedgehogs to forage and hibernate and provide them with good food source such as insects.
  • Make your garden wildlife friendly – Making your garden attractive to bees, insects and birds will also make it attractive to hedgehogs. Try to plant more native British flowers as these will attract insect life which provides food for our hogs. Likewise with bird feeders as you will find many hedgehogs under bird feeders eating the scraps the birds have dropped.
  • Provide food and water – Leave out some food such as cat food (both wet and dry), dried fruit, unsalted peanuts and a bowl of water for your hedgehogs. If you're worried about attracting stray cats, place the food in clear storage box and cut a small hole so that only hedgehogs can enter.
  • Avoid milk and bread – Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. They cannot digest milk or bread and consuming it can kill them.
  • Link your garden – Impenetrable fences cause hedgehogs lots of problems as they need to roam around many gardens in order to gather enough food and find a mate. If your garden is enclosed by a wall or fence, create a small hole approximately 15cm in height so that a hedgehog can pass through but domestic pets can't escape.
  • Avoid using slug pellets – Hedgehogs will not only eat slug pellets but they will eat the poisoned slugs. If you want to keep your slug population down, encourage hedgehogs in your garden to eat them instead.
  • Check before gardening – Please be careful when using any garden equipment. Strimmers, lawn mowers and garden forks are particularly dangerous and kill many hedgehogs. Always check your garden for wildlife before using any equipment.
  • Check bonfires – Check any piles of wood before burning. Hedgehogs and other wildlife often hibernate in bonfires.
  • Make ponds safe – Ponds create natural food sources for hedgehogs such as frogs and insects and hedgehogs are good swimmers. However often they can't get out of a pond and they will drown. Always ensure your pond has an escape route such as a plank of wood.
  • Don't worry about fleas – Many people believe that hedgehogs are covered in fleas and are reluctant to attract hedgehogs into their garden in case the fleas jump onto their pets. Whilst it's true that hedgehogs can get fleas it's not that common. I have never come across a flea infested hedgehog. Furthermore hedgehog fleas are a different type of flea to cat or dog fleas and they are host specific. In other words they only like being on hedgehogs and they won't jump onto your pets.
  • Hedgehogs are nocturnal – If you see a hedgehog out in the day, seek immediate help. A hedgehog wandering around in daylight normally always indicates that something is seriously wrong.
  • Ask questions – If you are unsure or you think a hedgehog is in trouble then seek advice. Find out who your local wildlife carers are. There are many good website which offers lots of help and information such as: www.hedgehogstreet.org and www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk

Sophie Lawrenson – Torfaen Biodiversity Partnership

Chalara dieback of ash (Chalara fraxinea)

Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea). The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and it can lead to tree death.

Outbreak stage

Ash trees suffering with C. fraxinea infection have been found widely across Europe since trees now believed to have been infected with this newly identified pathogen were reported dying in large numbers in Poland in 1992. These have included forest trees, trees in urban areas such as parks and gardens, and also young trees in nurseries.

In February 2012 it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire, England. Since then it has been found in a number of locations and situations in England and Scotland, including a car park in Leicester; a Forestry Commission Scotland woodland at Knockmountain, near Kilmacolm, west of Glasgow; a college campus in South Yorkshire; and a property in County Durham. All these sites had received stocks of young ash plants from nurseries within the past five years. Further cases have also confirmed in the nursery trade.

In October 2012, Fera scientists confirmed a small number of cases in East Anglia in ash trees which do not appear to have any association with recently supplied nursery stock.

C. fraxinea is being treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures, and it is important that suspected cases of the disease are reported.

For more information go to the Forestry Commission website.


Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

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