We are now firmly in summertime with the promise of rising temperatures and longer days.
This means that hedgehogs are active and more visible, and they will continue to be so until late autumn when they settle back into hibernation. During this active period, hedgehogs have three primary objectives: find mates, rear young, and build up fat reserves for winter. All three of these mean that hedgehogs will be very busy in the evenings for the next several months and they may need a bit of extra assistance from you. Remove and Reduce Hazards With the long, sunny days that summer brings, it is hard to resist the lure of the outdoors. In order to keep hedgehogs safe, please be aware of the following hazards that certain garden activities may pose to your local hedgehogs: Mowers and Strimmers What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than to relax in the soft grass in the garden? It is not uncommon to find hedgehogs resting in tall grasses. Take extra care when mowing or strimming. Their typical defence of
curling into a spiky ball will not protect against blades! A simple check through grasses before cutting can save lives! Netting and Wire Hedgehogs are not the only animals more active in warmer weather. Deer and other critters start to be more visible as well, with many species rearing young in the spring and summer months. You may notice unwelcome traces from some of these herbivores in the form of nibbled plants and eaten flower buds. Many gardeners respond to this by covering their precious plants with protective netting or wire. If you must use netting, please ensure you leave a gap of about 20cm (8in) between the ground and the bottom of the net so that hedgehogs can easily slip underneath— don’t worry, this isn’t a big enough gap to render the net ineffective against hungry deer. Also, keep the netting as taut as possible and opt for coarser cordage, as thin, loose nets pose the biggest entanglement risks. These same guidelines also apply to sports nets. Pesticides Did you know that hedgehogs are ‘the gardener’s best friend’? It’s true! Hedgehogs’ natural diet
consists primarily of beetles, slugs, and other pests that are known to wreak havoc on gardens. Why use chemical pesticides when hedgehogs can do the job for you? Furthermore, with prolonged use of pesticides, you will be making your garden inhospitable to hedgehogs by killing off their food supply. Feed hedgehogs and protect your plants at the same time; it’s a win-win situation! Now you know some things to be aware of and avoid, how can you encourage hedgehogs? Let Nature Go Wild.
Bring the local countryside into your garden by creating a ‘Wild Corner’. Plant native flowers to encourage local pollinators, and allow plants to grow a bit taller before trimming. You will be providing hedgehogs with lots of great nesting materials along with a tasty food supply from the invertebrates that healthy gardens attract. Wild corners are also great for improving the lives of many other beloved British wildlife species, not just hedgehogs!
You may have the most Hedgehog-Friendly garden in the world, but you might never see a hedgehog if you do not provide them with adequate means of coming and going. Hedgehogs can roam several kilometres in a single night, so why not help them out by creating ‘Hedgehog Highways’ in your fence to let them come and go as they please? Talk to your neighbours about linking your gardens with a small hole (about 4 inches) in your adjoining fences.
Further, encourage hedgehogs by providing them with supplementary food and water (NEVER bread and milk!) each night. Meat-based dog or cat food is the best and most convenient food option, with the occasional mealworm as a special treat. Remember you don’t want to replace their natural diet, so try not to feed them so much that they become dependent on you.