Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A hedgehog in the kitchen

Helen Baczkowska, Conservation Officer and Diane Gilbert, NWT volunteer

Nine-thirty on a November night and on the way to lock up my hens for the night, I spotted a tiny shape scuttling into the veg garden. Normally this would be a moment for joy, not concern, but this was a very small hedgehog, lacking the fat reserves to hibernate and likely to die if not given some help. 

Hedgehog by woodpile, photo by Quintin Saling
So I scooped her up into my coat and settled her into a box in the kitchen for the night, with a dish of water, a handful of raisins and some straw. The following morning, I dropped her off at the wonderful Norwich Hedgehog Rescue, with a donation to help with their costs; this is one of a number of places that can take in tiny hedgehogs and give advice on hedgehog care. Over the coming weeks, they will feed her up and then send her off to a foster home to winter awake in a hutch in a shed, before re-release in the spring – hopefully back into my veg garden, where she can feast on slugs and snails and bring me much happiness if our night time rambles cross paths!

Such tiny hedgehogs are not uncommon this time of year, usually the result of a late litter and if you think you have hedgehogs in your garden, here is what you can do to help in autumn:
  • Be careful when lighting bonfires or moving piles of leaves – there might be a hedgehog hibernating within!
  • Look out for tiny hedgehogs they need to be at least 600g to get through the winter – I weighed mine on the kitchen scales to be sure!
  • If you do find a hedgehog in distress, you can call the RSPCA, or find a hedgehog rescue contact from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 or or email and of course NWT Wildline is here to help too: 01603 598333
  • Consider being a hedgehog foster parent for the winter!  You will need to be briefly trained and have a frost free shed with a rabbit hutch – see the BHPS website for information.
Hedgehog populations have declined by about a quarter in the last ten years (British Hedgehog Preservation Society & People’s Trust for Endangered Species) and yet, this is a species that happily lives alongside people in gardens and parks. However, gardens do need to be hedgehog friendly and here are some ways you can help garden with them in mind:
  • Have a supply of water in your garden for hedgehogs and other animals. Milk is not good for hedgehogs.
  • Hedgehogs will eat at least 100 invertebrates, such as snails, slugs and worms every night. If you want to put out supplementary food you can buy specially made dried food for hedgehogs or you can feed them dog or cat food – any flavour except fish.
  • Use only hedgehog friendly slug pellets or control slugs by trapping.
  • Provide suitable habitat by leaving areas of your garden undisturbed to allow hedgehogs to shelter. Avoid strimming and grass cutting in these areas.
  • Provide extra shelter by creating hibernation spots, this can be a box or log pile. Hedgehogs also love compost heaps for the warmth and food they find.
I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy hedgehogs in your garden and I am keeping my fingers crossed that my tiny one comes back in the spring to enjoy my garden for years to come (and to help me keep the slugs at bay)!

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