Gardeners often love hedgehogs, because they can help keep garden pests under control and of course, we all love seeing them bumbling around the garden at night!
In winter, hedgehogs should be tucked up asleep in their lovely snug nests of leaves and dry grass – however, even a winter garden can hold perils for them and the following tips will help make our gardens a bit more hedgehog friendly.
Bonfires – use a metal incinerator or move the pile to be burnt just before setting fire to it. This should ensure that a hedgehog hasn’t tried to hibernate in the heap. Don’t burn or trim pampas grass until you are sure there is not a hedgehog tucked into the base!
Ponds – if you are installing a new pond, or even if you have one already, check there is a ramp or gentle slope for hedgehogs to escape on – a few bricks would do the job. Children’s sandpits that fill with rainwater can also be a hedgehog trap, so cover them well or ensure there is an escape route.
Fences – fences can blow down in winter gales and make sure that if you repair or replace them you leave a hole for hedgehogs to travel through. Gardens are a wonderful habitat for hedgehogs, but they need to be able to travel between our gardens to find food and a mate. A hole the size of a CD should do the trick. Use environmentally safe wood preservative on all fences and sheds.
Compost heaps, wild patches, sheds, hedges and winter tidy-ups – hedgehogs might well be trying to hibernate in long, overgrown areas, the bottom of hedges, underneath sheds or compost heaps. If you are tidying up over winter or dismantling an old shed, check for hedgehogs first and if possible, leave these jobs until the weather warms up and the hogs are out of hibernation. Strimmers mutilate hedgehogs – so check well before you strim!
Check compost heaps before you stick a fork in and if you find a hibernating hog, leave the area well alone until the spring, when they will be on the move again. If the hibernating hog wakes up, leave some food (non-fishy cat biscuits, never bread and milk) out until it can find a new place to go back to sleep.
If you have hedgehogs in your garden, you can help them hibernate by leaving a pile of leaves and small sticks in a quiet corner of the garden or put a hedgehog home in the base of a hedge to help them to hibernate in a safe place in a future.