The sunshine evenings of summer time are an ideal time to look out for hedgehogs in UK gardens. This tailored extract from June’s Wild Wild Life publication explains what we learn about this common animal and what you are able to do to assist it. To obtain the free New Scientist wildlife publication in your inbox each month, join right here.
What species of hedgehog lives within the UK?
There are 17 completely different species of hedgehog dwelling throughout Europe, Africa, the Center East and Central Asia. The West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is the one species within the UK and has a broad vary throughout Europe, from Portugal to Russia. It was additionally launched by Nineteenth-century English colonists to New Zealand, the place they’re a menace to native wildlife.
Relying on the place on the planet you reside – and maybe your information of kids’s books by Beatrix Potter – the species you may be most aware of is the African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), which is much-loved on YouTube. This hedgehog is stored as a pet, and you’ll inform it aside from the West European hedgehog by its white fur.
Are hedgehogs endangered?
The West European hedgehog is widespread on mainland Europe, however this isn’t the case within the UK. The hedgehog is classed as susceptible by the Pink Checklist for Britain’s Mammals, and whereas it’s tough to reliably estimate hedgehog numbers, it’s thought that since 2000, hedgehog numbers in rural areas have declined by between 30 and 75 per cent.
Why are hedgehogs declining within the UK?
There are a number of attainable causes. It’s clear that 1000’s of hedgehogs are killed on roads yearly, and that these roads, plus trendy farming strategies and fewer hedgerows, contribute to fragmentation of hedgehog habitats.
However there appears to be higher information in city areas, the place a couple of fifth of Nice Britain’s hedgehogs are thought to reside. City hedgehogs are thought to have declined in quantity by 25 per cent between 2000 and 2010, however regardless of the excessive incidence of hedgehog highway deaths in cities and cities, this decline appears to have now stabilised, and concrete populations might even be beginning to get better.
What makes cities hedgehog-friendly?
City inexperienced areas play a vital function. A examine of London revealed in 2021 discovered that hedgehogs had been extra prone to be current in areas with gardens, parks, allotments and terraced housing, and fewer prone to be current in locations with a excessive density of people and the place roads and buildings accounted for greater than 31 per cent of land use. The examine concluded that a lot of Better London is an appropriate habitat for hedgehogs. There are round 30 to 40 dwelling in Regent’s Park, in the direction of the centre of town, for instance.
A 2022 examine discovered that gardens in Braunschweig, Germany, are vital for connecting hedgehog habitats collectively – which is important as a result of hedgehogs can journey as much as 3 kilometres per evening.
How are you going to appeal to hedgehogs to your backyard?
When you’ve got a backyard, presumably the most effective factor you are able to do is to be sure to have gaps in your fences. Hedgehogs can climb surprisingly excessive, however you would possibly as nicely make it simple for them. You can provide hedgehogs a spot to remain by having a compost heap (though watch out to not harm any hedgehogs when turning your heap) or offering a specifically made hedgehog home.
Hedgehogs additionally like entry to contemporary water, so digging a pond is a good suggestion, however make sure that there’s a sloped aspect or a fastidiously positioned log in order that any hedgehogs that fall in can get out once more.
To be sure to don’t injure any hedgehogs, you would possibly wish to keep away from utilizing a robotic lawnmower and take care when trimming lengthy grass and below hedges (higher but, go away them be).
A ban on the outside use of metaldehyde slug pellets within the UK got here into impact in April, so when you’ve got any of those leftover don’t use them. It’s most likely a good suggestion to keep away from all backyard chemical substances and pesticides for the sake of hedgehogs (and your backyard biodiversity generally).
When are you almost certainly to see a hedgehog in your backyard?
A GPS monitoring examine discovered that hedgehogs within the UK spend extra time in gardens when it has rained in a single day, in the course of the summer time when nights are brief, and if foxes aren’t widespread guests. Hedgehogs notably spend time in gardens the place folks put out meals for them.
What do hedgehogs eat and drink?
Hedgehogs eat quite a lot of meals, however invertebrates equivalent to worms, beetles, slugs and millipedes make up the majority of their food regimen. If you happen to’re eager to place out meals for hedgehogs, it’s value understanding that not all commercially obtainable hedgehog feeds are nutritionally appropriate and you could be higher off providing moist, meat-based canine or cat meals, or dry cat or kitten meals.
Hedgehogs drink water, which is why it’s a good suggestion to have a pond in your backyard. But when that isn’t attainable, you possibly can put out a clear dish of water for them within the night.
Resist any recommendation to place out bread and milk, although – bread is simply too low in vitality, and hedgehogs are lactose illiberal.
How are you going to inform if a hedgehog is sick or injured and desires assist?
If you happen to see a hedgehog out in the course of the day, it may be unwell. Whether it is energetic and strikes rapidly away then it’s most likely okay, but when it’s mendacity nonetheless (however not in a nest), staggering round or has flies round it, it wants pressing assist and may have admitting to a rescue centre. Within the UK you possibly can name the British Hedgehog Preservation Society or name the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Do rescued hedgehogs survive?
A 2021 examine discovered that over half of hedgehogs admitted to RSPCA centres are alive 80 days later.
Is a hedgehog good for a pet?
West European hedgehogs are wild animals within the UK and shouldn’t be stored as pets. The African pygmy hedgehog is usually stored as a pet, however the RSPCA doesn’t advocate it. That’s as a result of the species is tough to look after, naturally nocturnal and solitary by nature.
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