The Hedgehog, that iconic garden mammal is in trouble. Since 2005, numbers are down by c.25% – so now is the time to think about hedges and hedgehogs.
The reasons for the Hedgehog’s decline are many and familiar and generally down to us rather than to any natural phenomena – loss of habitat (especially hedgerows and the garden Hedge – hedges and Hedgehogs belong with each other); the impact of pesticides; traffic and how so many of us garden today.
HEDGES AND HEDGEHOGS – DOWN WITH THE FENCE!
If you would like to welcome hedgehogs into your garden, it must be accessible but if it is fenced, then it will be the Hedgehog equivalent of Fort Knox.
Hedgehogs will roam up to two miles a night in their quest for food, shelter or a mate and have to go round the perimeter of any obstacle they encounter. Not only does this mean they won’t make your garden an occasional, never mind regular, stomping ground, but they will be forced to travel much further.
So what to do? Ideally, as suggested by the RHS, replace your fences, especially those that separate your garden from a neighbour’s, with a hedge. Failing that, cut a few gaps (c.15cm) into the base of the fence and/or dig a few ‘tunnels’ underneath it (a length of drainage pipe is ideal) to give the hedgehogs a chance to come and visit.
Of course, if you currently deciding between building a fence or planting a Hedge, then choose the latter – not just for hedgehogs, but for wildlife in general, better protection (it’s harder to climb through a hedge than over a fence) and the simple pleasure of its presence. After all, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle is a hedgehog, not a fencehog!
NB: If your garden is delineated by a Hedge, then inspect it every so often and clear spaces where it meets the ground as necessary.
HEDGES AND HEDGEHOGS – BONFIRES & COMPOST HEAPS
To a Hedgehog an unlit bonfire (whether it’s a modest pile of autumn leaves or summer clippings or a far larger structure built for November 5th) is nothing less than the perfect nesting site, especially for hibernation. The best way, therefore, of avoiding turning it into a hedgehog pyre is to collect the material but only build the bonfire itself just before you intend to light it.
If you happen upon a hedgehog in the preparatory pile, gently remove it cupped in as many of the leaves as you can hold and re-place in a sheltered corner of the garden or under a Hedgeand re-cover with leaves and small twigs.
A compost heap makes an equally attractive des. res. so always check before you weigh in with the pitchfork.