Watch out for hedgehogs

hedgehog 3Winter bonfires provide a festive opportunity to gather family and friends round, but they are also a death-trap for our spiky garden friend, the hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are already in serious decline due to the reduction of their habitats by farming and development; we have lost half the hedgehog population in the last two decades. To avoid contributing to their decline, we can be more aware of the dangers that we create for them.

Bonfire piles create an ideal habitat for hedgehogs, and the risk is that they will crawl into the attractive, dark recesses of the bonfire material.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society says: “If material is stored on open ground in advance having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – not even on top of a pile of leaves, as there could be a hedgehog underneath.”

Some large bonfires need a length of time to be built in advance and would be very hard to move. One preventive solution is to place chicken wire around the bottom of the bonfire right after construction to prevent a hedgehog from burrowing in.

What more can we do for hedgehogs to make sure their population does not decline further?

To help hedgehogs prepare for their hibernation season in the winter, set out dog or cat food and water so they can build up their fat reserves to survive the winter. Keep gardens safe by avoiding use of slug pellets, and create a habitat, such as a wild corner or a small shelter for them to nest in.

In the 1950s, there were an estimated 3.5 million hedgehogs in Britain. Population numbers are estimated to have since declined by more than half.

Esme Kroese
December 5, 2019