British hedgehogs might be dying off at an alarming rate - but they’re not doomed yet.
And that’s because more and more Brits are making the effort to feed spiky critters which enter their garden, according to experts, with the numbers doubling in just a year.
A new report from Hedgehog Street, a project ran by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and released last week, suggested the UK hedgehog population is declining fast.
They estimate hedgehog numbers have dwindled by half in rural areas and by a third in urban areas since the turn of the century.
The report highlights problems caused by habitat fragmentation, loss of hedgerows and dwindling insect prey.
But now the makers of Spike’s, a popular food for wild hedgehogs, offer a cause for optimism - as they reveal sales of their products have doubled in just a year between January 2017 and January 2018, which could indicate a huge increase in the number of Brits regularly offering vital nourishment to flagging animals.
Spike’s Product Manager Camille Ashforth says: “The new survey on the British hedgehog population clearly makes for concerning reading.That kind of loss is alarming and unsustainable.
“But what we’re also seeing is that the British public are taking an increased interest in protecting the hedgehogs that do visit their homes and gardens - even if there are fewer of them these days.
“And that’s good news - not just for those of us who want to see hedgehogs thriving, but for the animals themselves.”
Meanwhile Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, added: “We are delighted if more people are offering hedgehogs food, the more support our prickly friends get to thrive in the wild the better.
“There are many other ways people can help hedgehogs too, often very simple small things, advice can be found on our website at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.”
Here Spike’s reveal their dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for the animals who wander into your garden:
DON’T OVERFEED MEALWORMS:
Camille at Spike’s says: “The internet is full of advice on feeding hedgehogs - a lot of it conflicting. Many people are leaving mealworms for hedgehogs to eat. And it’s certainly a newer alternative to more traditional options like bread and milk that we all know is bad for hedgehogs. But you do have to be careful with mealworms. If fed in excess, mealworms can upset a hedgehog’s calcium-phosphorus ratio which can lead to health issues, such as deformities and bone problems. Always feed in moderation and always ensure there’s a fresh water source nearby, too.”
DON’T LEAVE BREAD AND MILK:
Camille says: “Hedgehogs are not only lactose intolerant, but bread, while filling them up, can stop them foraging for their natural diet. And this can then result in then becoming malnourished.”
DO CHOOSE ‘CHICKEN, RABBIT OR TURKEY’ IF LEAVING CAT OR DOG FOOD:
Camille says: “Many people choose to feed cat or dog food which is more nutritious, but some protein sources are better for hedgehogs than others. Chicken is used as a protein source in all Spike’s foods as it’s a very digestible protein, where proteins such as beef, can be less digestible.”
DO TAKE CARE OF YOUNG HOGLETS:
Camille says: “When looking for a high-quality hedgehog food, it is best to look out for those that have been recommended by Wildlife Hospitals - as the shape of the actual biscuits are often designed so that small hoglets can feed on them, too, while also having excellent dental benefits.”
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society continues:
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK YOUR BONFIRE:
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) says: “Use a proper incinerator or move the pile to be burnt just before setting fire to it. This should ensure that no hedgehog has made a home in the rubbish. Do not burn or trim pampas grass until you are sure there are no hedgehogs nesting in it.”
DO BE CAREFUL WITH NETTING IN YOUR GARDEN:
The BHPS says: “Keep all pea-netting a foot above the ground so the hedgehogs can go under it and will not try to go through it and become stuck. The same applies to tennis nets, football nets etc. Barbed wire should also be kept off the ground and never left trailing or carelessly discarded.”
DON’T LEAVE SLUG PELLETS:
The BHPS says “Try alternatives, and remember that metaldehyde slug pellets can kill. If you must use them, use sparingly and pick up the dead slugs and snails as soon as possible.”
DO PROVIDE AN ESCAPE ROUTE FROM PONDS:
The BHPS says: “Provide escape routes eg plastic coated wire over the side and into the water to make a ladder, or when making a pond have a gentle slope to at least one of the sides. Keep ponds topped up, especially in hot weather so hedgehogs are less likely to topple in. Children’s paddling pools and sandpits are also a danger when filled with rainwater.”
DON’T LEAVE DRAINS UNCOVERED:
The BHPS says: “Keep drains covered so that hedgehogs do not become stuck down them. Bean trenches, footings, fencing holes and car inspection pits are all potential death traps for hedgehogs.”
DO LEAVE A HOLE:
The BHPS says: “Leave a CD case sized hole in fences or newly constructed walls so the hedgehogs can come and go. Use environmentally safe wood preservatives on sheds, fences etc as hedgehogs often lick new smells or substances – your garden centre should be able to advise. Very occasionally hedgehogs are found with a leg trapped in between the gaps in log rolls (used for edging) so check these and other hazards regularly.”
DON’T FORGET THAT HEDGEHOGS HIBERNATE BETWEEN NOVEMBER AND MID MARCH:
The BHPS adds: “If you do accidentally disturb a nest with a single adult hedgehog in it, replace the nesting material. The hedgehog can then either repair the nest or build another elsewhere. If the disturbed hedgehog is hibernating and wakes up, a dish of meaty cat or dog food or hedgehog food and some water each night until it starts hibernating again would be helpful. If there are babies in the nest, again replace the nesting material, handling the nest as little as possible so as not to leave your smell on it. Keep an eye on the nest to see if mum returns and telephone the BHPS for advice and a local contact.”