Our prickly friends...

Our prickly friends...

Hedgehog by Wendy Carter

As hedgehogs get ready to snooze for a few months, take a closer look at our prickly friends.

When I was little I remember watching a scurrying hedgehog when out for a walk with my mum.  I struggled with the name - I pointed and exclaimed 'hodgeheg’, next was ‘egghodge’ and more stumbled words followed.  The fact that I knew the name, even if I didn’t know how to say it, meant that there were plenty of these spiny creatures around. Whilst I now have regular hoggy visitors to my own garden, my mum hasn’t seen a hedgehog at home for more than 20 years.

She's not alone.  It’s estimated that in the 1950s there were 35 million hedgehogs in the UK.  Today, there are fewer than a million.  In fact, it appears that our rural hedgehogs are suffering more than their townie cousins - the State of Britain's Hedgehogs, published in 2018, found that our rural hedgehog populations have more than halved in the last decade whereas urban populations have declined by about a third.  It’s difficult to believe that these beautiful creatures were once persecuted but their more recent decline is more to do with a changing world and unwitting neglect than determined slaughter.

Hedgehog drinking water by Wendy Carter

Hedgehog by Wendy Carter

As their name suggests, hedgehogs are creatures of hedges.  Wide bases full of wildflowers and plenty of invertebrate food sources are perfect for these prickly mammals.  They relied on wide mature hedgerows criss-crossing our landscape but, as our us of the countryside has changed and intensified, they are now increasingly dependent on our network of gardens.

Adults can travel a mile or so looking for slugs, snails and other small beasties to munch on.  At this time of year it’s crucial that they get enough food – they need to weigh at least 600g in order to make it through hibernation.  Their diet makes them great friends to gardeners so not only should we be trying to help this beautiful creature for its own sake, the gardeners amongst us should be welcoming them as part of a healthy wild balance. 

Helping our hoggies

We can all do something to help our beleaguered, and beloved, hedgehogs... 

  • Connection. Make sure that your garden is connected – holes through hedges, gates and fences allow hoggies to travel through your neighbourhood. Why not chat to your neighbours about this to see if you can create a thriving hedgehog population in your own community? 
  • Go wild. Leave an area of the garden a bit wild – longer grass, dead leaves, a compost heap – with a quiet space for a hoggy to curl up and go to sleep.  If you’re really keen, invest in a hedgehog hotel; a box with a waterproof roof tucked into a quiet, sheltered area. 
  • Water. If you’ve got a pond, install a ladder so that your neighbourhood hoggies can have a drink without falling in.  If you haven't got a pond, don't forget to leave water out for thirsty wildlife.
  • Remember, remember. With bonfire night coming up, don’t forget to check for snoozing hoggies at the bottom of your pyre.  Even better, store the material in one place and move it to your chosen location for the bonfire on the day itself.

We’re working alongside Worcestershire Biological Records Centre to find out more about where Worcestershire's hoggy hotspots are.  We'd love to know if you seen a hedgehog to help us understand more about their distribution and abundance across the county.  In the few years that we've run our online hedgehog survey we've had more than 700 sightings reported but there are some areas where it looks like we have hedgehog holes!  Visit our Worcestershire's hedgehogs page to let us know about sightings as well as find out what signs to look for to help you know if you’ve got hedgehogs, what to do if you find a sick one and more ideas on how to help them and other wildlife.