Homeowners are being encouraged to look after any prickly visitors they could find in their gardens this autumn as hedgehog numbers continue to fall.
Outdoors experts from GardenBuildingsDirect.com have researched ways British hedgehogs can be supported in gardens as young hoglets emerge this year.
Last year hedgehog numbers stood at just one million, considerably lower than the 30 million recorded in the 1950s.
Yet helping young hedgehogs is not difficult and can prove to be rewarding when you see them thrive.
A spokesperson for GardenBuildingsDirect.com said: “It’s such a shame, but unfortunately hedgehog numbers are declining in Britain.
“These mammals play a vital part in our ecosystem but can often be hurt in our gardens.
“As many as ten different hedgehogs can visit any one garden over the course of a few nights, so it’s important to try and help them survive and thrive in the great outdoors.
“The breeding season is in May and June, so young hedgehogs will soon be out and exploring gardens.
“As such, it’s important that we help feed and look after them.”
Here are seven tips to help hedgehogs thrive:
Hedgehogs are good swimmers but if caught by surprise can often drown. Covering drains and holes and placing bricks around ponds can stop hedgehogs from being caught out.
Also, checking under hedges before using strimmer’s and lawn mowers, as well as ensuring there aren’t any hidden in compost can help keep hedgehogs safe.
Leaving a little dish of dog or cat food will make hedgehogs very happy. Places in a quiet, covered area around dusk they will eat it and keep their bellies full all night.
3. Water dish
Fresh water left in shallow, non-tip dishes, will give hedgehogs in your garden access to clean water. Don’t use milk as it can upset their tummies.
4. Handle with care
If you find a hedgehog which you believe to be hurt, the best thing to do is contact a specialist group in your area and keep the hedgehog safe until you get advice.
A cardboard box with high sides to keep the hedgehog safe by lining it with a towel and scrunched up newspaper so the hedgehog can hide. Remember to wear a thick pair of gardening gloves before gently scooping up the hedgehog and placing it in the box.
If the hedgehog is very poorly, or cold, you can also give it a hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel to snuggle up to.
5. Clean up
Ensuring rubbish is cleared away will stop hedgehogs trying to climb into bin liners in the search of food.
As pleasing as a tidy, well-kept garden may be to us humans, hedgehogs won’t thank you for it. Leaving overgrown corners will be where they come and hide and try to snuffle for insects.
It’s very easy to provide a home for hedgehogs in your garden. You can buy ready-made hedgehog houses, or turn a waste paper bin, plant pot or wooden box upside down. Cutting a little doorway will let hedgehogs come in but will keep predators out.
Placing stones on top will stop the house from being blown over, and filling with piles of leaves will make it even more attractive, as well as encouraging slugs and beetles – food for hedgehogs.