When was the last time you saw a live hedgehog? Are you plagued by slugs and snails on your herbaceous borders or your allotment? Our iconic, beloved, and charismatic mammal is native across the UK but is on the priority species list. Hedgehogs are listed as vulnerable on the Red List of British Mammals, amongst other species that are at risk of extinction in the UK. Other species of conservation priority include bats, hazel dormouse, red squirrel, and water vole. This is due to loss of habitat and increasing factors centred around humans, however, they are one of the few mammals that are happy to live among us.
Hedgehogs are important because they form part of a wider food web and help to control the number of pests we have in our gardens, such as snails and slugs. Hedgehogs will also eat worms and insects, as well as any fruits and vegetables that may be within reach.
You can also help our prickly friends by planting native hedge species such as hazel and blackthorn, and if you have the space, trees such as field maple and mountain ash. This planting will provide food and shelter for them. Caution is needed when clearing away scrub at certain times of the year, particularly piles of wood and leaves, which should be left to rot naturally where possible.
If like most of us you only have a small garden, you can leave a hole or space at the bottom of your garden gate or fence (about 13cmx13cm) and plant small fruit trees that they can feed on. Hedgehog highways can easily be installed in new and existing developments to help hedgehogs forage and find food. Hedgehogs also love cat food, which you can leave out if you cannot get hold of any hedgehog food, as well as a shallow dish of water.
Hedgehogs are offered a degree of protection by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which means it is illegal to kill or capture them using certain methods and should be considered when making a planning application for development.