Wildlife & Countryside

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10 Ways to Make Your Garden Safe for Hedgehogs

Gill from Hedgehog Bottom charity in Thatcham shares her important tips on keeping your garden safe for hedgehogs who are now a protected species due to their declining numbers. Gill and her team rescue 700 hedgehogs every year.

1. Check Long Grass before Strimming/Shearing

Please check long grass before you strim or cut it with shears. Hedgehogs will sleep out in long grass during the day in good weather. Ground nesting birds, rabbits, foxes all do the same. Some animals will run away when they hear you but a hedgehog employs its usual form of defence and curls up. Sadly the spines are no protection against a flailing wire or sharp blades. The animals that are killed are probably the lucky ones as the injuries can be horrific.

There has been a campaign underway for some time to get strimmer manufacturers to label their products with a warning but it seems they are reluctant to do so. Apparently, the possibility of shredding a hedgehog doesn’t make for good sales, so what you don’t know won’t stop you lining their pockets.

So it’s up to you – please remember to check grass so you don’t strim a hedgehog.

2. Prevent Hedgehogs from hiding in Bonfires

Hedgehogs are often burnt to death under bonfires. If you’re going to have a bonfire stack everything up out of the way then build it on the day you want to light it. If you can’t do that then put fencing or some other protection, at least 2 feet high, all the way round it. Click here for more on bonfires

3. Reduce need for Rat Poison

ratbaitboxHow many of these mysterious black boxes have you seen lying around? They are rat bait boxes which are meant to be designed so that only rats can get in them but any small creature can get in them. In fact, being dark, hidden away in corners of the garden and dry inside, it’s an ideal hidey hole for juvenile hedgehogs when they first leave the nest. Recent research has show that vast numbers of dead hogs taken for Post Mortem have rat poison in their stomach.

Reduce the need for rat poison by making your garden unattractive to rats. eg keep any feed properly covered, minimise hidey holes for rats to live eg under sheds

4. Don’t use Slug Pellets

Please stop using slug pellets. The manufacturers only tell half the story and most of the products available on the market are not safe for wildlife or any animals for that matter. Are you aware that if your dog or cat eats them, they too will become extremely ill or die?

Slug pellets contain the toxic chemical pesticide metaldehyde (usually dyed blue). It kills slugs, snails and anything that eats them, including frogs, toads, hedgehogs and birds. The toxins ‘bioaccummulate’, intensifying up the food chain. It’s one of the biggest threats to hedgehogs and song thrushes because even if you place the pellets where only slugs can get at them how are you going to stop a hedgehog or a bird from eating the poisoned slug?

Frogs, toads, blackbirds, thrushes and hedgehogs actually eat slugs and snails for you so if you protect your local wildlife you will have fewer slugs!

Click here for some other ways to combat slugs without using slug pellets.

5. Weedkillers

If you feel you must use weedkiller such as Round Up please use it first thing in the morning so it has time to dry before the hedgehogs come into your garden at night. Alternatively pouring boiling water on weeds is the least toxic way to kill them.

6. Water in Ponds, Buckets, Drains, Holes

Any hole filled with water or capable of filling with water is dangerous. Yes, hedgehogs can swim, no they can’t swim forever. If there is nothing for them to climb onto to get out of the water, they will tire and drown.

If you have a pond with straight sides and no planting baskets near to the edge then please come up with some method of allowing animals to get out of the water. Stacks of bricks, a ramp, anything will do.

When building a new pond, consider going for a wildlife pond rather than an ornamental one. Wildlife ponds have sloping edges and allow anything that falls in to escape, it also provides a much needed source of water for birds and animals in the summer when rain is in short supply.

Cover any holes, ALWAYS cover open drains, the sides are too slippery for animals to climb out, you’re also risking a visit from Mr Rat.

Buckets and other receptacles left in the garden should be turned upside down so that they don’t fill with water. A thirsty hedgehog will climb utilising the bucket handle as a step.

7. Don’t drop Litter and Garden rubbish

hedgehog stuck in litterLitter is a killer and not just of hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can get into things with no problem, it’s when they try to back out the trouble starts. Their spines lock into place and they can’t move, any hog in this situation will starve to death if it’s not found.

Don’t drop litter. If you put litter into bins it can sometimes escape. Always explode a crisp packet before throwing it, cut through plastic can rings, squash polystyrene cups and rip them in half.

8. Netting

hedgehog trapped in nettingPlease make sure all garden netting is stretched tight and properly anchored into place. If possible leave an 8 inch gap between the bottom and the ground but if for some reason you can’t do that, consider attaching the netting to metal bars and anchoring those into the ground.

Consider replacing netting with animal friendly wire mesh. It’s a heck of a lot easier to handle and it doesn’t trap birds either.

If you do find a wild animal trapped in netting, do not try to release it by cutting it free. The netting can cut off the blood supply and releasing it can cause further complications. Please take the hog and the netting to an expert who can check for injuries, starvation and dehydration.

9. Fencing

If you install fencing with concrete footings no hedgehog can get in or out of your garden unless they use the gate, a parachute, or some tunnelling equipment. Not only have you stopped them getting in to your garden but you’ve also blocked their normal foraging route. If your neighbours have installed similar fencing then the hogs are either trapped in one of the gardens or they’ve cleared off elsewhere.

Try making a tunnel underneath the concrete on each of your boundaries. It needs to be around 10cm (4 inches) square and lined so it doesn’t collapse.

If there are any fencing contractors reading this, please put your brains in gear. Leave gaps so that any trapped wildlife can get out. Hedgehogs are now a protected species and you are really not helping matters.

10. Dog Attacks

Dog attacks are now becoming commonplace and of course it’s never the owner’s fault. We get hogs in all year round that have been found by dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, “have a soft mouth” etc etc. These hogs usually come with deep tooth marks, broken legs, ribs, skull fractures and eyes missing. Please excuse us if we don’t offer any sympathy about your vet bills for your dog’s bloody mouth. Our vet bills are much higher and many of the hogs pay the ultimate price.

If you know your dog is likely to chase small animals in your garden please put a muzzle on it before letting it out to play. The Safety Muzzle for Dogs by Pets at Home is dog trainer approved and was designed by George Grayson – Chairman of the Dog Training Industry Association, UK. Muzzles are not cruel – your dog is highly unlikely to need to defend itself in your garden. Your dog learned that LEAD! meant walkies and gets excited, he can also learn that MUZZLE! means play time.

The other thing you can do to make hedgehogs welcome is to make a safe hedgehog house in your garden. Here are instructions to make your own or Ark Wildlife sell them.  Any time of year is good as hogs will use houses during the spring and summer as well as for hibernation purposes. If you’re very lucky, a female may choose your handiwork to have her babies in.

Thank you!

Gill Lucraft
Hedgehog Bottom
Thatcham

For more information about Hedgehogs visit Hedgehog Bottom’s facebook page or their website www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk

You can also donate to them by clicking here

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