October 2017 - Help our Hedgehogs.
The plight of our hedgehogs is of great concern. In the 1950's the population was estimated at 30 million. Today it is estimated that the number has fallen to less than a million, with a third of the loss thought to have taken place in the last 10 years. A survey carried out in 2016 by the BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, involving 2,600 people, found 51% of the people had not seen a hedgehog at all in 2016. Just 12% had seen a hedgehog regularly. This survey was in line with the findings of the People's Trust for Endangered Species which found in 2015 the decline of urban populations by a third since 2000, and rural populations by at least a half.
Factors causing the decline are most likely to be loss of habitat in Britain's towns and countryside, especially where farming has intensified, and there is fragmentation of populations due to housing developments and road building.
We can all help save this British mammal.
• Autumn is a time for bonfires. Check your bonfire before lighting to ensure no hedgehog is sleeping inside.
• Leave an area of twigs and leaves to provide a safe shelter during the winter, and a place to raise young in the summer.
• Hedgehogs have bad eyesight and get stuck in all sorts of areas. Cover drains and gullies, and if you have a pond, ensure there is an area where, if one falls in, it can get out. Although they are good swimmers they loose body heat quickly and will otherwise die.
• Avoid the use of slug pellets and insecticides, which harm hedgehogs. Their natural food is beetles, earthworms, slugs, leatherjackets, woodlice and many other insects. They are known as gardeners' friends.
• Never use dog or cat flea treatments on hedgehogs. The chemicals in these will cause harm.
• Check before strimming long grassed areas.
• Ensure your garden has 'gateways' under or through fencing. These need to be around 5" (13 cm) across. Hedgehogs need to roam a mile or more to find food and mates.
• This is the time of year hedgehogs need feeding up, before the winter. Their natural diet can be supplemented with meat flavoured dog or cat food, or mealworms. Never feed bread and milk. Always make fresh water available. With the progression of global warming, hedgehogs may not hibernate at all, or for only brief intervals during cold spells. Their natural food will not be readily available, so food put out will be eagerly accepted.
They need us to help them survive.
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