Hi this is Jo from the Wild Bunch with our latest column.
Autumn seems like the perfect time to talk about hedgehogs. This time of year, the prickly mammals need shelter as they prepare for hibernation. They can find themselves in trouble if they were born late in the season or didn’t find enough food in the summer. Many wildlife rescues consider hedgehogs weighing less than 600g too thin, and at risk of not surviving winter. It’s because of this that autumn is always incredibly busy for wildlife rescues which help hedgehogs.
Prickles Hedgehog Rescue based in Cheddar care for underweight, sick or injured hedgehogs of all ages. They often care for as many as 200 each winter. Prickles recently got in touch with The Wild Bunch highlighting that they are getting many underweight hedgehogs coming into their care from Frome area suggesting that Frome’s hedgehog population needs a helping hand. It made me wonder why our town’s hedgehogs might be struggling.
There could be many reasons. It could simply be because they aren’t finding enough food. It could be that due to pollution and poor diet they become weaker and more prone to disease, which can spread fast in a larger population. The very dry summer we had hit wildlife hard. Hedgehogs’ favourite food such as earthworms simply didn’t come to the surface often enough due to dry soil, and slugs made their appearance less often too. The soil in fact was so dry and compact this year that I’ve heard reports of moles, the distant relative of hedgehogs, coming to the surface starving as they simply couldn’t dig underground and find food. All these weather anomalies are a result of the rapidly changing climate. Our wildlife, including hedgehogs which since the seventies declined in number by nearly 50%, need our help more than ever.
How can you help hedgehogs? To start, ensure there are gaps in your garden walls or fences so hedgehogs can travel freely to find food and mates. Encourage your neighbours to do the same and connect as many gardens as possible to create hedgehog highways. The more space hedgehogs have in our connected gardens the less likely they are to venture out on roads and get killed by traffic. It’s important to provide shelter, water and food. Natural shelter like leaf piles and log piles are preferred by hedgehogs but homemade or shop bought houses make good alternatives. Lastly, if you have hedgehogs visiting your garden feed them. Hedgehog food is best, but fish free dog and cat food with hight protein content is also good. Avoid feeding milk and offer mealworms only as an occasional treat.
If you see a hedgehog that looks small or thin or is out in daylight, secure it in your home and contact Prickles Rescue on 07806744772 so it can be treated as soon as possible. Due to the high volume of poorly hedgehogs coming from Frome the rescue is seeking local volunteer drivers who would be happy to transport sick or injured hedgehogs to Cheddar or local foster homes. If you would like to help, please contact their team by email.
Join the Wild Bunch to find out what you can do to support our wild neighbours, visit our page here or come along to one of our events, the next meeting is on 15th December where we invite you to come and make a Christmas gift… for the wildlife in your garden!