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Hazards for Hedgehogs in the Garden
By Ark Wildlife
9th October 2013
Our much-loved spikey garden visitors (recently named ‘Britain’s National Species’) face numerous hazards throughout their lives and urban areas are high up the list. With this in mind, here’s our list of top tips to improve their safety while they’re roaming our gardens.
Hedgehogs as well as other creatures will sleep out in long grass during the day when the weather is fine. Should we choose to have a tidy up with shears, a lawnmower or strimmer, it is wise to have a quick search of the area first! Whereas most animal’s reaction to danger is to flee – a hedgehog’s natural defence is to curl up in to a ball which is no protection against our garden machinery. Reports from numerous hedgehog carers indicate large numbers of hedgehogs brought to them have suffered damage for these very reasons and taking just a few moments to ensure any area being cleared is free from sheltering wildlife can prevent causing unintended injury or loss of life.
Compost heaps and piles of autumn leaves which, whilst undisturbed, are an attractive option for a hedgehog to rest in during daylight hours are again, a potential hazard. The same vigilance should be applied and a thorough check before turning over compost heaps and fallen leaves is a good habit to adopt.
Garden netting can also prove to be a potential problem with hedgehogs getting tangled up in it. Unused netting needs to be safely stored away and if you’re unable to leave a gap of 8 inches from the ground (especially in the case of strawberry plants and similar), ensuring that the netting is safely secured at ground level can help. If you do find a hedgehog tangled up in garden netting it is best to call the professionals (your local hedgehog carer) for immediate help and advice.
Slug pellets as well as many other garden pesticides are generally not very good for any of your garden wildlife regardless of what species they are specifically targeting. There are many other options for ridding our gardens of slugs, beer traps, copper strips, or simply picking them up and disposing of them – much better solutions than hedgehogs eating poisoned slugs or potentially even the pellets themselves.
Ponds can be a cause for concern, particularly ornamental ponds or ones with straight sides. Although hedgehogs are able to swim, if there is nothing for them to climb on to in order to gain exit from a pond they may have inadvertently fallen in to, they will eventually tire and drown. Providing some form of ramp such as a plank, brick steps or equivalent will enable the hedgehog to climb out. If you are considering adding a pond to your garden, why not make it a wildlife friendly pond with sloping sides making it easy for hedgehogs and other creatures to crawl out.
Open drains and steep sided ditches (such as building work) can attract hedgehogs due to the likelihood of food being in these damp dark areas, but they can easily fall in and while hedgehogs are good climbers, the sheer steep sides can unfortunately prove to be an effective trap. Ensure all drain covers are correctly fitted and inspect open holes and ditches daily for trapped hedgehogs.
Bonfires are a useful way of keeping the garden tidy in the autumn, but as hedgehogs love to bury themselves in piles of garden debris so extra vigilance is required. Ideally material being collected to burn should be stacked away from the burner and only moved on the day of burning, when the materials can be inspected prior to ignition.
Bonfire night is especially dangerous with huge bonfires sometimes created many weeks before burning. Ideally the heap should be moved before ignition, otherwise it will need very close inspection for heavily sleeping hogs. You could also surround the bonfire zone with amphibian rescue fence (or equivalent fencing at least 12” high) pegged down before stacking the bonfire. This will deny access to hedgehogs, ensuring bonfire night can be enjoyed without fear of harm.
Finally, with the bulk of our hedgehog population now living in urban areas, probably the biggest threat to hedgehogs are cars. Hedgehogs roam far and wide accessing several gardens each night and every time they cross a road they are put at risk. We therefore strongly support the Hedgehog Access Campaign encouraging the leaving of a 4 inch gap in the gravel board or bottom of the fence between gardens to allow free access for hedgehogs. If we all do this and invite our neighbours to do the same, we can help to reduce road deaths and have a positive impact on the hedgehogs welfare.
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