hedgehog hiding in autumn leavesIf there’s one thing that’s for sure; there’s nothing cuter than a teeny, tiny hedgehog. These enchanting creatures have it all; they’re totally adorable, a bit mysterious in their ways and a great garden visitor to have. We’re willing to bet there’s a few things you don’t know about these prickly little critters. Read on for the top 10 things you didn’t know about hedgehogs:

1. Their table manners aren’t the best

If you’ve ever heard a hedgehog eating, it may come as a surprise that they chew so loudly! Next time the tiny creature visits your garden, listen out for that telltale sound of them enjoying their dinner.

2. Shakespeare was a fan

Referring to them as ‘hedgepins’ and ‘urchins’, William Shakespeare has included hedgehogs in plays such as The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If Shakespeare is a fan then so are we!

3. They have A LOT of spines

It may come as a surprise but adult hedgehogs have at least 5,000 spines. 5,000 spines of prickly cuteness to be exact. They even have a small tail, which is generally hidden by the needles so a lot of people don’t know it’s there.

4. They like to do the rounds

That hedgehog you’ve affectionately named Steve might not be the regular you think he is. Hedgehogs like to visit different gardens each evening, so Steve might actually be Jack or Harry.

5. Their favourite food is insects

Hedgehogs enjoy beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and slugs, making them the ideal garden visitor. Say goodbye to those pesky insects when Steve/Jack/Harry is in town! To supplement their natural diet, you can also buy hedgehog food from WildThings. These little critters can’t get enough of it!

6. They like things messy

Good news; creating a safe space for hedgehogs is a great excuse to not trim your hedges. These critters love wild and overgrown greenery, as it offers them a safe space to nest. If there comes a time when you do need to do a bit of garden maintenance, especially in the winter, keep an eye out for any hibernating hedgehogs.

7. They sleep A LOT

Hedgehogs hibernate between November and March and need a soft cosy place to remain warm through the winter. Their favourite places to go down for the long nap are beneath garden sheds, under bushwood and snuggled up under bountiful garden hedges.

8. Their eyesight isn’t the best

It’s true, hedgehogs can’t see very well at all. To make up for this, their sense of smell and hearing are both exceptional. This enables them to find a safe place to nest, avoid predators and sniff out a tasty treat.

9. They’re lactose intolerant

If you want to leave a drink out for your garden visitor, you’re probably best staying clear of milk. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant which means they struggle to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. Opt for clean, fresh water instead.

10. They have strong personalities

When it comes to hedgehogs, you never know what you’re going to get. Some are charming and sociable, while others may be much more wary and want their own space. It’s important that you respect each individual hedgehog’s boundaries so you don’t frighten them. Your best bet is making sure they have plenty of food to eat and going in for a cautious pet once you’ve established a relationship.

According to a survey completed by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species, the population of wild hedgehogs has halved in the last decade, with less than a million hedgehogs existing in the UK today.

Why is this happening?

There are multiple contributing factors as to why our spiky friends are in decline in the UK. Some of these include:

  • Destruction of habitat – Hedgehogs thrive in hedgerows, and as we growingly use land for human resource, i.e. housing, farmland, roads, more and more disruption occurs to wildlife and in particular, hedgehogs.
  • Excessive use of pesticides – These are very harmful to invertebrates which provide a valuable food source for hedgehogs.
  • Garden fences – Hogs need to have access to gardens to look for food. However, many of us now have fences in place which stop hogs from entering our gardens completely, therefore they have no option but to navigate the roads.
  • Busy roads – Sadly, a lot of our hedgehogs are suffering fatalities as a result of our busy, intrusive roads.

How can we help?

In order to help our native hogs thrive again, the best place to start is in your own garden. By completing the steps below, you can ensure that you are doing your bit to secure the future of these iconic creatures:

  1. Cultivate a wild corner in your garden to make your hedgehog feel at home. It will love to hide and also to look for wild food sources.
  2. Avoid using slug pellets and other strong pesticides if possible. These are extremely harmful to hedgehogs.
  3. Leave a ramp or slope out of your pond so hogs can climb out
  4. Avoid handling baby hogs unless orphaned, as the mother will abandon them. If you do have to handle a sick or injured hedgehog, ensure you are wearing protective gloves i.e. gardening gloves or thick plastic ones
  5. Hogs seen in daylight are usually hungry, thirsty or ill. When in doubt, contact your local hedgehog hospital
  6. Leave food and water out in shallow dishes each evening at dusk
  7. If you have a fully fenced garden, ensure that you create a ‘hedgehog highway’ by cutting a small hole in the bottom of your fence so that hedgehogs can come and go as they please.

Further advice and info on hedgehogs

If you would like any further information on how you can help our UK hogs, or you have found a hedgehog in your garden which you suspect needs your assistance, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801.