Save our Spiky Friends!

In shocking recent reports, there is evidence that the number of hedgehogs in the UK have fallen by 30% in the last ten years, meaning there are now less than 1 million left in the UK. It is even estimated that by 2030, they will be extinct in this country.

With the number of gardens building fences and patios, usually not enough precautions are taken to take care of hedgehogs, as they are usually very well camouflaged amongst grass and leaves. However, there are many things that we can all do, whether it big or small, to keep these cute creatures alive and healthy.

But first, how well do you know hedgehogs?

Take the test below and find out!

Q1: How many species of ‘hogs are there around the world?

a) 6

b) 10

c) 14

Q2: What is the average life expectancy of a hedgehog living in the wild?

a) 1 – 3 years

b) 2 – 5 years

c) 4 – 8 years

Q3: Up to how many spines can an adult hedgehog have?

a) 3000

b) 5000

c) 7000

Q4: Do these spiky creatures have a tail?

a) Yes

b) No

Q5: What colour are hedgehogs?

a) Blonde or brown

b) Brown

c) Blonde

How well do you think you did? Check out the answers below:

Q1: C; there are 14 species of hedgehogs around the world. The UK’s hedgehog (the European Hedgehog) is the most common, found across Western Europe and Scandinavia.

Q2: B; the average life expectancy is 2-5 years for a hedgehog living in the wild. Although some hedgehogs have been known to live to 10 years!

Q3: C; adult hedgehogs can have up to 7000 spines! Their spines are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin, muscles run along their sides, which assist in making these spines go up. These are great at protecting hedgehogs from predators such as foxes, and they will usually sleep with their spines up for extra protection.

Q4: A; they certainly do! Their tail is actually hidden and very small. As far as research goes, there are no purpose for their tails and evolution has meant that these have got a lot smaller over the years.

Q5: A; Although most hedgehogs are brown, some are actually blonde! This colour mutation is called Leucism and is thought to be caused by rare, recessive genes.

So, what exactly can we do to help these furry friends?Build a hedgehog house

This can be as quick and easy as you like, but it’s great fun to make! Check out our How-to guide on making a hedgehog house here. By doing this, you are creating a safe shelter for hedgehogs to sleep in and keep away from predators.

Even if you don’t want to make a hedgehog house, you can simply create a log pile in the corner of your garden, or just sweep fallen leaves into a pile. This will make a good environment to nest and hibernate in.

Make a hedgehog highway

Something that will make a huge difference is simply working with your neighbours to connect your gardens together. You could cut a 13 x 13 cm (5in) hole in your fence or you could dig a channel between any garden boundaries. This small adjustment will make a huge difference as hedgehogs need to be able to search far and wide for food, mates and nesting, so this will give them more chances to find this overnight.

Avoid the use of pesticides

Slugs and snails are a vital part of the hedgehog’s diet, but a lot of people are using slug pellets which make it even harder for hedgehogs to find food. A huge benefit of having hedgehogs in your garden is that they act as a natural pesticide, which will help keep your plants healthy.

Be wary of water areas

Hedgehogs are great swimmers but can sometimes struggle with steep-sided ponds and may drown. If you have a pond in your garden, try and make sure there are shallow areas so the hedgehog can easily climb out, or putting in a plank of wood would also be a god idea.

On a more positive note of water – in the Summer, hedgehogs get very thirsty, so leaving out a shallow bowl of water over night will mean they are keeping hydrated. Even if you leave this out constantly in a safe place, it will catch any rain and act as a low maintenance water bowl.

Grow a wide variety of plants

Keep your garden acting as a natural food haven for ‘hogs by incorporating a wide variety of habitats such as ponds, hedges, log piles and different plants. This will mean slugs, snails and worms appear for Hedgehogs to eat.

Be aware of hidden dangers

Be extra cautious when you light bonfires, fireworks or mow the lawn by quickly searching the edges of your garden where they might be hiding. Regularly check for any litter that may have blown into your garden and make sure this is binned to prevent entanglement.

All of the above information has been provided by Devon Wild life Trust, for more information on these lovable characters or to donate, click here.