Hedgehogs in May
By Kay Bullen
Trustee, British Hedgehog Preservation Society
This year Hedgehog Awareness Week runs from 5th – 11th May, BHPS is asking everyone to do one extra thing to help hedgehogs that week. You might build a hedgehog home, put up a poster display locally (materials available from BHPS), run a fundraiser for your local rescue centre or even simply ensure there’s always a shallow bowl of water in your garden for thirsty hedgehogs.
During May and onwards there will be a lot of noisy courtship taking place and after about 32 days the 4-5 hoglets will be born. It is important that the nests are not disturbed as this can cause the mothers to abandon their young or even kill them.
Do take care when gardening, hedgehogs like a place that has low growing plants that form a canopy that will hold down the leaves and other nesting materials. However under garden sheds or playhouse are also good places for a nursery and many nests are exposed or even destroyed when an old shed is dismantled.
If you have a hedgehog house do not be tempted to peek inside, rather use a small piece of screwed up paper placed in the entrance during the day. This will be pushed aside as the hedgehog comes out at night. The males tend to only stay in the area for a short time as they are nomadic in the breeding season, however the females have to stay put when their family is young so the box will be in constant use. A few days without an appearance may then be an indication of a recent birth. Four weeks after that the hoglets will start to follow their mum around the garden.
Also make your garden safer for hedgehogs by making sure drains are covered, netting is kept about 9 inches (23cm) off the ground so hedgehogs can pass under it, long grass and undergrowth is checked for hedgehogs before it is strimmed or cut. Keep ponds well topped up so hedgehogs don’t topple in when drinking and make sure there is a shallow exit or perhaps some plastic coated wire netting that bends into the water to form a scrambling net come ladder that they can use to get out. See the BHPS leaflet “Gardening with Hedgehogs” for more ways to make your garden safer for hedgehogs.
If you are concerned or just need advice about any hedgehogs contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact. Contact them on 01584 890801 or for general advice and leaflets visit their website www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.