by Martin Davis.
You’ve probably seen information from conservation groups recommending that we make holes in our walls and fences for ‘hedgehog highways’, especially in residential areas. Well here’s a success story.
Early this year I moved to a house in Bursledon, and for a while I had my suspicions about there being hedgehog activity in the garden, with the evidence as follows. 1 – A big juicy strawberry growing near the middle of the garden was munched by something. It didn’t look like beak marks in what was left, plus I already knew that hedgehogs had a taste for strawberries having caught one in the act in my previous garden! 2 – An old rotting log (Bug Hotel) to the side of the garden under a bush had bark scattered all around it, which I swept neatly into one place under the bush, only to find the following morning that the bark was scattered around again, along with what looked like teeth marks in the log. 3 – Droppings that looked a bit like slugs! I was pretty sure they were there, and it was just a matter of time before I saw one.
On 17th July I was at the studio where I work in Hamble researching what there was in the way of local heritage organisations, and stumbled across a page on Facebook called Hamble Hedgehogs… so I hit the ‘like’ button.
This got me thinking, because up to then I hadn’t considered ‘hedgehog highways’ in our new garden. So that same evening I set to work reconstructing part of the stone wall with a hedgehog hole. It’s only a small wall about 30cm high, and I’m no hedgehog expert, but from what I know they’re not known for jumping very high!
Within two weeks, on the evening of 27th July at 9.30pm, I was walking from the back of the garden (Where Steve the fish lives) towards the house, thinking about the bottle of beer I was going to open. It was getting dark, but as I got near the back door something moved and caught my eye. It was small, with a pointy nose, and a round prickly backside! I got excited, grabbed my camera and took this photograph of Prickly Bum (which is his/her name!) crossing the path. I completely forgot about my beer!
Next I took the main picture (top of page), but then realised that in my excitement I was getting too close to my new friend. A thought went through my head; “what would Chris Packham advise at this moment!”, so I slowly and carefully backed off, and just quietly observed from a distance, making sure that I didn’t make any sudden movements or sounds. I also realised that I was wearing a red t-shirt, so I zipped up my dark blue fleece to cover it (I’m fortunate in that I had a pretty good level of understanding already having once been a very keen wildlife photographer).
I watched Prickly Bum snuffle around behind plant pots, then walk alongside the wall, stopping briefly to crunch on something which I think may have been a spider (hmmm delicious). It wondered further up along side the wall, and … you guessed it… THROUGH THE HEDGEHOG HOLE! I then watched it make it’s way to the shelter of the hedge. This experience made me very happy indeed. I had no idea that my wall reconstruction effort would be used so soon, so I promptly went indoors to find my beer to celebrate!
The Hedgehog, AKA ‘Prickly Bum’
Unfortunately I can’t tell you the gender of the hedgehog, and from research it seems pretty tricky to tell without interfering with it. I may in time be able to work it out by observing behaviour, but if anyone has any knowledge about how to tell without interference, or by these pictures then I’d love to hear from you. The hedgehog appears to be fairly young. Not a baby, old enough to be independent, but not full size. As a guess I’d suggest it was about 10-14 months, but no older than a year and a half. Again, if you have any expertise in this area I’d love to hear from you.
We are responsible
We all know that hedgehogs, along with many other wildlife species are in decline, and it’s a sad fact that in and around cities like Southampton, they’re mostly seen killed on the roads, poisoned by pesticides, or trapped by waste products. A friend who works with Otters once told me that otter sightings are a sign of the river and surrounding area being healthy, and this is because their life depends on an abundance of healthy foods and habitat. The same can be said of hedgehogs, and if they’re seen living and healthy it signifies that other species are likely to be healthy too.
Pretty much all the problems facing our wildlife are made by us humans, so we have a responsibility to help reverse these problems in any way we can.
Here’s some simple tips:
- Don’t use insecticides
- Make a bug-hotel
- Grow bushes and trees that make great habitat for wildlife
- Grow insect/ bee friendly plants
- Don’t over-garden, and let there be wild areas where the leafs aren’t all swept up!
- Grow real grass and don’t use astroturf
- Don’t feed them milk (see links below for info)
- Pick up other people’s litter (shame I even need to add this!)
- Petition to government to do more to protect wildlife and conservation areas.
- And of course – make a hedgehog highway… I hope this article inspires you!
The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a penny! It’s awesome if you can support conservation organisations and rescue centres with donations, and please do so if you can. But remember, if you’re feeling the pinch, then you can still support by simply helping spread the word.
Hamble Hedgehogs – Rescue and Rehabilitation
They are a non-profit, family run rescue and rehabilitation organisation for sick, injured or distressed hedgehogs, with the aim of returning them to the wild.
They are in need of donations, so please contact them to find out more if you’d like to help.
Links for further information
British Hedgehog Preservation Society: britishhedgehogs.org.uk
RSPB – A Home for Hedgehogs: rspb.org.uk
RSPCA – Found a baby hedgehog / When to help a hedgehog: rspca.org.uk
Growth in artificial lawns poses threat to British wildlife: theguardian.com/environment
How to protect wildlife in your garden: independent.co.uk/life-style/garden-wildlife
Ban on slug pellets that are unnecessarily killing hedgehogs: petition.parliament.uk