hedgehogsAs Guy Fawkes’ night approaches, wildlife charities are reminding people to check for hedgehogs when building bonfires.

Chilly mornings and dark evenings herald the arrival of hibernation season for hedgehogs. Piles of dry leaves and unlit bonfires make the ideal spot for sleepy hogs seeking a home for the winter months.

“Hedgehog numbers are declining rapidly across the UK, so it’s never been more important to protect the wonderful wildlife on our doorsteps,” said Tarnya Knight from the Born Free Foundation.

“Hedgehogs can die or suffer terrible injuries through contact with bonfires, so we’re asking people to be especially vigilant for the next few weeks and take care when building them.”

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) are calling on people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering.

“If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting,” explains Fay Vass, chief executive of the BHPS.

“Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”

The Born Free Foundation has issued a series of tips for a hedgehog friendly fire which include:

• If you are unable build the fire on the day of lighting, use a broom handle to check the bonfire by gently lifting section by section and using a torch to look and listen for hedgehog

• If a bonfire has to be built in advance, prevent hedgehogs from getting in by putting chicken wire one metre high all the way around the bottom. This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers!

• If you do find a hedgehog in your unlit bonfire, place it in a box with some leaves or shredded paper, with some water and meaty cat or dog food, and place it in a shed where it can be left in the quiet until the fireworks have finished and the bonfire dampened down.

Born Free add that autumn and winter also pose a threat to young or underweight hedgehogs, that are too small to survive hibernation.

“Hedgehogs born late in the year are still very small at this time of year, and most will not be carrying enough weight to survive the winter months,” said Tanya.

“We recently took in a family of four tiny hoglets and their mother, whose nest had been disturbed. It was a blessing that they were found as they wouldn’t have made it otherwise. They will all be overwintered indoors and released next spring.”

She adds: “We’d advise anyone who finds a young or underweight hedgehog at this time of year to contact their local wildlife rescue centre or vet.”

Article courtesy of mrcvs.co.uk

These cutie beauties were brought in by a member of the public recently after being attacked by a fox.

Our vet Pas was able to clean them up and stitch their wounds.

After a few more days to recover they will go to a local rescue centre before being returned to the wild :-)

Hedgehogs are a gardener’s friend, as they eat snails, slugs and insects.

Make a hedgehog a home

Leave areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs. These are an attractive nest as well as a home for the invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that hedgehogs like to eat.

Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall. Or buy a purpose built hedgehog house.

Feeding

Food and fresh water will encourage hedgehogs to return. Leave out foods like minced meat, tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, or chopped boiled eggs. Specialist hedgehog food can also be bought from wild bird food suppliers.

Never feed hedgehogs milk as it can cause diarrhoea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.

Hedgehog-friendly gardening

Cover drains and holes and place bricks at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out. Cover swimming pools overnight and when not in use.

Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking over.

Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.

Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled, and getting injured.

Slug pellets

These can poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Try using beer traps or sprinkling ground up shells around the plants you need to protect. If you have to use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.

Hedgehog hibernation

Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid March and animals must have enough fat reserves to survive hibernation. Making hedgehog homes in the garden and providing food will help hedgehogs.

Juvenile hedgehogs weighing less than 500 grams during late autumn will need help to survive the winter. Find out what to do with an orphaned young hedgehog.

Did you know?

As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean ‘your hedgehog’ is a number of different individuals visiting at different times.

Information courtesy of RSPCA

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