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Hi again Maggsy
I really don’t think you need to worry about the hogs getting bramble thorns in their feet – this is no more likely than them getting any other sort of thorns in their feet in the garden. Hedgehogs would have been living amongst brambles, etc. for at least hundreds of years. They would have tunnels underneath the brambles, rather than walking on them. It would not be difficult for them to make their way through. The clue is in the name HEDGEhogs, it is pretty much what they have evolved to deal with.
Pat Morris in his book ‘Hedgehogs’ says with regard to gardens:
‘Tidy-mindedness is another problem. Gardeners like to sweep up dead leaves, root out brambles and keep their patches neat, but in doing so remove vital sites for winter nests and necessary nesting material.’
He says further, with regard to winter nesting:
‘As the autumn nights got colder, the hedgehogs stopped using the main grassy areas of the park and began to congregate inside small (supposedly rabbit-proof) fenced off areas of brambles and scrub. Here they built their winter nests, tucked up against fallen logs or underneath bramble strands or piles of brushwood. Elsewhere they use similar sites …..’
I have a friend whose garden was shared with the neighbours, which had a very large patch of brambles and shrubs which sounds very similar to what you described. (although ‘half of the garden’ doesn’t really give a very good idea of the expanse of the area you are talking about – gardens vary hugely in size.) There were hedgehogs around and there were also loads of birds, butterflies, etc. as well. Sadly, new occupants have cleared the area. It may be a coincidence that since then 4 hedgehogs have been found dead on a very small stretch of the nearby road, but, if good habitat is removed, the hedgehogs will have to move further afield to find more and this might include crossing roads.
As I see it, part of the point of Hedgehog Street is, not only to link gardens, but also improve the habitat in them for hedgehogs. The ultimate ideal would be for us not to need to feed the hogs, but for them to be able to find food for themselves. To my mind removing the brambles, etc. is more likely to be detrimental to that aim, and the hedgehogs, than leaving them.
If, your neighbour does decide to remove part of the brambles, etc., for whatever reason, please, neighbour, leave at least some of it.
A very important thing to beware of, if clearing of any kind is being done, is strimmers, brush cutters, hedge cutters, mowers and other garden equipment. These can cause horrendous injuries and death to hedgehogs, so very great care needs to be taken if using them. Particularly in this sort of area, where hedgehogs could be nesting. Remember their defence is to roll up – not run away.
The following are extracts from BHPS ‘Know your Hedgehog’
‘Wild Patches – STRIMMERS MUTILATE – take care when mowing long grass and tidying wild patches, as they are an ideal place for a hedgehog’s nest. When cutting long overgrown areas cut initially to about a foot long and then check for hedgehogs and other wildlife before cutting any lower.’
‘ …. if you do accidentally disturb a nest with a single adult hedgehog in it, replace the nesting material. The hedgehog can then either repair the nest or build another elsewhere. If the disturbed hedgehog is hibernating and wakes up, a dish of dog food and some water each night until it starts hibernating again would be helpful.
If there are babies in the nest, again replace the nesting material, handling the nest as little as possible so as not to leave your smell on it. Keep an eye on the nest to see if mum returns. If there is no sign of her by the next morning telephone the BHPS for advice and a local contact. Do not allow friends, children etc to uncover the nest for a peep. If the mother has returned, she may abandon or even eat her young if she is disturbed