Have you seen a hedgehog?
Great news! If you’ve spotted a hedgehog please let us know. Record any sightings on the BIG Hedgehog Map and make your pledge to create a hole for hogs to visit. To find out how to make a hole, visit our Hedgehog Highways page here.
Whats the best way to see a hedgehog at night time?
Night-time trail cameras are very useful for working out who is visiting certain areas and how often. Many volunteers have cameras set up in their gardens to monitor the comings and goings of their resident hedgehogs.
Can you track a hedgehog?
Hedgehogs can be fitted with radio transmitters to allow them to be radio tracked. The transmitters are glued onto their spines. The hedgehogs can then be tracked to determine their movements. Radio tracking studies have found that hedgehogs roam an average distance of 1-2km each night and their home ranges, which vary during the year (and between sexes) are on average around 10—20 hectares.
How do I get a hedgehog in my garden?
The first way to become hedgehog friendly in your garden is to increase the diversity of your garden.
By diversity we mean both structurally and in terms of species. Maximise the range of vegetation types and wildlife features you have – a good hedgehog garden is basically a good wildlife garden, but if badgers are present you may need to focus on ensuring there is extensive shelter for the hedgehogs and ample food.
Ensure you have a wide range of native species – remember, hedgehogs are woodland edge species, so imagine the model is a piece of 1910 farmland in Laurie Lee country: plant a native species hedge and then lay it to maximise its thickness and do not cut it yearly to allow the plants to flower and fruit. Establish an area of wildflowers that is managed using a range of mowing regimes to different heights; encourage dead wood wherever possible, the more the better and in large whole pieces; build a wildlife pond.
You can also purchase a hedgehog house or create 13cm x 13cm holes in your fence so that hedgehogs can move freely between gardens, creating a kind of wildlife corridor – Hedgehog Highway – for them, as hedgehogs normally have home ranges of around 10-30 hectares. You can purchase a ‘Hedgehog Highway’ sign here in our shop.
What is a Hedgehog Highway?
Ensuring hedgehogs can pass freely through your garden is the most important thing you can do to help them. By creating 13cm x 13cm holes in your fence, hedgehogs can move freely between gardens, creating a kind of wildlife corridor – what we like to call a Hedgehog Highway.
Hedgehogs travel around one mile every night through our parks and gardens in their quest to find enough food and a mate. If you have an enclosed garden you might be getting in the way of their plans, so make sure you get your neighbours on board too!
You can purchase a ‘Hedgehog Highway’ sign here in our shop.
Nesting periods – breeding/hibernation
Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. Research has shown that each individual is likely to move nesting sites at least once during this period and so can sometimes be seen out and about. During mild winters hedgehogs can remain active well into November and December.
While in hibernation the hedgehog’s fuel supply comes from the fat stores it has built up over the summer. Eating enough before hibernation is vital and this is when supplementary feeding can prove important to hedgehogs.
Then in the summer months of June-August mothers will create a warm cosy nest in a quiet place so they can have their hoglets in peace, however, that doesn’t always work out (particularly in human inhabited areas). If the nest is disturbed soon after the birth, the mother will either abandon her hoglets, or sometimes will eat them, so please be careful not disturb prime hedgehog hideaways at this time.
Eating habits & supplementary feeding
That’s great news that you have hedgehogs in your garden and want to supply food, we recommend a variety of things, including meat-based dog/cat food, crushed peanuts, millworms (in moderation) and sunflower hearts.
But remember, this is purely supplementary food to their normal diet of mainly insects, so do not panic when you need to go away for a length of time, they are resilient little creatures and will be just fine.
My hedgehogs are making noise!
Sometimes hedgehogs can make quite the racket during the breeding season, but don’t worry, it’s just hedgehogs being sociable and meeting their potential mates for a bit of a shuffle around the garden. Find out more about their mating rituals here.
Where can I buy a hedgehog house?
Hedgehogs are very resilient creatures and have known to live quite happily in array of hedgehog homes, mostly preferring log piles! Some of the best houses are even homemade. To find out how to make your own hedgehog house check out our DIY instructions here.
We do not endorse specific brands of hedgehog homes as we are not certain how much hedgehogs actually use them, but will be doing some research into just this later in the year. But, some popular houses we are aware of can be found here or on the BHPS website here.
Should I clean my hedgehog house?
It’s probably is a good idea to clean the house out every so often, if only to reduce the parasite load in the bedding. The best time would be in September, after they have finished breeding, but before they start hibernating. To check whether the hedgehog is still using the nest box, put something lightweight across the entrance and if it’s in use the hedgehog should clear this away/knock it over during the night. Hedgehogs change nest sites quite frequently or have a number of suitable sites, so if your box is being used then it will probably be a question of waiting for the hedgehog to vacate for a few days before cleaning out the house. If you remove the old bedding and then replace it with leaves and some hay then it should all be ready and waiting come hibernation.
Why is my hedgehog house not being used?
No research has been done on uptake of artificial nest boxes by hedgehogs, so we don’t really know why some boxes get used, and others ignored. In reality our gardens can offer a wider range of nesting opportunities, with compost heaps, log piles, hedgerows, patches of bamboo and the space beneath the garden shed (a classic) all nesting options. If you put food out for hedgehogs then it’s best to locate the nest box away from this as they are unlikely to choose nesting sites close to area where lots of hedgehogs (and other animals) regularly interact. Try and ensure it’s in a sheltered spot, with the entrance out of the prevailing wind – beneath an evergreen bush is often a good location for year round cover.
Help! I’ve spotted a dead hedgehog
It can be distressing to find a dead hedgehog, particularly if you think it may have come a cropper due to human activities. Fortunately, there is a project that is interested in reports of dead or injured hedgehogs, and they may be able to tell you why the animal died.
The Garden Wildlife Health Project, run by the Zoological Society of London is monitoring and cataloguing disease in wild hedgehogs across the UK. Reporting sick or dead hedgehogs allows us to understand the threats facing the wild population.
Badgers and foxes
Badgers are the principal natural predator of hedgehogs in the UK, as they are the only creature strong enough to overcome the spiny defences. Hedgehogs have been shown to actively avoid areas where badgers are present, and in areas where badger densities are high, hedgehogs are likely to be less common. Badger populations have increased significantly in recent years but there is little evidence to suggest that badgers are the principal driver of our hedgehog decline. Indeed, badgers rarely encounter hedgehogs in gardens, yet they are declining in these habitats as severely as they are in the countryside (we know this our through Living with Mammals survey). Hedgehogs are also doing badly in rural areas characterised by low badger densities (e.g. East Anglia). Where habitat is good, and invertebrates are common, both species can and do coexist.
Foxes are also known to occasionally predate hedgehogs, though usually an adult hedgehog will be sufficiently protected by its spines. The stomachs of urban foxes are quite often found to contain parts of hedgehogs, though it is likely that this is from scavenging road kill rather than through active predation. Our Living with Mammals survey shows us that foxes and hedgehogs can and do coexist at high densities in the suburban matrix.
By linking hedgehog friendly gardens, and creating Hedgehog Highways we can secure a future for hedgehogs alongside charismatic predators such as badgers or foxes.
Sadly, for many of us the sight of a squashed hedgehog by the side of the road is a familiar one. Perhaps surprisingly, deaths from traffic accidents are not currently thought to be a major factor in the decline of our hedgehog population. Indeed, seeing hedgehogs squashed on the roads in your area is probably a good sign that there is a healthy local population.
Sick or injured hedgehogs
Hedgehog Street is a project ran by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Neither Charity is a hedgehog rescue, but please send any animal welfare enquiries to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). If you have a sick, injured or orphaned hedgehog please call BHPS on 01584 890 801 or if non urgent email firstname.lastname@example.org – there is also a Frequently Asked Questions page on the their website for more advice.
During the Winter hedgehogs will be hibernating and likely to be well hidden in your garden under a log pile or in a hedgehog house. But, do not be afraid to tinker away in your gardens. Find out how you can be hedgehog friendly while gardening here.
The jury is still out on the effects that slug pellets have on hedgehogs.
Metaldehyde is the active ingredient in most commercial slug pellets and research shows that the amount a hedgehog would need to consume to be lethal would be a very large amount either directly from eating slug pellets or poisoned slugs. However, there have been a few cases of dead hedgehogs being found to have had very high levels of metaldehyde in their system. There is also some concern, partly due to research on rats, that although the slug pellets may not kill hedgehogs they might affect their reproductive ability, having a negative effect on their population.
We believe that any chemical treatment that kills slugs, snails or insects will be bad for hedgehogs as these are their main food sources, so therefore should be avoided.
Do cats and dogs pose a threat to my hedgehogs?
Dogs can and sometimes do attack hedgehogs. Often adult hedgehogs will be sufficiently protected by their spines but sick or young hedgehogs may be killed. Try to keep dogs away from any hedgehogs in your garden as an encounter could lead to both animals being hurt.
If you know your dog is prone to attacking hedgehogs, then try to warn hedgehogs visiting your garden when the dog is being let out e.g. turn on an outside light a minute or so before letting the dog out. For the dog’s final patrol of the evening consider putting your dog on its lead or supervising the trip into the garden to prevent any attacks. Hedgehogs do also have their own routine i.e. they appear at a certain time from a certain point. If you know the routine of the hedgehogs visiting your garden, then keeping your dog in during those times will also benefit your dog and the hedgehog.
Cats are less of a threat as they will usually leave hedgehogs alone after investigating them.
Will the hedgehogs give my pets fleas?
Hedgehogs are renowned for having fleas. However, the fleas found on hedgehogs are actually hedgehog fleas (scientific name: Archaeopsylla erinacei) which are host specific, meaning they will not survive for long on any other species, be it pets or people.
If I put a hole in my fence, will my pets escape?
A 13cm x 13cm hole will be too small for most dogs. Many cats can climb fences. If you are worried about them going through a hole, turn the hole into a tunnel e.g. with a breeze block. Low tech savvy!
Can I have a pond in my garden?
Hedgehogs are good swimmers but they often drown through sheer exhaustion as they are unable to get out of ponds or swimming pools. If you have a garden pond, make sure at least one side slopes gently to allow any hedgehog to get out, or you can form a ramp out of chicken wire or something similar to create an escape route. With swimming pools, ensure they are either securely covered or that there is an exit ramp for any hedgehog who may fall in. Make sure that ponds and pools are checked on a daily basis.
Can I have a bonfire?
Any pile of wood or brush is going to be an attractive prospect for a hedgehog looking for somewhere dry and cosy to make a nest for sleeping or for hibernation. Check any piles of wood or garden refuse for a nesting hedgehog before burning.
What other garden hazards should I be aware of?
Due to their spines and their tendency to curl up, hedgehogs are very prone to getting tangled up in netting. This can lead to the netting acting like a snare causing damage, sometimes fatal, to the hedgehog. Make sure any unused netting (including sports netting) is stored off the ground and that pea netting is high enough from the ground to allow hedgehogs to pass under safely
Slug pellets are the most well-known chemical hazard to hedgehogs. However, other pesticides are also thought to affect hedgehogs; herbicides can lead to a decrease in the number of earthworms in lawns resulting in less food for hedgehogs and other insecticides can reduce the amount of other invertebrates available for the hedgehogs to eat.
Wood preservers can also be harmful to hedgehogs as they will often lick freshly treated fences. Try to use a water-based environmentally friendly treatment instead.
Why are hedgehogs declining?
This issue is not a straightforward one as there could be many factors that are contributing to the decline of hedgehog populations. This is further complicated by populations declining in both urban and rural habitats where the pressures and changes in the environment are very different.
Do hedgehogs have legal protection?
Hedgehogs do have some degree of legal protection in the UK.
- they are listed on schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which makes it illegal to kill or capture wild hedgehogs, with certain methods listed
- they are also listed under the Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996), which prohibits cruel treatment of hedgehogs
- a species of ‘principal importance’ under the NERC Act, which is meant to confer a ‘duty of responsibilty’ to public bodies
Unfortunately, none of these laws deal with the route causes of the decline.
Should hedgehogs be legally protected?
Perhaps. The most sensible thing to push for would be a reclassification of hedgehogs under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to make them a schedule 5 species. This would introduce a legal imperative to search for hedgehogs in developments – and a legal imperative to mitigate for them.
In 2015 PTES and BHPS campaigned alongside ex-MP Oliver Colvile to try and get the hedgehog listed on schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act back in 2016.
Tell me more about the life of a hedgehog?
Find out all about hedgehogs here. These pages cover everything you could ever want to know about the hedgehog in Britain, including their distribution, behaviour, ecology and the threats that they face.
What can I do to help hedgehogs?
Pledge to make a hole in your garden fence or wall, then once you’ve done it come and map it on the BIG Hedgehog Map.
There is a huge amount of information on this website about these spiny beasts – the UK’s favourite wild animal and a creature that is sadly in trouble.
You can then access loads of free resources that will help you tell your neighbours and friends about hedgehogs, why they are in trouble and what we can all do to help. Over thirty thousand people have already joined us.
Hedgehog Street is run by a small, committed group of staff, but it is part of a much wider conservation project aimed at helping our wild hedgehogs. We rely on donations to support this work. Help us fight for hedgehogs.