The Daily Telegraph reports metaldehyde is being banned after campaigners said it poses a threat to hedgehogs and toads. The poison is very effective in killing gastropods but not only reduces prey for animals which eat slugs and snails, such as hedgehogs and toads, but can build up to toxic levels in those animals, as well as pets and birds if eaten. Wildlife campaigners have pushed for a ban for years but after a legal challenge from the slug pellet company plans for legislation were put on hold. These have now been revived.
The Guardian reports “ghost hedgehogs” are starting to appear on roadsides in Dorset to highlight the plight of hedgehogs killed by fast-moving vehicles. The hedgehogs, made of white-painted wood, are being put up by the Dorset Mammal Group after one small village, Pimperne, reported more than 20 squashed hedgehogs on its roads in just one year. It is hoped that the spectral hedgehogs, like the ghost bike memorials where cyclists have lost their lives, will encourage motorists to slow down and drive with more care.
Hedgehog not squashed photo by Gillian Thomas under creative commons.
Surrey Comet reports hedgehogs in Surrey and across the UK are now at imminent risk of extinction according to a new study that highlighted what scientists have called the Sixth Mass Extinction. The survey was carried out by the Mammal Society and concluded that a staggering number of the UK’s native mammal species — one in four — are now endangered and it “imminent” risk of extinction.
Country Living report hedgehog rescue centres have reported a sharp rise in the number of gardening-related injuries, warning households to be extra vigilant when it comes to using tools such as strimmers, lawnmowers and garden forks.
The Guardian reports on two stories about the changes we’re seeing to wildlife as a result of Covid-19 lockdown. Check out at least one of these stories if only to see the unusual, but beautiful sight in their photo of a herd of fallow deer graze on the lawns of a housing estate in east London (sorry FNW don’t have permissions to copy it here).
The first reports deer roam city streets and hedgehogs can safely cross roads… but a radical policy shift is needed to protect wildlife in future, say campaigners. Britain’s wildlife may be thriving during the current lockdown but its long-term future is looking bleak, according to leading conservation organisations. Nikki Williams, head of campaigns at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “The current crisis means nature is losing out, because many organisations are having to scale back important work caring for special places, which they usually do with the vital help of thousands of volunteers.”
The other reports empty streets and skies let the birds be heard and leave animals free to roam as well as allowing scientists to examine how humans change urban biodiversity.
Red deer on a road, photo by Dunnock_D under creative commons.
The BBC reports researchers are investigating how many hedgehogs are killed on our roads in a bid to help the UK’s declining population. A Nottingham Trent University team will also study whether tunnels under roads could reduce the number of deaths. Experts believe the animals are struggling with lost habitats, increased competition and traffic. Researchers hope this study could help stop the creatures’ decline and provide guidance for planners and developers.
The Telegraph reports all the evidence points to a big decline in hedgehog numbers over the past 50 years or so. The good news is that the decline in urban hedgehogs appears to have slowed, and there are even signs that they may be increasing in towns and cities.
Since the main habitat used by hedgehogs in towns is private gardens, that means gardeners who want to help them (which is surely all of us) have a big responsibility.
The Telegraph report hedgehogs are dying because people are leaving netting out in their gardens, the RSPCA has warned.
The leading animal charity says that dozens of the small, spikey mammals have become entangled in football, badminton and pond nets causing fatal injuries and urged people to pack their equipment away.
The Times reports hedgehogs will soon be able to cross Britain’s highways with a smidgin more confidence as they become the first new animal in 25 years to get their own roadside warning sign.
The creatures will be shown within a red warning triangle at blackspots in an attempt to halt the decline in their numbers and to prevent crashes as drivers swerve to avoid them or motorcyclists skid on roadkill. Previously warning signs were limited to cows, sheep, horses, toads, deer and ducks.
We are so lucky to have hedgehogs in our village, this is mainly due to the age of many of our homes meaning we have larger than average gardens that are not totally fenced in. Hedgehogs need access a range of gardens, to be able to move freely at night to snuffle in the hedgerows and under bushes.
In February and March hedgehogs will start wakening from their winter hibernation. When exactly will depend on the weather – if we have freezing temperatures they will stay tucked up in their nests. They will also wake up on warmer evenings and have a mooch around for food in the winter.
Food and water
They are particularly fond of bird food, which is why I saw the first hedgehog in my garden – eating dropped sunflower hearts from a birdfeeder. Meal worms, sunflower hearts, chopped peanuts are favourites. They will also eat tinned dog/cat food (not fish based).
Never feed hedgehogs milk as it can cause diarrhea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.
I leave a dish of food and water outside my french doors and enjoy watching the hedgehogs come at dusk to feast from March to November. Hedgehogs can travel 1-2 km a night during their active season.
To help hedgehogs in your garden:
· If you have a wooden fence, think about cutting a small piece out at the bottom or, as I have done, dig out soil from underneath the concrete gravel board.
· Cover drains and holes and place bricks/pebbles at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out (yes they can swim!). 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.
Beware of slug pellets!
These can poison hedgehogs and our lovely song and mistle thrush as they eat snails and slugs. Try using beer traps or I’ve had excellent results with a new organic product made of recycled sheep’s wool pellets.
Make a hedgehog a home
Why not make a hedgehog home, by leaving 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 with some wood piled inside. Or, an upturned old plastic washing up bowl, covered it with leaves, tucked under a shrub in a quiet corner of the garden with no direct sunlight.
Hedgehogs don’t tend to like you putting nesting material inside, they like to forage and choose their own! So don’t rake up all those dead leaves or throw away dried ornamental grass cuttings, leave a pile in a corner or tucked under shrubs and they will take what they need. You can of course now buy purpose built hedgehog houses at a price!
Read also The Times’s article on How gardeners can help save the hedgehog published on 24th Feb 2018.
Please email us with your sightings of hedgehogs seen in the village at email@example.com. If you see a hedgehog out during the day or a small hedgehog in the autumn (they must weigh 600grams to survive hibernation) then please contact one of our local wildlife rescue centres – Harper Asprey (01344 623106) or Wildlife Aid (09061 800132).
Hedgehog Street has been set up nationally to monitor where hedgehogs are found and they would like you to email sightings at www.hedgehogstreet.org.
Written by Angela Gray