Prickly garden visitors may need some help after hibernation, says RSPB
Now spring is here and the weather is warming up, most hedgehogs will have woken from their winter hibernation. However, with fat reserves running low and having lost a third of their bodyweight, they ll be on
a desperate hunt for food in our gardens to fatten themselves up before the breeding season begins.
Hedgehogs feed mainly on invertebrates and need to find vast quantities of insects and other small creatures to sustain them. Sometimes natural food isn t readily available in the quantities required, so the RSPB is
urging people to give hedgehogs a helping hand by providing some extra nourishment.
Richard James, one of the RSPB s wildlife advisors, said: "As temperatures gradually rise, and nature begins to unfurl, our garden friends, the hedgehogs, also stir from their spiky-ball hibernation.
Sadly, it s estimated that UK hedgehogs have declined by a third in the last ten years, so it's vital that we do our bit to give them a home in our own gardens this year.
To help complement the hedgehogs natural diet, the RSPB has launched a new food specifically designed to be a nutritious treat. Cranberry Crunch is made from top quality ingredients, including: premium suet
pellets; sunflower hearts; peanut nibs; dried mealworms; and dried cranberries.
Richard continues: This food provides a healthier alternative to the old wives tale of bread and milk, which must always be avoided as it causes the hedgehogs stomach upset. Small amounts of cake, biscuits
and pastry as well as fresh and dried fruits and cooked vegetables can also be used as a tempting and wholesome hedgehog treat. A fresh supply of water will also be gratefully received and used by other garden
wildlife, like birds as well.
As well as providing extra food, the RSPB suggests making your garden as wildlife-friendly as possible to make life easy for our threatened garden inhabitants.
Many modern gardens have less wild space than they used to due to decking and paving, meaning Mr and Mrs Tiggywinkle struggle to find natural shelter in hedges and leaf piles. Fences can also block
hedgehog highways by preventing them moving from garden to garden. Planting a garden hedge helps enormously the clue is in the hogs name. And they re not only good for hedgehogs, they also provide
habitat for nesting birds and a host of insects and small mammals.
You can also help these prickly critters by setting up a permanent hedgehog shelter in your garden. Hogitats, as they re known, are available from a range of outlets including the RSPB.
As well as being cute, hedgehogs bring their benefits:
Don t forget having a hedgehog move-in can be a great advantage to any keen gardener, as they just love to munch their way through all of your pesky slugs and snails, adds Richard.
The RSPB warns against using chemicals in the garden, and slug pellets can be particularly detrimental. The charity also recommends using non-toxic brands when putting preservative on garden sheds, fences and
other wood furniture around the garden as hedgehogs often lick new smells and surfaces.
Cranberry Crunch is available at RSPB shops on reserves as well at the charity s online shop. 100% of profits go to helping save nature.
This year s Big Garden Birdwatch was a bit different. For the first time ever we asked people to tell us about other wildlife that visits their garden. These results will be released on Thursday 17 April.
Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB s biggest-ever campaign, aimed at inspiring everyone to do their bit for nature, wherever they live and however big their outside space.
For more information or to get your free guide filled with tips on how to give nature a home where you live, visit rspb.org.uk/homes
Tips to help protect hedgehogs
Hedgehogs habitually hide themselves in piles of leaves, grass cuttings, pampas grass, compost heaps and bags of rubbish.
Always check these before burning, cutting, strimming, mowing, putting a fork into or disposing of them.
Many plastic items can trap, ensnare or cut a hedgehog. These include netting, plastic can holders, large necked bottles, plastic pots and barbed wire.
Hedgehogs can also easily fall down holes, into water troughs, ponds, swimming pools and other types of water vessel. If you cannot prevent them from falling in, then make sure there is always a way for them to get out.
Dogs can injure hedgehogs, so make sure you know what your dog is doing when in the garden late at night.
If you accidentally disturb an active hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material. The hedgehog will soon repair or move the nest elsewhere. If there are young in the nest, avoid touching them. Similarly, if it is a hibernating adult, avoid waking it. Should it wake, you may want to leave it some food nearby.