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Hedgehogs are a UK Biodiversity Plan species in need of greater protection as their numbers are in decline due to a loss of habitat, development pressures, loss of food sources and the careless application of slug pellets.
At this time of year the endearing prickly mammals begin searching for a cosy place to hibernate, and the warm dry refuge of an unlit bonfire makes an ideal spot. To ensure hedgehog’s safety, please follow these guidelines when building your bonfire:
• Build the bonfire as close to the night as possible so there's less chance of a hedgehog moving in; or if you have to build it in advance, surround it with a fine mesh wire fence to keep hedgehogs out.
• Make your pile of material next to the bonfire site and re-build the stack before lighting it.
• Carefully search the bonfire for hibernating creatures using a torch and rake before starting the fire.
• Move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire.
• Before bonfire night make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the fire e.g. under a hedge or behind a shed. Hopefully sleepy hogs will choose to snooze there instead of the bonfire.
Dave Williams, SWT Mammal Projects Officer, said: “To a hedgehog looking for a place to sleep, an unlit bonfire is a ready made nest so this time of year is particularly dangerous for them. Please give hedgehogs a helping hand by following our instructions and checking any bonfires before lighting them. It only takes a minute to do but can save hundreds of hedgehogs from being burnt alive.
“Even without the threat of bonfires, hedgehog numbers are in decline. You can also help them out by leaving a corner of your garden untidy as hedgehogs like to nest in dry leaves and piles of logs. The incorrect use of slug pellets can also kill hedgehogs (there are a number of wildlife friendly alternatives) and strimmers can cause awful injuries. You can also help youngsters and the mothers of late summer litters fatten up before hibernation by leaving out dry or tinned meaty pet food (no bread or milk) and water.”
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) facts:
• The hedgehog is the UK's only spine-covered mammal (up to 7,000 spines), giving it formidable protection when it curls into a ball. Newborn hedgehogs are born with their spines under their skins which then emerge a few hours later.
• Hedgehogs are known as the ‘gardener’s friend’ as they will eat slugs, snails, beetles and caterpillars, feeding on at least 100 invertebrates a night, and do no harm to plants.
• Each night, when not hibernating, hedgehogs will travel between 2-3kms (1-2 miles) in search of food.
• The hedgehog’s ability to roll into a ball and stay in this position (particularly during hibernation) is made possible by the powerful muscle that covers its back like a cape.
• Hedgehogs are the only creatures to self-anoint by producing large quantities of frothy saliva that they spread over their spines by flicking their tongue.
• Generally hedgehogs lead solitary lives and tend to go out of their way to avoid other hedgehogs, except during the mating season.
• Hedgehogs like to visit several gardens in one night, and ‘your hedgehog’ may be up to ten different individuals over several evenings.
• Shakespeare mentions hedgehogs in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ referring to them as ‘hedgepigs’ and ‘urchins’.
• Hedgehogs have changed little over the last 15 million years. Their ancestors roamed the earth before mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.
For more information about hedgehogs contact Dave Williams on 01483 795454 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Date published:||Monday 22 October 2012|