Lighter nights are just around the corner as we start to welcome back those longer days associated with Spring. Depending on where you are in the UK, you may have also noticed some more signs of Spring, such as blooming flowers, foraging bees, singing birds, and hedgehogs slowly emerging from hibernation for a nightly adventure.
So how can we help our prickly friends adjust?
1. Supplementary feeding
Hedgehogs are omnivores, not insectivores, and will eat an extensive range of things. After hibernation, it can take a lot of energy to forage for food and we can help build their energy by offering them supplementary food such as good quality meaty kitten biscuits that are close by. Kitten biscuits are also good for hoglets who haven't quite got their adult teeth yet!
To help hedgehogs even more, you could also make them a feeding station but do consider the following:
Is your feeding station convenient for hedgehogs? For example, hedgehogs coming out of hibernation will have low energy levels so don't place them miles (hedgehog miles) away from their nesting area.
Is the entrance easy enough for a hedgehog to get in and out of? Most entrances should be 13 x 13 cm, big enough for a hedgehog, and small enough for anything else.
Is it waterproof? No one likes soggy biscuits (unless it's in a cup of tea).
Is your feeding station secure? It's important that hedgehogs visiting your grounds or gardens after hibernation are properly protected. They may not have the energy to fight against predators at this stage.
Is it easily accessible? Your feeding station will need regular cleaning every morning and will also need to be topped up every night to be ready for your visiting hedgehogs. Don't underestimate your hedgehogs' ability to poo in places that aren't reachable. It's important to clean up a hedgehog's mess the morning after the night that hedgehogs have been, otherwise this can attract flies.
2. Water, water, water!
Just like most living things, we all need water and there is nothing better than that first sip of water after a heavy night's sleep. Though we don't tend to sleep for months at a time...
Hedgehogs after hibernation may be dehydrated and will be on the move to find the nearest water available to them. It is important to offer shallow bowls of water for hedgehogs all year round, try to keep the bowl full at all times but again remember that the water needs replacing as stagnant water attracts insects to lay their eggs in (YUCK!).
There are a couple of other things to consider when it comes to offering water for hedgehogs:
Despite Spring arriving, it may still be cold and hedgehog appearances may not be as frequent depending on where you are in the UK. One thing you can do is to always make sure the shallow water bowl isn't frozen. Then if a hedgehog ventures out for water, it is readily available for them.
Is the water bowl shallow enough for hedgehogs to drink out? The breeding season will begin very soon, it's important to consider hoglets too. They may not be able to reach it!
It's also best to place a rock inside the bowl, half in, half out. So that bees can get out if they have fallen in whilst trying to take a sip.
3. Remind yourself of hedgehog first-aid
If you are concerned about a hedgehog you have encountered, follow guidance from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
We must stress that you never try to care for a sick hedgehog yourself, time is not on their side. It's important they get seen by a professional pronto in order for them to be treated.
If you do not know your local hedgehog rescue, call 01584 890 801 (BHPS) to find your nearest rescue.
4. Land management for hedgehogs
Since hedgehog hibernation season will soon be over, it is likely we will see more of our prickly friends in our gardens or grounds. Hedgehogs typically prefer long grass, bushes, under hedges, flowerbeds, logs and leaf piles, as these provide the best shelter. The best way to encourage hedgehogs is to think like a hedgehog, but you should also think like a hedgehog when planning to undertake any gardening activities.
It is important to consider the following when doing work on your grounds or gardens:
Nesting areas - hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and typically find a temporary hiding place during the day. You must thoroughly check for hedgehogs prior to carrying out any work using gardening equipment such as strimmers, mowers or digging forks or else this can be fatal.
Remember that hedgehogs can have hoglets during Summer and Autumn months, and will typically have breeding nests. If you believe there is a family of hedgehogs nesting in your grounds or gardens you must NOT disturb them. The mother can abandon and even eat her babies if she feels threatened. So please avoid this!!
Steer clear of pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides as these can be toxic to hedgehogs and other wildlife. Hedgehogs are natural predators of the 'pests' you are trying to eliminate. If you kill the invertebrates, you are likely to kill the hedgehogs too.
Hedgehogs prefer wild areas with plenty of shelters, so think about how your grounds and gardens could provide this.
Grounds teams from Hedgehog Friendly Campus institutions can also attend our Hedgehog Ecology and Land Management workshop in collaboration with Hedgehog Street, email us to find out when the next one is!
Follow @hogfriendly on social media for more tips on how to help hedgehogs.