The hedgehog is a short and stout little mammal that is sometimes called a pincushion with legs, also known as hedgepig! Despite most mammals, it doesn’t have a flexible fur of hair but a thick layer of spikes, called quills. The best defence it has against predators is its spiky outer armour.
Most people consider hedgehogs to be friends of backyards and gardens and build homes to shelter them, but many other would prefer they stayed away from their property. Keep on reading to find out more about them and what to do if you do or don’t want them around.
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7 signs that show that a hedgehog lives in your garden
1. Check for footprints
The most obvious way to find out if you have hedgepigs in your garden is signs of their footprints. Since they weigh about 1kg and have light walking, you can spot their footprints only if the ground is soft. You could check muddy patches of the lawn and flowerbeds. You can also set up a small mud or wet sand trap to see if you get some. Both front and back feet have five toes, but only four show up in tracks. Front footprints look like tiny handprints, while back ones are longer and slimmer.
2. You notice a place with leaves and ground foliage in disturbance
These small animals like to rest in soft, moisturised, dark places like piles of leaves and log piles. Also, look for areas of your garden where they have forged small tunnels through the undergrowth. If you suspect a hedgepig has set up home in your garden’s log pile or compost heap, you could place some big leaves over the entrance in the evening and later check to see if they’re still in place. The best time to see these is in the morning when the lawn is still cool.
3. Install a Camera
If you already own a security camera you may be lucky to catch them on the act! For the true wildlife fans among us, it’s possible to buy a camera that will help you to spot small garden visitors from the comfort of your home. Night vision and motion-activated cameras allow you to see which animals are roaming your garden at night. Hedgehogs could be one of them!
4. You find hedgehog droppings
If you see poo around, that is a good indicator! Their poo is 1.5-5cm long and 1cm in diameter. Droppings can vary depending on the diet of the hedgehog. They are usually dark brown-grey or black and are firm and mostly packed with invertebrates’ exoskeletons, such as beetles and earthworms.
5. Listen closely
Hedgehogs make more noise than you might think. Go outside at night time and listen carefully! You may be able to hear them snuffling and huffing in the undergrowth as they search for food. Spring is the best season to listen to them in your garden because males can get loud as they fight over females.
6. DIY a hedgehog house
DIY a simple house for these cute small animals and place some leaves near the house entrance. The following day lookout for bedding that has been moved. There are many possibilities a ‘hog has dragged this into the house for nesting. Another trick is to place a stick over the house entrance. Check out if this has been moved. A hedgepig could be using it!
7. Ask your neighbours
If your neighbours have hedgehogs in their garden, likely, you do too. They are very athletic and travel up to 1.5 km every night. We must ensure highways within communities, so they have space to roam freely looking for shelter and food.
Are hedgehogs dangerous?
Hedgehogs Are Prickly
They have skin over their back that is covered with sharp spines. These spines are specifically designed to protect them from a variety of predators. Have you heard of their quills shooting myth? They cannot shoot out their quills as porcupines can, so this is something that you don’t have to worry about. If they feel threatened or shocked, they will curl up into a spiky ball. When they are caught in difficult situations, they will twitch and jump so that their quills poke into their enemy’s skin. It will often itch if a needle hurts you and may cause a rash. This area will itch you for a while, but there won’t be a more severe problem.
They sometimes bite
Although they are adorable, we should never forget that hedgepigs are wild animals. They can bite, but this is not a frequent occurrence. They’ll usually lash out when they’re feeling stressed out, tired or uncomfortable. If you see one being irritated, you should probably keep your hand away from it for the time being. If you get bit, you should deal with it like any other animal’s bite. You would need a tetanus jab, and you should visit the nearest hospital or your doctor to clean the wound properly.
They Can Be Dangerous to human health
Since they are wild creatures, they carry lots of things that humans may catch. They are capable of spreading bacteria that causes stomach pain, rashes, and even fever. They can also carry ticks. Ticks feed off the blood of hedgepigs along with most other animals, such as dogs. If a tick manages to latch on to a human, there is a chance of getting some horrid bacteria or even Lyme disease. They can also carry worms, lungworms, and ringworms. You have to always wash your hands after handling one.
What makes them come to your garden
1. Food search
Hedgehogs travel over a kilometre every night in search of food over huge areas. They are natural omnivores in the wild, mostly eating spiders and insects, plants, small vertebrates and bird eggs. Especially during summer, when mum hedgepigs have their newborn babies, they go out for foraging.
2. Some of them hibernate
In case you didn’t know, hedgehogs hibernate. So, if you see them wandering around your garden in late autumn or early winter, they might not have enough fat reserves in their body to survive hibernation. Around October, as the colder weather takes hold, mature ones will continue to feed as much as possible and begin building their nests in preparation for their winter hibernation.
3. They love exercising
Hedgehogs are very active at night and will run several km a day. If they cannot get the amount of exercise they require, they may become depressed, overweight, and develop foot sores. Exercise and activity are vital to them!
4. They are good at getting in and out of gardens
Do you have an open garden? If you don’t have high solid walls on all sides with no gaps and no climbing plants, some of them may visit you!
5. They are looking for suitable nesting sites
Hiding from predators or looking for a nice place to rest, hedgehogs will go to urban areas to find a nest. They don’t have any natural predators, although birds of prey would try to snatch one out in daylight.
6. They are looking for potential mates
Hedgehogs are solitary by nature, and males and females pair only to raise young ones, called hoglets. They reproduce between April and September, but the greatest activity occurs in May and June in Britain.
How to make your garden a friendly place for them
Hedgehogs are a native of the UK. They can be found in gardens across most parts of the country but have sadly suffered from a declining population for many years. This is why many people want to protect them and keep them close, besides being that cute! Are you wondering how to create a hedgehog friendly garden?
1. Make a feeding station
You can leave out food, meaty cat food or food for dogs overnight. Do you want to make sure other animals do not eat the snacks? Cut a hedgehog-size hole at the end of a Tupperware, turn it upside down, secure it to the ground with a weight, and put the food underneath the Tupperware. Easy, right?
Be careful! They are lactose-intolerant. So don’t feed them milk or bread as they will end up with stomach upsets.
2. Leave out water
Besides hedgehog food, meat-based pet food and cat biscuits leave freshwater for any visitors to drink. You should leave a bowl of clean water close to your hedgehog home. Especially in March, they start to emerge from hibernation, having potentially lost 1/3 of their body weight during their rest. Provide food and fresh water in the evening to help them prepare for the breeding season.
3. Add a hedgehog house
Hedgehog homes provide shelter and food for them, but they can also look stylish in your garden. You can either buy a ready-built house or make a home, using a pile of logs, to offer as a shelter to spend their winter. If you have a large garden, you can have up to three houses. Just make sure they are separated because they are lone-travelling creatures.
Do you need an extra tip for the cold days? You can add a hot water bottle filled with hot tap water. Wrap it in a towel and provide them with a gentle heat source.
4. Leave them alone during hibernation
Animals hibernate between November and March. For many people, it is hard to know if they have a hedgehog hibernating in their garden. If you find out that you do, make sure you leave it alone. A hibernating hedgehog will be completely rolled up into a tight ball with no face visible. If you accidentally uncover one, please do not move it. Cover it over again with a thick layer of dry leaves and leave it to sleep. Put some water and some cat/dog food nearby if you wake it up.
5. Avoid using slug pellets or other chemicals in your garden
Chemicals are toxic to most animals, including hedgehogs. Attracting as much wildlife into your garden as possible, including slugs and other ‘pests’, creates a rich ecosystem, and the food chain will look after itself. Also, they do eat slugs! Using slug pellets will not only harm hedgehogs, but they can also damage their food chain. Use organic methods instead.
6. Create possible nesting sites
Hedgehogs need plentiful food and water, but they also need a place to nest. Hedgehogs in gardens may nest under rocks, vegetation, and even inside an abandoned shed. They seek privacy and security, a place to sleep safely. Suitable spaces in the garden are wild spaces with long grass, compost piles, and log ones.
You can make a simple nest in just a few minutes following the next steps:
- Cut two air vents in the side of a cardboard box, along with a small entrance.
- Place clean, dry grass and leaves inside the box and close it.
- Position the opening to the south.
- Place plastic over the structure, disguising it with leaves and other debris.
7. Create hedgehog highways
Ensure gaps in your fence or hedge so they can travel from one garden to another. The best way to ensure they have travel rights is to team up with your neighbours and extend the highway within your community. You can also get involved with local hedgehog awareness and projects run by your local rescue centre.
8. Control your pets
If you have a pet cat or dog, this tip is for you. They won’t necessarily kill hedgehogs, but they might chase and scare them away. So, if you want them to feel welcomed in your garden, control your pets.
9. Make sure your garden is a safe and secure space
- Check areas very carefully before mowing and strimming. While tidying up your lawn and garden, you may conceal a hedgehog asleep in their day nest on a warm summer’s day. Sometimes they will snuggle down unnoticed into the tall grass and can be caught with blades and strimmers. How can you avoid that? Walk the area to be mowed to check for small animals and nests before beginning working on the lawn.
- Check your compost heap before digging the fork in to turn or take out the compost. Also, cover any drains or deep holes, so hedgehogs don’t fall.
- If you have a pond, ensure a gentle slope to allow them to get in and out. They love water and are good swimmers, but they need an exit from a wildlife pond or pool.
- Every year hedgehogs are injured by litter. Ensure there is no litter around your garden since they are inquisitive, and some waste can trap them and leave them vulnerable or cause injury.
- Don’t make or light a bonfire without checking first.
- Don’t use netting on the ground. If you need to use garden netting to support your plants, make sure it is high enough off the ground(22-30cm) so that hedgehogs can’t get trapped in them.
- Put back grates after removing them to clear your drains of leaves and other debris. If you don’t replace them, hedgehogs could fall in and become trapped.
What if you don’t want them around?
Most people try to encourage the presence of those friendly animals on their property in an attempt to get rid of insects or because they find them cute. But many people would prefer not to have them around. Are you looking for ways to make your property less appealing to them? Keep on reading!
Remove their food source
The hedgehog’s diet consists mainly of invertebrate insects. Removing their food source will give them fewer reasons to visit your garden. Make sure that if you apply treatments to remove these insects from your garden, you use natural methods instead of chemical ones. By applying insecticides or poisons, you can also harm them or any other animal if they come into contact with the dead insect.
Use gloves to catch them
If you spot an unwanted hedgehog, you should approach it as calmly as possible with no sudden movements. Their eyesight is not particularly good; however, they can notice quick movements rather well. You should use either rubber or cloth gloves when handling a wild hedgehog. Once caught, you should place it in a high sided box in preparation for relocation.
Use fencing as a control method
Instead of continuously trapping them each time they emerge in your garden, you can install a fence and cover openings with wired fencing. Although getting rid of hedgehogs that are already on your property is not possible by installing a fence, you can use this method to keep others away.
Use Electronic repellents
Motion-activated sprinkler repellents provide an innovative way to deter unwanted animals while not harming them. They just create an environment that does not attract them any further. These tools typically use technology to detect an animal’s heat during the day and night, and when they do, they release a sudden burst of water to frighten them away from the area. Using such systems is economical and environmental friendly as well. Since they repel using only water, they do not harm the creature, and they do not pollute the environment.
Set traps for hedgehogs control
You can catch one using different types of traps, either professional or homemade.
- You can use tunnel-design traps and disguise them within a wooden tunnel box or a grassy area where the creatures usually roam. It is better to place them near fence lines, along hedges or alongside a fallen tree to eliminate the hedgehog’s possibility of going around the trap. You can bait it with several types of food, like a mixture of cat or dog food, fresh chicken or eggs with the shells still on or use dead insects such as snails or slugs. Ensure the insects have not died due to poisoning with pesticides, as this will affect the hedgehog.
- You can use traps meant for rats. They have a small opening and a metal plate toward the back that shuts the door if your target steps on it. Covering the trap with a cloth or blanket might help make it seem like a safe area, as you might fool the hedgehog into going inside.
Trapping and then releasing the mammals into a remote area is the best thing to do to remove them safely from your property. Don’t forget that they are beneficial animals to have around your yard and garden. If you want to remove them from your property, you should check the local legislation. Make sure hedgehogs are not considered a protected species and that you have all the necessary information regarding where you can relocate them once caught.
If you are trying to control slugs, grubs, and snails, a few hedgehogs can help to maintain the balance of your garden’s ecosystem. But If you want them away from your property, you should be careful not to harm them; just let them be elsewhere. Like so many species of wildlife, the hedgehog population in the UK is in terrible decline. In their case, the problem’s source, and the solution, is much nearer to home. If you find a wounded one, pick it up carefully with some gardening gloves, and put it in a box wrapped in a blanket. If you require more help because of a sick or injured hedgehog in your garden, call your local hedgehog rescue centre or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society(BHPS) for more advice. Remember, the work to protect one species benefits us all!