Grace and her much-loved ‘spiky friends’ face numerous hazards throughout their lives, out in the country and in urban areas. Many of the problems they face are created by Man. LET’S HELP GRACE! Take a look at the factors that contribute to her decline and see how you can help. Here is Grace’s view of some of the main threats:
PONDS, POOLS AND DRAINS
Ponds can be a big problem, particularly pre-formed ones with straight slippery sides that make it impossible for Grace to climb out. Grace can swim, actually, pretty well, but she can't tread water indefinitely. If there is nothing for her to climb onto in order to gain exit from a pond she will eventually tire and drown. Please provide her with some form of ramp such as a plank, brick steps or chicken wire ladders to enable her to climb out. The best way is to provide sloping edges of stones in your pond. If you are considering adding a pond to your garden, why not make it a Grace-friendly pond with sloping sides making it easy for hedgehogs and other creatures to drink the water
Swimming pools and paddling pools can become watery graves for hedgehogs. Please provide ramps for safe exit and if you have a safety cover please use it. If an animal falls into the pool please refer immediately to a vet or wildlife rescue, as some of the chemicals used in the water can be toxic
Open drains and steep sided ditches are extremely dangerous. Newly dug footings can attract hedgehogs due to the likely presence of unearthed food, but they can easily fall in, and whilst hedgehogs are good climbers, the sheer steep sides can trap them leaving them exposed. Ensure all drain covers are correctly fitted.
Grace says, “keep drain holes covered” for this not only stops leaves and debris blocking your drains but, more importantly, stops Grace from falling in. Regularly check drains, trenches, and garage inspection pits to make sure that no hedgehogs are trapped. Provide escape routes such as rigid steel mesh, to act as a ladder, or a plank of wood, but not at too steep an angle.
SLUG PELLETS AND PESTICIDES
Slug pellets, as well as many other garden and agricultural pesticides, are not very good for any of your garden wildlife, regardless of what species they specifically target. There are many other options that can reduce the number of slugs in our gardens - hedgehogs, slowworms and frogs are three of the best. If hedgehogs eat poisoned slugs or insects, or they eat the pellets themselves, then they will come to great harm. If a pesticide kills, then it will enter the food chain and we have no control over where it ends up.
Anti-freeze is particularly lethal to Grace. If you spill it please clean it up. If you store it, do so safely and in approved containers. The sweet tasting poison can be attractive to hedgehogs.
The modern, intensive farming practices used today impacts greatly on hedgehogs. Intensive farming has seen field sizes grow to accommodate heavy machinery. Hedges have been removed to increase field sizes, field margins have been reduced, and pesticides are used to produce stronger crops. All this impacts on Grace in many ways. The removal of hedges has put Grace at far greater risk of predation. The reduced margins and hedgerows have cut down her food and she now has to compete for her prey. Safe nesting sites have been dramatically reduced. Insects that Grace feeds on are no longer attracted to many modern crops. The pesticides that kill insects can impact on Grace and other wildlife. Moreover, in 2015 a farmland bird survey showed that 52% of farmland birds have now gone forever.
GARDEN HAZARDS: LAWNMOWERS, STRIMMERS & GARDEN TOOLS
Grace loves to sleep out in long grass during the day when the weather is fine, so please check your long grass and your border edges for resting or sleeping hedgehogs before you strim. A hedgehogs usual form of defence is to curl up in a ball, so she could still remain in danger, for spines are no protection against a flailing wire or a sharp blade. If you are planning to have a tidy up using a lawnmower, strimmer or shears, please check through the area to be tidied, before you begin cutting. This simple check will save lives. Admissions at Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue show an increase in the number of hedgehogs brought to us who have suffered garden-machinery related injuries. Sadly, many die from deep cuts and lesions.
Garden netting can also be a potential problem for hedgehogs as they can easily get tangled up in it. Unused netting needs to be safely stored away. Please leave a gap of 8 inches from the ground when using netting ensuring the it is safely secured. If you do find a hedgehog tangled up in some garden netting call a vet or your local wildlife rescue.
Compost heaps are ideal places for Grace to make a nest and rear her young. Please take care when turning the heap as one thrust of a fork could easily kill a mum or baby hedgehogs.
The modern need to fence our gardens for seclusion and privacy has a detrimental effect on Grace. Hedgehogs can roam around 2km every night and often need several gardens in which to forage and find enough food. Fencing can cause local extinction for it causes the hedgehog populations to become isolated and renders them unable to forage for sufficient food. Modern wooden panelled fences block hedgehogs out of your garden so simply cut a 4-inch hole into the fence board or the lower panels of your fence to provide unrestricted access for Grace and her friends to forage.
Bonfires are undoubtedly a useful way of keeping the garden tidy, particularly in the autumn when the leaves are falling, but as hedgehogs hibernate in these piles please be extra vigilant. Ideally material collected to burn should be stacked away from the burner and only moved on the day of burning when the heap can be inspected prior to ignition. Bonfire night is especially dangerous with many bonfires being created weeks before burning. The heap should be moved before burning to remove any sleeping hogs. You could surround the bonfire zone with an amphibian rescue fence (or equivalent fencing at least 12” high), pegged down before stacking the bonfire. This will deny access to hedgehogs and thus ensure that bonfire night is enjoyed without fear of harm.
Most dogs and cats will happily share the garden with hedgehogs, but if you are concerned about your dog’s interaction with hedgehogs, you could turn an outside light on before letting your pet out which will help to frighten Grace away. You could also put your dog on a lead on the last ‘patrol’ of the night to help keep Grace safe.
ROADS AND CARS
Hedgehogs have been named as the second-most likely animal to fall victim to cars or lorries. Hedgehogs now account for 16 per cent of road-kill.
The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) surveyed one million creatures that were killed annually on the roads during the last fifteen years. PTES believes that in England hedgehog numbers have fallen every year since 2001. Research suggests part of that decline in numbers could be down to hedgehogs’ traditionally poor road sense. While rabbits exhibited alarm when a vehicle got to within 161 metres, giving them around six seconds to get out of the way of a car travelling at 60mph, hedgehogs only began running once a vehicle was within hearing range (approximately 8 metres) with the inevitable outcome.
A hedgehog's natural defence of curling up in a ball provides no protection from the modern dangers the animal faces.