Are hedgehogs making a comeback?
- Credit: Amy Lewis
There are signs that hedgehog numbers might be recovering, and we can all do our bit to help them, says Alan Wright of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust.
Are hedgehogs making a comeback? Over the past year we have heard about a lot of sightings in parks and gardens, after years of silence about one of our favourite mammals.
This year I have seen two hedgehogs, after only seeing one in the past five years, in my mum’s garden in Walkden. This year, I saw one rushing through a meadow in Chorley and, sadly, found one by my front door that had been injured by a strimmer and had to be put to sleep.
We all know the hedgehog – small, brown and round with spikes on its back that have yellow tips. Its face is covered in fur and it has a cute, black nose.
If you come across one and it sees you, it will roll up into a ball for protection. The closer you get, the tighter the ball. This is a great defence against most predators but not very good against the onslaught of humanity.
Rolling up in a ball is not a good defence against strimmers and lawnmowers, so if you are cutting long grass or foliage, please search through it first for these precious little animals. And please be sure to check any bonfires before you light them, as well.
You may hear them snuffling around the long grass in your garden or spot black, insect-filled droppings, this means you have had a hedgehog visit. It’s great for your garden because they eat lots of pests, including slugs and snails.
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Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, birds’ eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener’s best friend.
Of course, hedgehogs have not been doing well in the country. Forty years ago we had millions of them roaming through fields, parks and gardens. Now there are estimated to be fewer than a million. Our destruction of their habitat has been to blame, with hedgerows being removed all over the country and gardens no longer friendly to incoming creatures.
So, there may have been a resurgence recently but it will take a lot of care and effort to get us back to seeing hedgehogs, hunting in our locality every night in spring, summer and autumn, before they hibernate for the colder months.
Climate change hasn’t been friendly to hedgehogs, with warmer winters waking them at times when there is little food and then cold snaps sending back to sleep, cold and hungry. Hedgehogs hibernate over winter, from about November to April, in a nest of leaves or logs called a ‘hibernaculum’.
If you find a hedgehog out during the day or an injured hedgehog there are a number of rescue centres around the region. I took my foundling to the Preston rescue team but Lancashire Wildlife Trust has worked with Chorley and Fylde in the past. These are amazing and caring volunteers who help to ensure that many orphaned hoglets are healthy enough to be released back into the wild.