(Ilkley U3A Environment Forum)
First the good news: hedgehogs are flourishing in Ben Rhydding! We watched 5 together on the evening of May 10th - feeding on snacks of peanuts, peanut butter sandwiches and special hedgehog food (my current extravagance). There was a little barging and butting - just to establish pecking order, I guess, but mostly they tolerated each other well. Since hedgehogs are not gregarious by nature, this was interesting in itself. Our night trail camera has picked up lots of visits between 10.00 pm and about 4.00 am, often of two or three animals together.The food is dry and they seem grateful for water, often pausing for a drink from our little pond. One individual prefers the - rather dirty - water in the bird bath on the patio and, on three occasions, has perched on the rim having a hearty quaff within a yard or two of my feet. Then it wades through the bath and disappears, dripping slightly, behind the flower pots.
Hedgehog drinking from the bird bath on the patio
Hedgehog numbers have declined catastrophically over the last two decades. Their natural farmland habitat has been destroyed - hedges removed, field borders cut back and pesticides destroying their natural prey. They have taken refuge in gardens and, with a little care, we can aid their recovery.
Here are my tips for establishing a hedgehog friendly garden.
You will soon know if you are host to any hedgehogs. They leave easily recognised dropping around the garden. These are about an inch long, cigar-shaped and usually quite dark in colour.
If you want to watch out for your visitors, just after sunset is a good time.
If you would like more information about hedgehogs, 'The New Hedgehog Book' by Pat Morris is an authoritative place to look.
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