One of the aims of this year’s Wild about Gardens Week, backed by the Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society, was to urge gardeners to encourage more wildlife on to their land. This is especially important for hedgehogs, which have seen a dramatic decline in their numbers over the last quarter of a decade. They have now been added to a list of species whose conservation is a priority as part of Britain’s Biodiversity Action plan.
What You Can Do | If you want to help these little spiky creatures, here are a few hints on how best to lure them into your garden.
Resist the urge to tidy up your garden too much, and create borders heavy with shrubbery to give them a place to snuffle around in.
If you are not at risk of losing your own pets, leave a few small holes in your garden fence. This will encourage the little critters to wander in. Ask your neighbours to do the same to give the hedgehogs plenty of room to explore.
Do not use chemicals in your garden, and try not to get rid of all of the snails, slugs, caterpillars and worms, as these are all dinner for your local hedgehog population.
If your garden is big enough, leave stacks of rocks, logs and piles of leaves around to give them a nice place to hibernate.
Do not have a fish pond with vertical sides, as these pose a drowning danger to hedgehogs and other wildlife.
Find out more about hedgehogs and their favourite habitats by investing in a good book, such as Hedgehogs (The British Natural History Collection) (£14.99 from Amazon) by Britain’s leading hedgehog expert Pat Morris.
No Bird-Brained Idea | House sparrows are another species under threat. Numbers have declined at a massive rate since 1975, so try to give them water, food, shelter and breeding sites if you can. You do not have to buy expensive bird feed, as sparrows like long grasses and seeds just as much. They are also particularly fond of prickly hedges, climbers and shrubs to hide in. Try encouraging gorse, dog rose, pyracantha, ivy, berberis, privet, hawthorn and buckthorn to grow in your garden.
If you decide to put up a bird box (prices start at £11.99 from RSPB shop) , make sure you place it out of direct sunlight and high up to escape the attention of dogs and cats. Make sure the wood used is untreated and that there is an entrance hole measuring around 32mm. There should also be a space of at least ten centimetres squared inside.