Most of us don't get to see hedgehogs too often, especially in built-up areas. But they really are amazing little creatures, and it can brighten your day when you do spot one. Sadly, human interference in their habitats and the risk posed to them by other wildlife means that these adorable animals are vulnerable. Fortunately, there are organisations doing all they can to help this charming native species to thrive.
Why Volunteer With A Hedgehog Sanctuary?
Even though they're relatively shy animals that mainly come out at night and hibernate over winter, we can all recognise a hedgehog in an instant. Those famous spines may warn people away, but hedgehogs are a gardener's best friend. This is because they are insectivores, which means they like to eat beetles, earthworms and, crucially, slugs.
Unfortunately, their numbers are declining in the UK, so the species is under threat. You don't need to be a budding Alan Titchmarsh or Charlie Dimmock to appreciate these unique animals though. Volunteering with a hedgehog sanctuary is a great way to show your support for these fascinating creatures.
How To Help Hedgehog Sanctuaries
VOLUNTEER AT A SANCTUARY
As well as taking a sick or injured hedgehog to a rescue centre if you find one, why not go a step further and volunteer with one? In 2015, the Wildlife Trusts opened the UK's first large-scale hedgehog sanctuary in Solihull, West Midlands. It's estimated there are around a million hedgehogs in the UK now, compared to more than 30 million in the 1950s. Projects like the 90-hectare conservation area will help to redress the balance, and you can play your part by getting involved if you live close by.
MAKE YOUR GARDEN A HEDGEHOG HAVEN
Hedgehogs are incredible ramblers. Despite their tiny frame, adults can roam for up to three kilometres each night in search of food and shelter. To do this, they need to cross between gardens, but are often blocked by fencing. If you have a solid fence, cut a small, CD-sized hole in it to allow hedgehogs to pass through. You could leave out water in summer and food in colder, leaner times - white meat dog or cat food, dry cat biscuits, or a specialist hedgehog food will do nicely. You should also avoid using poisonous slug pellets, hog-proof your pond, and always check any bonfires before lighting them.
TAKE CARE WHEN DRIVING
There's no excuse for speeding when you're driving. There are plenty of reasons for taking good care when you're at the wheel though, and hedgehog welfare is one of them. It's estimated that up to 150,000 hedgehogs are killed by cars every year. That's a tragic number and hugely damaging for the population. It could be easy to save a life by reducing your speed at night on country roads, while you could also help to keep injured and orphaned hedgehogs out of sanctuaries.
PLANT A HEDGEROW
One of the reasons the number of hedgehogs living in the British countryside has plummeted by more than half since 2000, is a loss of hedgerows caused by intensive agriculture. Just like their name might suggest, hedgehogs like to hide out in hedges during the day, which can give them great cover from prying predators and humans. Plant a nice hedgerow around your house and garden if you can, especially if you're in a rural area, and you might find you get some adorable new neighbours hanging around.
KEEP YOUR GRASS
Now, there aren't many of us who own enough land to make a real difference with this, but another big reason for the decline in hedgehog numbers is the loss of permanent grasslands. If by any chance you have acres of grassy land that you don't know what to do with - leave it alone!
Where To Get Started
There's lots you can do to help this lovely little animal. If you sign up to play People's Postcode Lottery, you can support a variety of charities including the Wildlife Trusts. Players have raised over £8.4 Million for the Wildlife Trusts to date, and they always welcome volunteers too.