Hedgehogs By Cath Robinson

Following the Editor’s plea for articles for the newsletter I wondered what I could write about. Can I link
birds with hedgehogs? YES! There is a campaign to ensure that all new housing developments have
hedgehog highways and swift bricks so that is my tenuous link to justify my article! But also sadly they
share endangered species status with many of our birds and mainly for very similar reasons.
For a long time, I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have hedgehogs in my garden. Then one evening, two
years ago, four of my chickens were assembled at my back door awaiting bedtime treats, when there
was a commotion. Usually such a fuss is as a result of a cat visit, so I went out to sort it and to my
surprise I spotted a hedgehog disappearing round the corner of my house. I followed it thinking that it
would be down a blind alley, but saw it squash itself under the fence into the neighbour’s. Advice is to
provide a 13cm square gap for them but they can definitely flatten themselves and go through very
narrow spaces (although I’ve seen a tragic photo of one stuck and dead in a Pringles tube). So, after
this I ensured plenty of entry spaces into the garden that were hedgehog friendly while still being chicken
proof.
The next time I saw one was the following year, quite by chance, as after shutting up the chickens late
at night, I was walking back to the house and nearly tripped up on one on the lawn. After that I kept
watch and had a very regular visitor (for several nights you could almost set your watch by it) just after
dusk when it appeared like an oval shadow crossing my lawn, I think towards my pond for a drink. I
started to put some food down for it and it always disappeared. I sat out at night (this was about 11 or
so) and waited for “my” hedgehog to amble along. I then decided this was a bit chilly, so gradually
moved the saucer of food nearer to the back door. I needn’t have been so cautious. Clearly, they can
smell food from a very long way off and aren’t too bothered by much. So now I watch them through my
kitchen window.
One evening, coming home after a WVBS meeting, I heard snuffling by my front door and tracked down
a hedgehog there. Its response was to freeze, not curl up, and just wait, and then when it thought the
coast was clear to get on with snuffling.
I made some hedgehog houses for the winter fed them up as much as I could and crossed my fingers
for hibernation.
This year someone told me in March that his motion sensor light had been triggered by a hedgehog so
I started feeding again. Always the saucer was licked clean in the morning. Then I spotted a cat tucking
in so had to rearrange the feeding station to keep cats out and allow safe entry and exit for hedgehogs.
So, I now have a tilted ground bird feeder cage (which was never very successful) propped up on its
base and voila! an improvised feeding station. And it works in as much the cat can’t reach it despite
valiant efforts to hook its paws through the holes and the chicken can’t reach again despite great efforts.
So, my food is now on a highway for the local hedgehogs. I have a regular visitor at present (June 8th)
at 9.45pm and have had 4 visitors in 45 minutes. They are very antisocial and one will often go at
another which often just freezes until the other finishes feeding or goes away. If I go out in the garden at
night, I can often hear them (they are very noisy especially if they meet another) but occasionally they
can creep (or even race) up on you and past you.
Only once have I seen one in daylight and that was having a drink in the recent hot spell. It froze when
it knew we were there and then ambled off and seemed well.
I’m not into picking them up and de-ticking them. To me they are wild animals and I am just helping an
endangered species with a food source, like feeding wild birds. But it is wonderful to me that an animal
with such a steep decline in population is apparently thriving in my neighbourhood and I get endless
entertainment in watching out for them and hoping I will see and hear them.
Check out www.hedgehogstreet.org for general information
www.bighedgehogmap.org for any hedgehog sightings near you
and look out for hedgehog poo.

 

Our Hedgehog Visitors 2
By Cath Robinson

 

I wrote an article for the newsletter in June about my hedgehog visitors, so this is an update.
I have continued supplementary feeding through the summer and they have unfailingly turned
up to take advantage. I use dog food: last time the check-out lady asked me what sort of dog I
had. I was momentarily taken aback: Surely everyone gets dog food for their hedgehogs?

As daylight was lengthening and dusk got later and later they were fairly prompt visitors in the
hour after dusk. Any leftovers after this had gone by the morning. Pat Morris, the hedgehog
guru, writes in his book aptly named Hedgehog (in the New Naturalist series) about a feeding
phase early in the night which may fill their stomachs so they then have digestion time leaving,
space for a further feed before their daytime sleep.
When the summer evenings were warm, I would often go out into the garden to see if I could
hear them. Their loud snuffling gives them away, although sometimes they can surprise you.

One time I was standing on the lawn casting a long narrow shadow down the garden from the
kitchen light. I heard and then saw a hedgehog emerge from the long grass and then track
down my shadow to about 6 inches from my shoe when it stopped, did a right angle turn and
continued on its way.
As the seasons have rolled on and the nights are drawing in, visits became more unpredictably
timed. Clearly there’s no longer any great rush as there is plenty of time to snuffle about. Last
time I wrote of how I had to adapt my saucer to a proper feeding station as I discovered a
neighbourhood cat (Big Ginger) was helping himself. I was feeling fairly smug about Feeding
station model 2 until I looked out and discovered another cat (Sneaky Cat) almost trapped
inside it. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised! Anyhow he managed to sneak out under
the cage and I had to have a rethink. So now I have FS model 3 using the same tunnel entrance
(which was optional last time), a bottomless flowerpot and an upside down plastic storage box.
Two paving stones stop yet further cats trying to turn it over. I was delighted to see my first
hedgehog inside and snacking. Since then again the food has disappeared by the morning and
I am more hopeful that it’s not cats.

 

 

Not all hedgehogs go into the box: some pass straight by and some just have a drink. It’s hard
to say how many use my garden but at least 4. I have seen 3 at any one time but it is fair to say
that apart from obvious size difference one hedgehog looks very much like another.
Sadly, I have not seen any hoglets: Most of mine are big bruisers so hopefully will be well
prepared for hibernation when the weather becomes reliably colder.
I shall miss them but hopefully they will be back in the spring as enigmatic as ever.

 

PHOTO CREDIT TO CATH ROBINSON

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