The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is Britain’s only spiny mammal. Instantly recognisable, they have a coat of around 6,000 spines that hangs around their body like a skirt, concealing grey fur on their underside, long legs and a short tail.
As distant relatives of shrews, hedgehogs have changed little in the past 15 million years. They can be found across a wide range of rural and urban habitats including your very own back garden here in Kent. It’s no surprise that they’re often referred to as the gardener’s friend due to their careful habits and diet of common garden pests such as slugs, snails and caterpillars.
But as more gardens are cemented over, and pesticides used to kill the insects they depend on, hedgehogs are finding it harder to find the food and shelter they need to survive through to the spring.
Hedgehog numbers have dropped by 30% in the last ten years.
Six out of ten people didn't see a hedgehog in their garden last year, and the majority of children have never seen a wild hedgehog at all. In the 1950s the UK hedgehog population was roughly 30million but fewer than 1 million are now thought to be left, even fewer across Kent! As we enjoy the last days of summer and retreat into cosy homes with warm fires, we’re calling on the people of Kent to help support this friendly animal.
Three-quarters of new-born hedgehogs die during their first winter.
This year we have the opportunity to change that. Just a few small tweaks to our gardens could make all the difference and provide us with a new-found friend in Britain's only spiny mammal.
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Hedgehogs travel 2 to 3km a night looking for food or a mate so don’t let your garden be an obstacle course. A 13cm hole cut in the base of fences and walls provides a perfect tunnel and access route for hedgehogs to travel through.
Invite them to dinner.
Meaty cat or dog food can be left out for hedgehogs along with plain water. Don’t offer cow’s milk as it’s harmful to their digestion.
Give them space.
If you see a mother hedgehog with hoglets then try not to disturb them. The mother is liable to desert or even eat the young if she is disturbed.
Help! I have a hedgehog in distress!
If you have found a hedgehog you are concerned about please use gardening gloves to gently pick it up, bring it indoors and put it in a high sided cardboard box with an old towel or fleece in the bottom for the hedgehog to hide under.
Fill a hot water bottle and wrap it in a towel or covering so there is a nice, gentle heat coming through and put that in the bottom of the box with the hedgehog, ensuring it has room to get off the bottle if it gets too hot. Make sure the bottle is kept warm as if allowed to go cold it will do more harm than good.
Put the box somewhere quiet and calming. Offer meaty cat or dog food and fresh water in a shallow bowl. Do not offer cow’s milk.
A hedgehog may just require a bit of extra food but if you are unsure, or it is showing signs of distress, injury or illness, then contact one of the centres below for advice and assistance. Please note that there could be hedgehog rescue centres closer to you so you may wish to search online for other options if required. Regretfully, we are unable to take in sick or injured animals at Kent Wildlife Trust.
Kent Wildlife Trust is not responsible for the managing of listed centres nor does their mention imply endorsement or approval.