bristol hedgehogs

Helping Hedgehogs in Bristol

Hedgehogs At Risk?

Bristol’s Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeusare) are under threat, so receive legal protection from trapping or intentional harm. Nationwide, populations of Hedgehogs have declined by a third since 2000!

Pest control in Bristol from professionals and amateurs should be carefully planned to avoid unintentionally harming non-target wildlife. Always consider how pesticides might find their way into the food chain.

How Can We Help Hedgehogs?

Now a new initiative called “Hedgehog Street” is attempting to turn the tide on their decline, and they need all the help we can give them. Another vital organisation in the story of the UK’s Hedgehogs is the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are beautiful yet prickly mammalian carnivores growing to around 12 inches in length.

Their unique appearance owes itself to about 6000, inch-long spines (modified hollow hairs) on both their back and flanks.

The rest of the body is covered in coarse greyish brown fur that conceals a little tail! A blonde variety can also be found, on the island of Alderney.

The hedgehog gets its name from the grunting, snorting noises it makes during mating and while foraging in hedges, etc. The name “Hedgehog” was first noted in the 1400s, and the name stuck. Even Shakespeare refers to the humble hedgehog in a few of his plays!

Where Do Hedgehogs Live?

The most successful populations live in lowland, urban, suburban and rural environments. Because of the importance of urban habitats, it’s vital; we do all we can to support these precious animals.

They often live for several years, but their habitats are becoming increasingly sterile of places to nest and hibernate, making survival and longevity less certain.

Roads, ponds and many other hazards await these animals that often travel over a kilometre each night in search of food.

Urban gardens are becoming bleak and sterile places to find a meal. A recent trend towards artificial grass, decking, patios and additional parking have all taken their toll on hedgehog numbers.

Hedgehog corridors linking gardens through a series of wildlife windows in fences and walls have proved instrumental in reversing population decline.

What Do Hedgehogs Eat?

Diet includes worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, millipedes, bird eggs, live or dead small mammals, earwigs and even ground-nesting bees.

You can offer artificial help by providing meaty cat food, cat biscuits and dog food, especially before colder autumn weather arrives. 

Mating takes place between April and September, and hoglets (usually 3-4) appear from the end of June onwards. Hoglets are weaned and independent after just five weeks.

Hedgehogs and Self-Defence

When threatened they roll into a tight ball. This might deter most predators in the UK, but badgers make short work of this defence.

As the only serious predator of the hedgehog, badgers should be discouraged from known runs and nesting sites. Mothers disturbed while nesting will often abandon or even eat the hoglets.

Hedgehogs and Hibernation

By November they are settling down for their winter rest and share their hibernation habits with only one other native animal, the dormouse.

During hibernation, their body temperature can fall from its normal range (30-35°C) to below 5°C!

Hedgehogs and Disease

flea control
Flea Control

We know they carry fleas and suffer from a range of diseases including cancer. They also suffer from a rare condition called balloon syndrome where they can fatally fill with air.

A disease that you might get from handling them without gloves or handwashing is the fungal infection known as Ringworm.

Exercising good hand hygiene or wearing gloves is always prudent and sensible practice.

How Can You Help Hedgehogs?

  • Avoid pesticides and herbicides and slug pellets.
  • Discourage badgers.
  • Encourage small, sheltered, wild areas of your garden with brambles and dense shrubbery.
  • Remove discarded litter and food waste.
  • Bonfires should be constructed and lit quickly to avoid killing any sheltering wildlife or even pets!
  • Create wildlife windows 13cm x 13cm in fences and walls, etc.
  • Increase foraging areas by avoiding excessive areas of decking, gravel, paving and concrete, etc.
  • Encourage new housing developments to include or encourage wildlife corridors between gardens.
  • Provide winter nesting sites, boxes and enclosures.
  • Provide ramps to help them escape from garden ponds, cattle grids or basement courtyards.
  • Supplement their diet with cat food, cat biscuits or dog food and water in the summer months.

Thank you for helping wildlife in your garden and community.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay – Thankyou!