Four simple pledges to help hedgehogs
(see bottom of page for some pledges already made by Willows supporters)
The hedgehog is the one mammal (our only native spiny mammal) that you have a good chance of regularly spotting and of watching from a respectable distance as it makes its nocturnal journey through your garden.
It doesn't want to make friends with you but it will accept your presence and appreciate the provision of maybe a hedgehog home or some food and water left out for it. It has an appealing face, bright beady eyes and what seems like soft fur and a very 'British' feel to it as it ambles along with no sense of hurry and the determination to seemingly push tank like through any obstacle.
"Less than one Million"
The sad fact is that in the 21st Century (and starting in the late 1950's) it has had a lot of obstacles to cope with and since the 1950s has been in steep decline. Estimates put the 1950's populations at around 36 million (although this is most likely a large overestimation), today less than one million.
BBC Hereford & Worcestershire Radio interview with us at Willows about the plight of the hedgehog.
There are many pressures detailed in other pages on this website and there seems to be a lot of interest in the hedgehog with many rescues and many raising awareness and a number of studies into their decline.
The simple fact is that studies are important and of course they can provide valuable data- but it isn't rocket science to see what the issues are. You only have to look at what has changed from the start of the decline and speak to any rescue who will tell you about the issues they see on a daily basis.
The Hedgehog- 'Erinaceus europaeus' to give it it's scientific name (although you can bet that the hedgehog doesn't care one iota about that- but it makes strokey beardy people happy) is a woodland edge creature and primarily an insectivore. For centuries we worked the countryside and indeed our gardens in a way that suited the hedgehog (and many other species- all the species so abundant until the last few decades). As with many species that we think of as our natural fauna and flora the human land management would have probably caused them to thrive beyond what their natural numbers would have been in a non human affected landscape. The way we managed shaped specific species abundance.. and then we changed hundreds of years of management in just a few decades.
"Terminal Industry Speak"
Now Ecologists, scientists, people involved with the natural world and indeed wildlife rescuers could (and can often do- just attend one of my talks when I go off on a tangent about land management, the Common Agricultural Policy, consumerism, disconnection from nature etc) waffle on endlessly about the specific causes and issues but to help the hedgehog there are a few simple things that you can do and others that need to be done but that will take time and mass changes in attitude, business and politics.
In order to start to make the change we need to keep it simple, honest and not procrastinate.
It is my firm opinion (and this may well not suit everybody) that to start making a real difference today;
- We don't need yet another short term study to make a short term conclusion to a fanfare of trumpets when common sense will suffice. Studies can provide valuable information but we also need to act now.
- We don't need to have cybernetic hedgehogs with GPS backpacks to find out what they do and where they go. Just ask anyone with a garden wildlife camera or hedgehog home.
- We don't need a campaign to fund raise a million pounds to "save the hedgehog" (hedgehogs haven't mastered cash machines and give them a fiver and they will either make nesting out of it or poo on it). Strangely most things to help benefit hedgehogs can be done for FREE and by anyone!
- It isn't going to take an army of Hedgehog Officials (and the fund raising implications that involves) to 'save the hedgehog'. Many hundreds of people, organisations small and large have been working tirelessly for years to help hedgehogs amassing a wealth of species and local knowledge and if organisations wan't to help then they need to work with the people that are already there and have the species and local knowledge. Hedgehogs have been declining for over 50 years and in the last decades rapidly and this has been well documented. Search the internet and you will find the people who are already working in these areas to raise awareness, running projects, providing education, collecting data and working with hedgehogs 24/7/365. The networks and knowledge is out there and it needs to be recognised and more importantly supported.
- I do strongly suggest that organisations take hedgehog decline seriously and work with the people that are already working in the area both locally and nationally. Support these people, work with them, help to make change. It's not about organisational profile, prestige, titles and getting donations in or certainly not in the world I work in to help nature.
- The answer isn't in more nature reserves. *See footnotes. Hedgehogs will go where they want to and your garden is where they wan't to be in our towns and cities and in truth their habitat requirement is quite simple. So simple that it can be created anywhere and by anyone and without great cost (if any). We just need you and to stop the separation in language and thought between 'natural world' and our world, reserves where the wildlife is and our human towns, cities and landscape.... it is the same world. It also isn't the realm of conservation and wildlife organisations- it's something for all of us to get involved in.
- We don't need to reinvent the wheel (and to probably fund raise for it) when the knowledge, information the public need and people who can help are already out there and have been for years. And incidentally will be for years to come even when the media interest and fundraising possibilities have dried up and the next 'in species' is on the menu.
- You can't just save the hedgehog. You can't save any species in isolation. Hedgehog decline stems from literally 'ground up'. The habitat which provides home and food and our impact on it. This you can affect directly. Your garden in part of that habitat, your consumer choices determine how larger land owners operate.
- The future and real long lasting change will only be achieved through many tens, hundreds of thousands of 'ordinary' people making small and most often FREE changes. No NGO is going to fix it, no Rescue, certainly not the government (legislation doesn't fix things it's peoples willingness), they can educate, inform and support but the simple truth is that...... it's up to all of us.
We all have the power to make change we just need to embrace it.
"No Mumbo Jumbo"
So no mumbo jumbo or ecological study speak...
What hedgehogs want (and we are going to keep this simple).
See the links later on for more in-depth information on specific topics.
- Habitat (somewhere to forage and live)
- Access (to be able to get to that habitat)
- Safety (remove all the incidental to us dangers that we cause for hedgehogs)
What you can do. Your hedgehog pledge..
Your Pledge- the Four "Pledges4Hedgies"
Food- Hedgehogs are insectivores with beetles, caterpillars and earthworms at the top of their menu choice (although they so show omnivorous tendencies as well eating fallen seed from feeders, fallen fruit, fungi, eggs, fledglings fallen from nests etc)..
Leave wild areas in the garden- let the grass grow long and let 'weeds' such as nettles grow. Have a log pile or a compost heap providing dark, decaying and damp habitat for insects.
Have a pond.
Leave some food and water out for visiting hedgehogs. Dry cat/dog biscuits (meat flavours) or hedgehog food.
Habitat- Hedgehogs need safe areas to make nests and to travel along, woodland edge is the clue..
As with food let wild areas grow in the garden it costs nothing but is priceless to wildlife.
Plant native insect attracting shrubs and wild flowers.
Plant a mini hedge. The idea of the open plan front garden that seems to be the norm now has left swathes of no mans land in effect. It doesn't quite feel like your garden but isn't public either. Planting Holly, Hawthorn, Privet hedges creates a woodland edge.
Don't think of your garden as 'an extension of the living room'.. think of it as a little bit of countryside and a home for wildlife.
Have a hedgehog home, they can be bought, home made or made out of piling natural materials. This is important you can make a hedgehog home for free or maybe a a few quid. Don't think that you have to spend £50 on a hedgehog home. If you wan't to then great but it isn't necessary.
Access- The best wildlife friendly garden in the world is no good to a hedgehog if it can't get into it and hedgehogs will travel through a number of gardens in a night looking for food and nest sites.
Encourage your neighbours to do the same so you help create hedgehog friendly routes between gardens (habitat) removing the need for hedgehogs having to wander out onto our busy roads. This is really important. Access into your garden is wonderful but linking many gardens together makes a massive difference.
If you purchasing a new build house then we would like everyone considering this to ask 'where is the hedgehog access?'. Lets get people thinking and involved. Wooden fences are easy to pop an access hole into and even if you have concrete gravel boards you can now replace some of them with hedgehog friendly alternatives such as in the photograph.
Safety- Many thousands (tens of thousands) of hedgehogs are brought into rescues every year with illnesses and injuries caused through human actions, many more will simply not be found.
Don't use chemicals in the garden (including slug pellets) and make sure that any chemicals are stored away safely and off the ground.
Please keep netting off the ground (hedgehogs get tangled in it), ponds need to have one shallow slope.
Be wildlife aware at night, not screaming down the road in the car could just mean you spot a hedgehog before you run over it.
If everyone with a garden made these small changes (most at no cost at all) then we would be giving our declining hedgehog a real helping hand.
There are more things we can do beyond this for the wider environment such as lobbying local councils to allow verges to grow and to create natural spaces within parks and even using the pound in our pockets to purchase sustainable and ethical products. But charity begins at home so lets start with our back gardens and go from there.
I have deliberately kept this page quite concise but please do visit other pages on the website for more indepth information into specific areas.
If you live in the county of Worcestershire then please drop us an email to email@example.com and let us know if you already are or after reading this are now taking the pledge to help Worcestershire's hedgehogs and what you are doing to help them.
Some of the many comments you have sent to us about your Pledges for Hedgies
Your Pledges for Hedgies January 2015
- Gail A T- I have a bird box to put up, a new homemade hedgehog house to collect and site, going to try wildflowers again (& see if I can keep the slugs off them this time) & plant a couple of bushes. Already have 3x hedgehog houses, 3x hedgehog feeding stations, holes under gates and in the fence, a ramp to help hoggies in one area, bird feeders, insect houses, bee houses, a small freestanding pond (that has attracted a dragonfly & has a resident toad underneath!), long grass under a tree, leaf piles, log piles, small logs with drilled holes placed in borders for insects, ridge tiles for frogs & toads to hide under & insect-friendly plants like lavender & oxeye daisies. As a result we have many different types of birds, butterflies and bees visit, resident & visiting hedgehogs, foxes, a toad, wood mice, frogs, many squirrels, bats that roost in our loft and we have seen a slow worm and a couple of dragonflies over the freestanding pond! Build a home for nature and it will come - our garden is proof of that!
- Christine L- Yepsie.I pledge.My garden is wildish and so am I.
- Alison P- Well I do quite a lot already. I have a wood pile that is deliberately left to rot, in order to provide a home for grubs ie food. Then there are the two hoggitats and the lengths of drainage pipes left behind bushes so as to provide safe havens for the little hogs. Additionally food is left down for them and there is a wild meadow type patch. There is a hedge down one side of the garden and my fence is lifted a few inches off the ground to allow birds and hogs to pass under easily, but not larger animals - cats, foxes etc.
- Pauline D- we are increasing the log piles and putting some insect boxes out /washing and disinfecting the bird feeders more frequently and after seeing WinterWatch will not be buying any of the products that have those micro plastic beads in them
- Janice C- I pledge to make another feeding station - one that the cats can’t get into!! Am currently fostering a dear little hedgehog, who is doing well. Also have a hedgehog home, but don't think being used yet.
- Tina G- I pledge to make more holes under my fence , another log pile and plant a new tree
- Christina W= I feed the birds, got gaps under my fencing, sorting out log piles and doing a lot more planting of wildflowers in the spring
- Margaret L- I pledge to sow some wildflower seeds. I've already got log piles, a stumpery, ponds, a compost heap, hedges and a 'rough patch.
- Marion W- I have three bird boxes up feed and water the birds every day and pledge to put my new bee house up.
- Marie W- Already got gaps under the fencing and a wild area of the garden, I feed the birds, squirrels and hedgehogs and plant windflowers. I pledge to put up more bird boxes, a bug house and plant more windflowers.
- Julie O- I pledge to make another hedgehog house and a frog house xx
- June S- I have 2 hedgehog homes, but pledge to leave one patch of grass, and leave it long
- Allie H- I pledge to share my allotment with all the other critters that live there:)))xxx
- Claire W- I pledge to plant insect attracting plants, put holes in the bottom of my fence and enjoy the nature that visits it
- Rachael H- I pledge to have some long grass and a hedgie box, and a bird box.
- Amber L G- I pledge to invest in more hoggie garden boxes this year and make an additional wood pile in a sheltered area xx
- Caroline M- My pledge is to add more plants to the garden to attract and feed insects
- Victoria S- I pledge to have a hoggy friendly garden x x
- Judy H- I pledge to make sure new fencing has hoggie access for them to wander as they please also making a second log pile for wildlife
- Lisa C- I pledge to build more hoghomes, add lots of woodpiles and make sure there's plenty of food around for them when they need it most. I also pledge to leave bits of wool and cat fur from my long haired persians in the bird feeder for the birdies to build their nests in spring.
- Vron C- I Pledge to make my garden a friendly safe and happy place for Hoggies and continue my nightly feast of mealie worms clean water and other hedgehog friendly foods
- James W- My pledge is to create another hedgehog habitat in our back garden.
- Janet R- I have made sure my garden is accessible, covered the ponds in netting to stop from drowning accidents leave plenty of hidy holes and burrows (garden is 156 ft x 40 ft.) have made water fall steps from one pool to the other for drinking water for birds and any other animals without getting too wet but means water available all year round, encourage frogs and newts, leave a stack of logs for insects etc but pledge to install the bird boxes on the trees. P.S. Also do not use any insecticides or slug pellets
- Mark G- I pledge to have Bee friendly plants, feed the birds, have bird boxes, gaps for hedgehogs to get in/out and put food out for hedgehogs
- Ellen P- I pledge to fill the garden with as many plants and veggies as I can that will encourage wildlife. xx
- Louise D- I pledge to put up my bat and butterfly boxes this year x
- Anne W- I pledge to add a bat box this year
- Trish P- I have lots already but will do more.
- Joanna W- I pledge to have a hedgie hole in our new fencing and get a hedgie house.
- Ann M. W. B- I pledge another hedgehog feeding station and a nesting box
- Jacqui M- Hard to pledge as my garden is turned over to hogs and birds and any other wildlife. But I pledge to expand my rescue.
- Suzi S R- I pledge to make some new homes around the garden to go with the ones already there. Also to plant a wildflower garden.
- Jo H- I plan to create more hiding places for hedgehogs
- Catriona L- I have a little bird box to put out, just need to find the right place to nail it up - and I am trying to leave some wild spaces too.
- Serena G G- I have my first house and I haven't properly handle the garden (mostly concrete, in layers and kinda over grown with lots of junk) and for some reason it actually attracts tons of hedgehogs (I am literally out there every night during spring and summer moving them into the bushes from my overly curious dog)
So I pledge to continue being lazy with my gardening and even when I do come to tidying, planning to leave an entire section at the very back (which has holes through to 3 other gardens) that will be left wild.
- Diana A L- in Northern USA, don't have Heggies here . Have plants and trees for birds, rabbits ect. Would love to have a hedgehog, my Mom was British and use to tell me about them in her Dad's garden! Love your page!
- Caroline K F- I pledge to carry on feeding my hoggy visitors.
- HC- I'll'go on leaving out cat food, leaving a pile of twigs and leaves for them and a no pesticide garden.
Nature 'Reserves' are very important for our wildlife and for us but we now need to think bigger. Wildlife needs the whole landscape to survive and nature reserves in order for the wildlife to flourish need to be connected to a suitable wider landscape.
Please note all content, images, illustrations are copyright CharlieCreek Willows Hedgehog Rescue