Hedgehogs | Wildlife & Habitats | Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
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Hedgehogs

To read a special report about our prickly garden friend, by the Wildlife Trust’s John Tidmarsh, click here.

Hedgehogs are probably our most familiar garden mammals, common in city parks and gardens as well as the countryside across Britain. They are very useful to the gardener, as they eat many garden pests.

Hedgehog Features

Hedgehogs have short, sharp, stiff spines over the back and sides, short legs and a pointed snout. The underside is covered with dense fur and the animal will roll into a ball when alarmed. This presents the spines towards danger, but is the main reason why so many become road casualties. 

Food

Hedgehogs mainly eat beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and slugs. Many people put out a saucer of bread and milk for them, but this can be harmful as their stomach cannot digest bread, and cow’s milk is a breeding ground for germs and can cause stomach upsets. A better diet would consist of tinned dog or cat food (but not fish-based varieties), minced meat, chopped liver, or scrambled egg. Dog biscuits, bran and peanuts can be used to supplement the diet and to provide roughage but sweet foods such as chocolate and fruit should be avoided, as they are bad for their teeth. It is very important to ensure that a supply of fresh water is always available.

Hibernation

Hedgehogs spend the winter in hibernation, as they are unable to find sufficient food outside in the cold weather. Younger animals may be at risk if they have been unable to build up sufficient reserves to keep them alive. Those over 1lb.in weight will probably survive, and should be left alone, but those weighing less are unlikely to live unless taken indoors, given plenty to eat (see section on food), and kept warm. A suitable place could be a large box lined with hay, crumpled paper or dried leaves. If the hedgehog is very young, place a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket at the bottom of the box. Once they have reached a weight of 1-1.5lbs., hedgehogs can be released into the wild during a spell of mild, dry weather.

Adult hedgehogs hibernate for short periods during the coldest weather. They may not enter hibernation until December and become active again in March or April. Individuals may be seen during this time as they briefly emerge in a spell of warmer weather. 

Breeding

The female makes a nest of grass, well hidden in the undergrowth. She has 2 - 4 babies that are born naked, with closed eyes. She suckles them and they grow quickly. They leave the nest after about 3 weeks and become independent.

Interesting Facts

Hedgehogs visit several gardens within an area - and as many as 10 different individuals may visit the same garden over a period of several nights, so the hedgehog you see in the garden may not be the same every time. Most wild hedgehogs have fleas, but these only live on hedgehogs, and cannot be transferred to cats, dogs, or humans.

The hedgehog is a very noisy animal and can be heard crashing through the undergrowth or snuffling in ditches on quiet nights. To encourage hedgehogs (and other wildlife), leave some wild areas in the garden, and avoid ‘tidying up’ too much. Leave plenty of dead leaves in which they can hibernate - and always check before starting bonfires, in case a hedgehog is sheltering there.

Don’t use slug pellets. These are poisonous to hedgehogs and many other animals. Injured hedgehogs should be taken to the nearest R.S.P.C.A centre or vet. It is quite safe to pick up a hedgehog - but be sure to wear gloves!

You can also download and print this Hedgehogs fact sheet

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