Hedgehog Awareness Week: Save them by giving them ‘room to roam’, urges wildlife expert

Wildlife experts are encouraging the public to look out for hedgehogs by creating hedgehog highways, so they have enough room to roam during this critical time of year when they are leaving hibernation.

Hedgehog highways are 5-inch gaps in fences that help prevent the accidental trapping of hedgehogs by allowing access between gardens. Hedgehogs naturally roam through many different gardens whilst foraging for food, finding mates and seeking out shelter.

The lovable creatures are named on The Mammal Societies Red List of endangered mammals. Since 2007, numbers of wild hedgehogs in the UK have halved, and there are now thought to be fewer than a million left in the UK.

Sean McMenemy, garden wildlife expert and director of Ark Wildlife, says “With their natural habitats being destroyed by urbanisation, our gardens are a crucial place of safety for hedgehogs, so it’s important that people do everything they can to protect them. 

If you find a hedgehog in your garden, ensure it’s not trapped. In many gardens, hedgerows have been replaced by high fences with concrete gravel boards, which create impenetrable barriers preventing hedgehogs from reaching the spaces they need to forage for food. 

Hedgehog highways are a great way to protect the hedgehog population. Hedgehogs travel up to a mile every night in search of food, and leaving small gaps in fences for them to move between gardens prevents them from getting trapped or having to cross dangerous roads. You can even buy or make a hedgehog highway sign in order to make sure the gap is kept clear.”

What else can you do to support hedgehogs at home?

Aside from giving them room to roam, there are plenty of things that you can do to support the hedgehog population. At this time of year, as hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation, it’s especially important that they have access to food and water, and are protected from predators.

  • Buy or build a hedgehog house, ensuring it is placed somewhere sheltered and is well camouflaged with leaves, compost or tree branches.
  • Buy specialist hedgehog food or leave out meat-based cat or dog food, as well as providing access to a source of clean water. Leave these out just before dusk.
  • Never use slug pellets, as these can be poisonous to hedgehogs. Try placing crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you want to protect instead.
  • Leave wild areas in the garden, such as piles of leaves and logs. These make effective nests and attract the insects that hedgehogs need as part of their diet.
  • Cover any drains or holes, and ensure any ponds or swimming pools have an escape route. Avoid using fruit netting, as hedgehogs can become entangled in it.
  • Try to keep your garden as green as possible by keeping decking and patios to a minimum.

Hedgehog charities that you can support