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Hungry hedgehogs

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

Hands-up who has these brilliant beasts in their gardens? We've heard several people mention them and would love to find out more about their movements and secret lives around the village.

Five years ago the hedgehog was voted Favourite UK mammal in the Royal Society of Biology's public vote, wining more than twice the votes of the red fox that came in second. No doubt a large part of this was down to their cute appearance, their role as garden slug controllers and fond associations to the fictional character Mrs Tiggywinkle.

However, their population is in sharp decline; numbers have fallen by a third in the last 20 years. The main factors in this alarming trend include road traffic accidents, urban habitat fragmentation and the development of green spaces as well as reduced farmland habitat diversity and the loss of invertebrate food.

Now is a great time to look for signs of hedgehogs as they have recently emerged from hibernation which began back in November. Clues of hedgehog visitors include faeces, footprints, photos on camera traps, nests in leaf piles etc. This year data from BTO Garden BirdWatch reveals that hedgehogs emerged a week earlier than either of the previous two years and nearly a month earlier than we were typically seeing a decade ago. This is almost certainly due to the warm weather a few weeks ago but the return to cold days and overnight frosts will have made it difficult for hedgehogs to find food and replenish reserves lost over their winter hibernation.

One simple but very effective thing we can do to help these nocturnal garden visitors is putting out food such as crushed dog or cat biscuits and water. Hedgehogs travel 1-2km a night in search of food so creating "hedgehog highways" by making sure they can access our gardens is also a brilliant thing to do. Log piles, compost heaps, ponds and nectar-rich plants also enhance gardens for hedgehogs.

Finding out where in Aldbourne our hedgehogs go at night would be an exciting first step towards helping these charismatic animals thrive in our village. Have you seen one or do you know someone else in the village who has? We want all sightings: please keep an eye and ear out for them and send in your sightings!

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