SAFER GARDENS

Leicestershire Hedgehog Rescue regularly release fit-again hedgehogs into the wild and some of these may find their way into your gardens and allotments. Many will have been hand reared and all will have come through a lengthy period of nursing and convalescence and they deserve the best possible chance of survival. Hedgehogs truly are the gardeners’ friend but sadly, our gardens are full of hazards for all kinds of wildlife. Please help to make Leicestershire hedgehog friendly by taking the following precautions and your prickly nocturnal visitor will repay you by keeping your garden pest free.


SLUGS: Please do not be tempted to use slug killers containing metaldehyde. They are usually bright blue and despite reassurances on the label, they are lethal to hedgehogs and other wildlife including song thrushes when they eat the poisoned slugs and snails. According to The British Hedgehog Preservation Society Post mortem examinations had concluded that hedgehogs died as a result of metaldehyde poisoning, either from eating the pellets or the poisoned slugs. Hedgehogs that have eaten metaldehyde are hypersensitive. There is no antidote and eventually they die because of the toxins. We too have had awful experience of this, see our sad story of Pip and Squeak at the end of this page. Slug killers containing aluminium sulphate kill slugs and snails by drying up the skin. They are not a bait but kill upon contact. Sprinkled round the area to be protected , they are safe to use where our wildlife is concerned

Here are some safer alternatives to controlling these pests, can you add to our list?

BRAN
slugs will eat the bran which dries them up from the inside
STALE BEER
in empty plastic lidded tubs with slots cut into the sides and then sunk into the ground. slugs will find the smell irresistible, crawl in and die happy.
SAND, SOOT OR EGGSHELLS
when sprinkled around the base the gritty surface will deter
PLASTIC BOTTLES
sawn off to make a cylinder and placed around individual plants
WET SACKING OR ½ GRAPEFRUITS
placed around the plants will provide a moist daytime refuge from which slugs can be collected
COFFEE GROUNDS
sprinkled around each plant.
NOCTURNAL SORTIES
with torch and tweezers. If you do not want the kill any captives, they could be released into the countryside. It is no use throwing them over your neighbour’s fence – they always return!
HEDGEHOGS, FROGS AND TOADS
are natures way of controlling garden pests which are all part of the wildlife food chain. Make them welcome in your garden by leaving a wild corner with cosy dry places for nesting and try to leave those places alone. Do not spray with chemicals.

OTHER GARDEN HAZARDS

HOLES:
Each year many hedgehogs fall into uncovered holes. Fill post holes with rubble and cover drains and garage pits securely.


Castrol's claws were worn and bleeding from trying to escape from this garage pit.
NETTING:
We have lots of casualties that have become entangled in nets of all kinds. Horizontal plant and pond nets should be stretched tight and pegged down firmly. Those hung vertically should clear the ground by 6”. All sports nets should be rolled up at end of play and any unused netting should be put away. A new problem is the netting covers supplied with small recycling boxes, make sure they are securely in place.

Pond netting
Football net
Recycle bin cover
Badminton net

BONFIRES, COMPOST HEAPS AND PILES OF RUBBISH:
These are all potential nest sights for hedgehogs. Please check carefully before forking over compost and clearing rubbish. Re-stack bonfires just before lighting and light big community fires in one place only to give any wildlife a chance to wake up and escape before the flames reach them.
PAMPAS GRASS:
This pond has a shallow margin area.
Please do not set fire to your pampas grass to kill the previous years growth. These plants are often used as hedgehog nest sites and you may kill more that just dead grass.
PONDS/WATER BATHS:
Hedgehogs can swim very well but can drown in a steep sided pond. When planning your pond make sure there is a shallow area or leave a ramp of bricks as an escape route. Rigid fine gauge wire netting draped over the side would provide a means of scrambling out.

LITTER:
As well as looking unsightly, discarded litter causes many problems for our wildlife. 4 pack tops and yoghurt tubs and empty tins are all potential wildlife head trappers. Please dispose of all litter responsibly. Hedgehogs love to nest in black plastic sacks. Tie them up securely after use and check any open sacks before throwing them away.
STRIMMERS:
Many horrific injuries are caused each year by strimmers and other electrical garden implements. Before clearing any overgrown areas, always ‘sweep’ first with a stick or a booted foot to make sure there is no slumbering wildlife.
FOOD:
In a drought a hedgehog’s natural food disappears. Tinned cat or dog food or cat biscuits (all non-fishy) can be a lifesaver. Make sure there is always a bowl of water available. Pushing all food under a paving slab on four bricks should ensure a cat/fox proof feeding station or see ours in Garden nestboxes. NEVER GIVE A HEDGEHOG BREAD AND MILK, they cannot digest cows’ milk and it will make them quite ill.
WOOD PRESERVERS:
Many wood preservers are poisonous and will harm hedgehogs as they frequently lick freshly treated fences. Ask for an environmentally safe water-based product from your garden centre.
PESTICIDES:
Many of these contain deadly poisons (see SLUGS). Organic methods are much safer. Soapy water is good for spraying aphids and other insects and there is a wide selection of safe insect killers on the market. Read the packet carefully and always mix according to the instructions. Why not try natural repellents like old-fashioned pot marigolds. Once established they seed well and slugs give them a wide berth.
SHEDS AND GARAGES
If a shed or garage door is accidentally left open through the night, check thoroughly before closing – they contain lots of dry and cosy hedgehog nesting places.
TRAPS
Squirrel and rat traps must be checked each morning. They often trap hedgehogs by mistake.

Peter and Wendy were born in an open wendy house.

PIP AND SQUEAK (R.I.P.)

On 9th June 2007 Pip and Squeak came into our care – two motherless orphans each weighing just 95grams. Then followed lots and lots of t.l.c. including round the clock 4 hourly feeds of goat’s milk, and the eventual weaning onto Chum Puppy food. By the middle of July they had both reached 400grams. They were then moved into a garden pen, the final stage before being returned into the wild. Unfortunately, due to a careless gardener this was not to happen.

On 14th August the pair had reached 545 grams and they were soon to have their freedom. A late night check on 23rd August found the pen floor and surrounding garden littered with dead and dying slugs which were traced back to the nearby neighbour’s boundary. The borders beyond were liberally sprinkled with bright blue slug pellets and Pip and Squeak were devouring the poisoned slugs.

Desperately trying to help them, our distraught carer had to witness their agonising deaths and by dawn both were gone. What an awful waste, both hedgehogs and carer deserved better. We do live in the real world and realise that some gardeners will always use metaldehyde, but hopefully the sad story of Pip and Squeak might prick a few consciences and save other hedgehog lives.

Pip and Squeak being weaned.
Pip, just two weeks old.