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
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
Here are some safer alternatives to controlling these pests, can you
add to our list?
- 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
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
Recycle bin cover
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.