20/11/2015 12:00 AM
I think you must have been completely out of circulation recently, not to have heard about the plight of the humble hedgehog
These appealing little chaps, who are commonly considered the gardener’s friend because they feed on some of the pests in the garden, have suffered a severe decline in numbers. The current population is estimated to be around 25% down in the last decade, which may mean there is only a million or so left.
This may be caused by a reduction in their natural habitat, the countryside. Which means more of them are resorting to living in towns, where unfortunately a whole raft of new threats exists. The most obvious is getting run over by vehicles - possibly 50,000 come to grief on roads. We all know that the hedgehog’s first defence mechanism is to curl up, so they present a prickly ball, not many predators will find an attractive proposition. Sadly this doesn’t work in any way to deter cars, they just squash them!
The list of bad stuff that can happen to hedgies (as some like to call them) is lengthy: many drown in garden ponds because we don’t think of putting something in there to help any hapless creatures climb out. They are also poisoned by careless gardeners who still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that slugs eat slug pellets, slugs are then eaten by hedgehogs, then hedgehogs die a very nasty death from poison!
The list continues with getting trapped in netting, which can result in horrific injuries when they try to escape, being burnt in bonfires that seem to be a nice place to make home, until it is set on fire, and apparently strimming accidents are fairly common too.
So what can we do to help?
We can avoid leaving netting around for them to get caught in, also check carefully before strimming that there aren’t any animals that will get hurt when you let rip with the machine, and check the bonfire hasn’t become a hedgie hotel. If you have to use slug pellets, please find a wildlife friendly version that isn’t going to harm any animals.
If you are of a kind nature you could try feeding them a little cat food and don’t forget the water.
Hedgehogs used to be able to move much more freely between gardens, finding a variety of locations to feed and make a home. Nowadays we are all a lot keener on fencing in our properties, and sturdy gravel boards at the bottom of fence panels probably have put an abrupt stop to many an established hedgie run.
Here at Jacksons we’ve tried to find a way to help our spiky friends, we’ve created the hedgehog friendly gravel board.
It is the same as a normal gravel board, but it has a hole at one end, large enough to allow them free passage, with a reinforcing strip along the top of the board to ensure it isn’t weakened by the hole.
It may seem a small and simple move on our part to try to redress the balance. We know there will probably only be a small percentage of our customers that will opt for installing one of these boards in their fence run, but it will give us, as a company, the chance to talk about the hedgehog decline to our customers and anyone else who will listen. The sincere hope is that it will help to make a difference.
One last word to the dissenters, who immediately shout out that having a hole in the gravel board will encourage rats. My response is, if you’ve got rats, a gravel board will not deter them. They are prolific climbers and they have a special squishy skeleton (there is a scientific name for this, but I refuse to look it up!) the flexibility of their bone structure allows them to squeeze through unfeasibly sized cracks, so a gravel board won’t put them off, they will simply climb over the fence, or burrow under!