Health and Management of the West European hedgehog
MANAGEMENT

Health & Management / List of hyperlinked Techniques & Protocols:

Garden Management for Hedgehogs incorporating Farm-yard Features:

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Introduction and General Information

  • Garden habitats can be designed to attract a wide diversity of both vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife species.
  • Provision of 'wildlife-friendly' areas within garden habitats may help to redress trends of habitat loss adversely affecting some wildlife species.
  • Many wildlife species are predators of the invertebrates viewed as pests in the garden. Attracting these species (e.g. birds, bats, frogs, toads, hedgehogs) will help the gardener since they will act as 'natural pest control'.
  • Survey of the species present and types of vegetation within an area of habitat may be a useful initial step when designing a wildlife garden.
  • A risk assessment of the hazards to wildlife within the garden should also be performed; risks should be divided into those which can be addressed (e.g. litter disposal) and those which are fixed and cannot be overcome (e.g. proximity to roads, railways).
  • Man-made hazards for wildlife in the garden include "environmental, chemical, mechanical, and deliberate killing or damage". (B257.2.w3)

(B257.2.w3, D79, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

(D75, D87, D88, W99.July2002.WEH1, W51.July2002.WEH2, V.w26)

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Open or Enclosed Gardens
  • Gardens can be described as 'open' if they allow free movement of the wildlife species under discussion across their borders into neighbouring habitats.
    • Open gardens may have no physical boundary in place; may have a border that provides no obstacle to the species in question; or may be bordered by fences, hedges and walls which are not solid or contain holes which are sufficiently large to allow the wildlife species to cross. 
  • Gardens can be described as 'enclosed' if their boundaries prevent entry or exit of the wildlife species under discussion.
    • The boundary may be solid or contains holes of an insufficient size for the wildlife species to pass.
    • The boundary may be sufficiently high to prevent the wildlife species from climbing over.
    • The boundary may be sufficiently deep to prevent the wildlife species from digging below.
    • The boundary may be sufficiently strong to prevent the wildlife species from breaking through.
  • Classification of a garden as 'open' or 'enclosed' will depend upon the wildlife species under discussion; its body size (therefore dimensions of holes through which it can pass) and ability to fly, dig below, climb over or destroy boundaries, should be considered.
  • Deliberate introduction of healthy wild animals, capable of life in the wild, into enclosed gardens is not recommended for welfare reasons. 
    • In this situation, animals may have insufficient foraging area and prey available and may therefore starve.
  • If a disabled animal is placed within an enclosed habitat it remains effectively captive in a sheltered accommodation situation. The carer has responsibility to maintain that animal's welfare for the remainder of its life and to ensure it is able to fulfill the 'five freedoms' as defined by the UK's Farm Animal Welfare Council. See: Wildlife Casualty Long Term Care.
  • Holes, breaks, or tunnels below boundary fences can be made to convert enclosed gardens to open access habitats to act as corridors for wildlife species.(D88, D87)
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Confinement of a healthy hedgehog within an enclosed habitat would restrict its behaviour and potentially cause unnecessary suffering. (B337.A5.w11, D82, D87, D83)
  • A hedgehog in an enclosed garden is in long term care (See: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog Long Term Care and Wildlife Casualty Long Term Care). 
  • Hedgehogs should only be kept permanently within an enclosed garden habitat if they are in some way disabled, making them unable to cope for themselves in the wild. (D82, D89)
    • If a wild animal casualty is neither released back into the wild, nor euthanased, then by definition it remains "in care". This implies a duty on the carer to ensure that the needs of the animal are supplied. See: Wildlife Casualty Long Term Care
    • Disabled casualties should be assessed on an individual basis by experienced personnel to determine whether their quality of life and ability to fulfil the 'five freedoms', as defined by the UK's Farm Animal Welfare Council, will be adequate within an enclosed garden habitat. 
    • Whilst opinions will vary on the subject, injuries for which long term care in enclosed gardens has been suggested to be appropriate include forelimb or hindlimb amputation, and visual impairment.
    • Members of the public who wish to offer their enclosed garden as a safe habitat for disabled hedgehogs must contact an experienced wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Site assessment is required for identification of potential hazards in the local environment.(D82)

(B337.A5.w11, D82, D83, D87, D88, V.w26, V.w45, V.w56)

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Perimeter Fences/ Hedges/ Walls

  • Physical boundaries within garden habitats vary in design and include wooden and wire fences (plain wire, barbed wire, chicken netting), hedges, brick and dry-stone walls.
  • Hedges provide food (e.g. berries, flowers), cover and nesting places for a wide diversity of wildlife species.(D79, B274, B275)
    • Recommended plant species for hedges include "beech, holly, alder buckthorn, dog rose, hazel, goat willow, hawthorn, berberis."(D79)
  • Hedges also provide protective "corridors" along which animals may move safely between gardens. (B274)

(D79, B274, B275)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Dry stone walling provides excellent habitat within cracks and covered areas for invertebrates which form the major part of the hedgehog diet.(W99.July2002.WEH1)
  • Hedges with a thick base provide good cover for hedgehogs in which they may build a nest. (B275)
  • Avoid treating wooden fences with creosote and other toxic preservatives where possible. Hedgehogs will often explore novel stimuli within their environment and may lick toxic, freshly applied, materials. Where their use is unavoidable, applications should be made during the normal period of hedgehog hibernation to reduce the risks of exposure.
    • Consult local garden centres for water-based, environmentally friendly alternatives.
  • Hedgehogs can become impaled on barbed wire fencing material at ground level. The hedgehog's natural response to becoming caught is to curl into a ball, risking further entanglement in the barbed wire. Ensure that all barbed wire is kept at least 30 centimetres above the ground, without trailing ends, to prevent contact with hedgehogs.
  • Hedgehogs may become trapped within the slats of wooden fencing, or in wire fencing, and may be found in need of rescue (See: Netting and Traps and Litter and Refuse sections on this page). 
  • Hedgehogs are able climbers and have been reported to climb even high brick walls. (B274)
  • Leave an entrance/exit hole in a fence, wall or gate hole to allow hedgehogs to go in and out.
    • A hole as small as 10cm (four inches) square in a wall or fence may provide an entrance/exit hole for hedgehogs. (B274)
  • If a wooden fence blows over or falls down it should be repaired promptly before it is used as a site to nest under. (B337.A5.w11)

(D87, B274, B275, W93.July2002.WEH3, W99.July2002.WEH1, V.w26)

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Ponds / Lakes / Watercourse / Swimming Pools

  • Design of water bodies within garden habitats will vary according to their principal and subsidiary uses.
  • Ponds and lakes may be constructed for recreational pursuits (e.g. boating, fishing, swimming), aesthetics (e.g. ornamental fish and waterfowl) or for attracting wildlife.
  • Watercourses such as streams, canals and rivers may cross or border garden habitats.
  • The popularity of outdoor permanent swimming pools varies with local climate. 
  • Areas of shallow bog land and ponds in the garden can attract a wide diversity of mammals, birds, amphibia (frogs, toads, newts) and invertebrates (e.g. water scorpions).
  • Planting of native species within garden ponds and bog land is recommended to attract wildlife and to provide additional escape routes. Water plant species include "water milfoil, water starwort, miniature water lily, water soldiers" and bog species include " meadowsweet, loosestrifes, marsh marigold, ragged robin, cuckoo flower, cotton grass, bog pimpernel, creeping jenny and reeds".(D79)
  • Ponds, lakes and bog lands provide food and drinking water for a variety of wildlife species and bathing for birds.
  • Water bodies of all types preferable should not be situated close to large overhead trees, to reduce leaf litter falling into the water leading to possible fouling, reduced visibility and eutrophication.
  • Slipways should be provided in all watercourses to allow small mammals who have fallen into the water to escape by climbing free.
  • Frogs and toads find it difficult to climb out of ponds with vertical sides. (D103)
  • Frogs and toads may dry up on hot paving slabs surrounding ponds. (V.w45)
  • Human safety must be the foremost consideration around bodies of water. No risks should be taken if attempting rescue of trapped wildlife from areas of water; expert help and advice should be sought immediately where necessary. (See: Catching and Handling of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog)
  • Wild mammals and birds may fall into uncovered liquid slurry pits.
  • Small mammals may fall into uncovered water troughs, children's paddling pools, swimming pools and even large pots which have become filled with rain water..

(B257.2.w3, B274, B275, B337.A5.w11, D79, D84, D87, W51.July2002.WEH2, W99.July2002.WEH1, V.w26, V.w45)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Whilst hedgehogs are able to swim well (See: Activity Patterns - West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Activity Patterns, Grooming and Navigation Behaviour (Literature Reports)), they are vulnerable to drowning (see: Drowning) if the margins of the water body are steep and do not provide grip, allowing them to climb out to safety.
  • Ponds and lakes should have at least one shallow margin with a gently sloping shelf to allow easy exit of trapped small mammals. Multiple slipways with a shallow gradient and adequate grip are preferable.
    • Placing large submerged bricks or boulders at the edge of the water body will provide a stepping platform allowing trapped hedgehogs to escape.
    • A length of material (e.g. plastic covered wire mesh, fine mesh chicken wire or clematis mesh) can be hung over the edge of the water body to provide a substrate which hedgehogs are able to climb up to help them escape. This should be anchored at the top and the bottom of the wire mesh.
  • Water levels within ponds should be kept topped up to a sufficient level that ensures that hedgehogs can reach slipways if they fall in.(D87)
  • Well fitting plastic grid pond covers are commercially available, designed primarily to prevent children falling into garden ponds by covering the entire water surface. Provided the mesh is of sufficiently small gauge, they are also useful in preventing hedgehogs from falling into the water.(W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • Outdoor swimming pools should be equipped with polystyrene or wooden floats at their margins which provide a safe platform for hedgehogs which fall into the water to cling to.
    • Pools should be checked every morning for evidence of hedgehog casualties.
    • Hedgehogs which may have been in the water for some time should be assessed for hypothermia (see: Chilling - Hypothermia) and exhaustion and may need treatment following inhalation/ ingestion of chemicals used to clean the water. 
    • Tight-fitting covers should be placed over swimming pools every night, where possible, to prevent hedgehogs falling into the water.
      • Hedgehogs may get caught beneath bubble-plastic covers. (V.w56)
    • When pools are drained, they can act as a large pitfall trap if left uncovered (B255.2.w2). Large planks should be placed within the pool, and leant against its edge, to provide a temporary escape ramp. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • During rainy weather, other garden objects may become temporary water containers and as such, may pose a threat to hedgehogs and other small mammals e.g. sand pits, buckets, paddling pools. (D87)
  • Netting is sometimes placed over ponds in an effort to prevent leaves falling into the water or herons reaching ornamental fish. However care should be taken since hedgehogs may become entangled in this mesh. (D88) (see: Netting and Traps section on this page)
  • Containers such as pots, which may collect enough water for a hedgehog to fall into, should be left upside down.

(B255.2.w2, B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D75, D79, D84, D87, D88, D90, D103, W51.July2002.WEH2, W93.July2002.WEH3 W99.July2002.WEH1, W99.July2002.WEH2, V.w26, V.w56)

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Litter and Refuse
  • Inadequate disposal of domestic litter and refuse poses a particular hazard to a variety of wildlife species.
  • All domestic refuse should be correctly disposed of and should never be allowed to litter gardens or other habitats.
  • Domestic litter commonly includes left over food scraps which will attract a variety of wild mammal species if not disposed of correctly.
  • Mammals will commonly attempt to remove food remnants from the base of discarded food cans, polystyrene or paper cups, crisp packets, yoghurt pots, cartons and other food containers. The heads or bodies of small and medium sized mammals may become trapped within these rubbish containers.
    • Animals may be unable to release themselves without intervention and may become dehydrated or starve (See: Starvation) unless freed. 
    • Young animals may become trapped within rubbish which is loose-fitting in the first instance, but becomes tight as the animal grows, and may then act as a ligature, cutting into the skin and creating wounds.
    • Wounds can be caused by continual chafing against rough or sharp edges of rubbish containers.
    • Pressure necrosis may develop below areas where the animal was trapped. After the animal is freed, it should never be immediately released because of the risk of further tissue breakdown, but should first be monitored for a period of several days. 
    • For further information see: Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring.
  • Litter with sharp edges poses an obvious hazard to wildlife, domestic pets and children alike, and should be disposed of safely. Examples include metal ring pulls from old fashioned drink cans, broken glass etc.
  • Litter should be disposed of in sealed dustbin liners and kept in plastic or metal dustbins until collection. The lid of the dustbin should be close-fitting and kept in place with a fastening to prevent opening by wild animals such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes - Red fox) or feral cats (Felis catus - Domestic cat). 
  • Litter bins in public parks and the street should be designed to prevent access from wildlife species (e.g. letter box-like opening) and should not be open-topped.
  • Bottles and cans for recycling should not be left in open topped containers in the street overnight prior to collection.
  • Refuse sacks should be tied tightly so that the contents cannot blow away.
  • Refuse sacks left outside a solid bin may be broken into.

(B275, V.w56)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehogs commonly become caught within discarded rubbish containers such as food cans, cups and bottles. All food containers should be flattened before they are disposed of, to ensure that hedgehogs cannot become trapped within them.
  • The spines of hedgehogs make them more vulnerable to becoming trapped within rubbish containers. When the hedgehog pushes into a small container headfirst the spines tend to lay flush against the skin making the overall profile most narrow. When the hedgehog tries to reverse out from a small space, the spines may become caught and spread outwards, effectively increasing its size and preventing escape.
  • Plastic loops from the top of drinks cans pose a particular hazard to hedgehogs whose body may become caught within a single loop.
    • This occurs most frequently for juvenile hedgehogs because of their small body size. 
    • As the hedgehog then grows the non-expanding plastic will cut into the skin and create wounds with the risk of associated pressure necrosis affecting local tissues.
    • Cutting the individual plastic loops on a drinks can fastener, before its disposal, makes it safe for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
  • When disposing of food cans, the lid should always be removed completely from the top of the can. If the lid is left partially attached to the rim and folded inwards, it can act as a trap-door, preventing exit of hedgehogs who have pushed their head inside, increasing the likelihood of their becoming trapped or injuring their nose.
  • Hedgehogs may make summer or winter nests in refuse sacks which have been left open within the garden. Check open garden sacks for hedgehog nests before disposing of them.
  • Preferably leave refuse sacks off the ground, if possible inside a dustbin, to prevent hedgehogs ripping them open and entering them looking for food, or making a nest inside them then getting thrown away with the rubbish. 

(B257.2.w3, B275, B337.A5.w11, D75, D76, D84, D87, D88, D90, W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26, V.w45, V.w56)

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Drains, Holes and Ditches
  • Garden habitats may contain a variety of drains and pipes associated with drainage and water supply to buildings.
  • Holes of variable size and ditches with steep sides can be created as part of gardening work and landscaping.
  • Wild animals may accidentally fall into uncovered drains, holes or ditches and become trapped if the walls are steep and the animal cannot climb out to escape.
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehogs may fall into small drains, holes or ditches and become trapped, sometimes tightly wedged, in these spaces.
  • Larger pits, including e.g. a child's sandpit dug into the ground, may act as a trap for hedgehogs if the sides are vertical. (B255.2.w2)
  • Temporary or permanent holes and ditches (e.g. fence post holes) should be equipped with escape ramps wherever possible to allow hedgehogs to escape.(D87)
  • Outside drains should be covered using a mesh grate to prevent hedgehogs falling inside.
  • Outdoor piping should have mesh grate covers placed, wherever possible, to prevent hedgehogs entering them and becoming trapped.
  • Uncovered drains, garage inspection pits, bean trenches etc. should be inspected each day in case a hedgehog has become trapped.
  • If hedgehogs become tightly caught within a drain or similar other small hole, they can be removed by carefully clamping two pairs of pliers at the base of spines over two separate areas of the body and gently lifting the animal. Excessive force should not be used and advice from experienced personnel is advised if in doubt. 
  • (See: Catching and Handling of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog)

(B151, B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D87, D88, D90, W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26 )

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Pesticides (Insecticides, Molluscicides, Herbicides, Fungicides)
  • Commercially available pesticides for use in the garden contain a large variety of chemicals from different families with various modes of action.
  • Human safety is a paramount consideration during pesticide use and application. Strict adherence should be paid to the manufacturers instructions in all situations.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) "investigates deaths of wildlife, including beneficial insects and some pets, where there is strong evidence that pesticide poisoning may be involved. This Scheme allows members of the public and interested organisations to submit carcasses or suspected baits. The Scheme also provides a unique means of post-registration surveillance of pesticide use, so that product approvals can be revised if necessary. In addition, it provides a measure of the success of the pesticide registration process, and helps in the verification and improvement of the risk assessments made in this process. Evidence from the Scheme may also be used to enforce legislation on the use of pesticides and the protection of humans, food, the environment and animals". WIIS also organises "The Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife which is aimed at protecting some of Britain’s rarest birds of prey and wildlife".
  • The use of chemical pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, molluscicides and herbicides, should be avoided wherever possible. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • When considering wildlife, organic gardening techniques are preferable to the use of chemical pesticides.
    • Soapy water can be used to spray aphids and greenfly on plants.
    • Natural repellent plants can be used e.g. marigolds, peppermint plants.
  • Pesticides may kill both target and non-target invertebrate species and will therefore reduce food availability for a number of other wildlife species which rely wholly or partially on insectivorous or mollusc diets.
  • Toxic effects may arise from direct consumption, or exposure to, pesticides (primary exposure) or from ingestion of prey species which have eaten, or been exposed to, the agent (secondary exposure).
  • Herbicides will kill weeds and other vegetation which may provide habitat and food for a variety of invertebrate species as well as ground cover providing seclusion, shelter and potential nesting sites for wild mammals. (D88)
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Pesticides used within the garden often target, or unselectively kill, invertebrate species which form an important part of the hedgehog diet (e.g. caterpillars, slugs, beetles). (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Natural Diet (Literature Reports))
    • Pesticide use can therefore reduce local food availability, making habitats less favourable for hedgehogs.
    • Avoid use of chemical pesticides where possible. 
  • Hedgehogs feed on invertebrate species in the garden and can therefore be viewed as natural pest control agents. (D88)
  • Pesticides may be toxic to hedgehogs if consumed directly or if poisoned pests are consumed as part of the diet.
  • Pesticides may exert acute or chronic toxic effects; accumulation with prolonged exposure or bioaccumulation through trophic food levels may occur.
    • Chemical accumulation and storage tends to occur in fat and liver tissue; fat breakdown during hibernation and arousal may potentially release significant chemical residues over a short course. (B257.2.w3)
  • Organic gardening techniques to trap or kill slugs and snails should be practiced where possible.
    •  e.g. Half grapefruit skins (inverted and used to attract slugs) and beer traps (plastic pots or bottles sunk into the ground and filled with beer). (W99.July2002.WEH1, D79, D88)
      • However there is a risk that hedgehogs may drink the beer (if the top is wide) and be found collapsed near the trap. (V.w45) See: Alcohol Poisoning
    • Barrier techniques may be used with materials such as lime, soot, fine gravel or forest bark, placed around plant bases. (D88)
    • Abrasive materials such as prickly gorse, baked broken egg shell or thistles may provide a barrier which slugs and snails are reluctant to cross. (D101)
    • Biological control methods using parasitic nematodes within contained areas e.g. window boxes, greenhouses may be useful. (D88, D79)
  • Use of slug pellets should be avoided because they are toxic and can kill or harm hedgehogs. (B151, D79) (See: Metaldehyde Poisoning and Anticholinesterase Toxicity )
  • If slug pellets must be used, they should be positioned in a place inaccessible to hedgehogs and other non-target species e.g., within a narrow piece of pipe, beneath a stone slab. (D88)
  • All dead slugs and snails should be removed on a daily basis to reduce their consumption by secondary level non-target species.

(B151, B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D79, D84, D88, D101, W51.July2002.WEH2, W93.July2002.WEH3, W99.July2002.WEH1, V.w26, V.w45)

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Garden Fires and Bonfires
  • Garden fires are frequently made for disposal of garden waste throughout the year and large bonfires are typically constructed in early November for Guy Fawkes Night celebrations.
  • Human safety must always be of paramount concern when dealing with the risks of fire.
  • A risk assessment should be made as to whether it is appropriate to start a garden fire, in the first instance, and secondly to ensure a correct site is selected.
    • Man-made fires may not be recommended in regions with arid climate, in drought or in dry spells, because of the risk of uncontrolled fire spread. Seasonal or total bans on garden fires may operate in some areas.
    • Proximity to buildings, trees etc., with the potential risk of fire spread, should be considered when selecting a site for a garden fire.
    • Barbecues are preferred to the lighting of outdoor fires for cooking since they pose less risk to wildlife.(W99.July2002.WEH1)
  • Many wildlife species may take cover in garden litter collected for fires and risk being burnt alive if fires are not adequately checked for residents before being lit.
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehogs use piles of dry leaf litter, twigs and wood for nesting sites and material during the summer and winter. (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Nests - Burrows - Shelters (Literature Reports))
  • Garden fires should always be checked for nesting or hibernating hedgehogs before they are lit, by carefully turning over the material. Care should be taken if using a pitch fork to avoid injury to animals discovered in such checks. (See: Tools and Machinery (Pitchforks, Lawnmowers, Strimmers, Farm Machinery) section on this page)
  • It is recommended that the material for a fire be collected at one site and then transferred to the eventual site on the day of the fire to ensure that nesting hedgehogs are discovered before a fire is lit.
  • Hedgehogs which are caught within garden fires are presumed to be killed in the vast majority of cases. However, if live hedgehogs are found close to a fire and it is thought that they may have suffered from burns (e.g. charred spines), or smoke inhalation, they should be taken to a veterinary surgeon for assessment and treatment immediately. (See: Burns and Smoke Inhalation)
  • Pampas grass under management is often burnt back by gardeners. Tall pampas grass should also be checked before the fire is lit since it provides a suitable nesting place  for hedgehogs.(D87)
  • Burning garden refuse within a raised incinerator may be preferable to within an open garden fire. However similar precautions with checking for hedgehogs is recommended before the fire is lit. (W99.July2002.WEH1, D90)

(B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D87, D75, D84, D88, D90W93.July2002.WEH3, W99.July2002.WEH1, V.w26, V.w45)

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Cattle Grids
  • Cattle grids are used to prevent entry of hoof stock into garden habitat and to prevent exit of farm animals from areas of agricultural land.
  • Small mammals may fall between the bars of the grate into the shallow pit below and become trapped within that area unless escape ramps are provided. 
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehogs may fall between the bars of cattle grids into the pit below and become trapped. Although hedgehogs are good climbers (See: Activity Patterns - West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Activity Patterns, Grooming and Navigation Behaviour (Literature Reports)), they may be unable to escape if the ditch walls are steep and smooth.
    • If the ditch does not have adequate drainage channels, hedgehogs will be vulnerable to hypothermia (see Chilling - Hypothermia) or drowning (see Drowning) in adverse rainy weather conditions.
    • If trapped for a prolonged period, hedgehogs may be unable to feed adequately and starve (see Starvation), or become dehydrated unless rescued.
  • Construction of an appropriate ramp within a corner of the ditch below the grid will enable hedgehogs which fall in to escape.
    • The slope of the ramp should be approximately 20 in incline and it should be positioned in the corner of the pit, preferably at a position where cattle and sheep do not have access.
    • Construction materials used may be metal, wood or concrete.
    • The ramp should be approximately 20 centimetres wide (8 inches).
    • The ramp surface should be sufficiently textured to give good grip and should not be smooth or slippery.
    • Multiple escape ramps should be provided if the pit is partitioned or particularly large, or holes should be provided between sections, allowing a trapped animal to gain access to the section containing the escape ramp.
    (D85)
  • The problem of hedgehogs and other wild animals becoming trapped within cattle grids was first highlighted by Major Adrian Coles in 1982. The campaign for construction of escape ramps within cattle grids lead the British Standards Institute to develop specifications for escape ramp design. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) was founded following the concern generated within the general public due to this campaign.(D81)

(B257.2.w3, D75, D81, D84, D85, V.w26, V.w45)

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Tools and Machinery (Pitchforks, Lawnmowers, Strimmers, Farm Machinery)
  • Garden tools and agricultural machinery can inflict serious accidental injury on wildlife species, particularly those which shelter, nest or rest within areas of long vegetation.
  • Areas of garden habitat should be walked through and checked for resident wildlife as thoroughly as possible before clearance work is begun.
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Great care should be taken when forking or turning over compost to avoid injuring any hedgehogs nesting within it.
    • Compost heaps provide ideal habitat for nesting and hibernating hedgehogs. Check the sides and base carefully for hedgehogs before forcibly sticking a fork into the heap. (D79)
    • Hay stacks in agricultural outbuildings provide similar habitat and similar risks apply.
  • Great care should be taken to check through areas of vegetation to be cleared for hedgehogs before commencement of work.
  • Agricultural hedge strimmers, harvesting equipment and other farm machinery can injure sheltering hedgehogs. (B257.2.w3)

(B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D79, D84, D87, D88, D90, W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26)

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Netting and Traps
  • Garden habitats frequently contain a wide variety of netting, string and other mesh materials which can act as traps for wildlife. Nets vary in size, material (plastic, string, rope, metal wire), gauge / mesh dimensions and biodegradability.
  • Types of net include those used in fruit and vegetable cultivation (e.g. pea, bean, orchard, strawberry), sports (e.g. tennis, badminton and cricket nets, football and hockey goals), fishing (e.g. hand nets, lobster pots), animal enclosures (aviaries, rabbit and guinea pig runs) and boundaries (e.g. wire fencing).
  • A wide variety of wild birds and mammals risk becoming entangled within netting and suffering from possible ensnaring injuries (see Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring). When caught in netting, casualties may become dehydrated or starve (see Starvation) and will be increasingly vulnerable to predation.
  • It is important to consider that netting which blows over, or becomes loose, may be hazardous even if it was not considered to be a hazard while in place (e.g. badminton net)
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehogs frequently become trapped in garden netting. Fine gauge nets may become wrapped around the hedgehogs limbs. As the animal struggles, the netting may tighten around the limb and act as a ligature interfering with local blood supply.
  • Hedgehogs caught in netting must be released by cutting through the netting around the animal, using scissors or wire cutters as necessary. It is not usually possible to uncurl the conscious hedgehog and completely remove the netting in the garden habitat. (B151)
  • General anaesthesia is usually required to facilitate complete and safe removal of netting from hedgehogs and to examine local areas for evidence of wounds. (See: Catching and Handling of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog)
  • Hedgehogs which have been tightly caught in netting should not be released immediately because of the risk of local tissue breakdown due to pressure necrosis over the following few days. (B151)(See: Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring)
  • All nets and string should be kept at least 30 centimetres or 9-12 inches above ground level to prevent hedgehogs from becoming entangled.
  • All lengths of netting should be kept taught without loose ends in which hedgehogs may become entangled.
  • Sports nets should be kept rolled up of the ground when not in use.
  • Barbed wire should be kept off the ground. It should not be left with an end trailing, or discarded and left lying on the ground.

(B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D76, D84, D87, D88, W93.July2002.WEH3, W99.July2002.WEH1, V.w26)

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Pets
  • Domestic cats (Felis catus - Domestic cat) and dogs (Canis familiaris - Domestic dog) are frequently left unattended in garden habitats to exercise. Both cats and dogs may attack, injure and kill wildlife species within the garden with variable frequency dependent on individual animals and circumstance.
  • Great concern exists over the number of wild birds and mammals killed each year by domestic cats.
    • In a recent survey, The Mammal Society estimated that cat kills equate to approximately 275 million mammals and birds per annum. The importance of this predation should be evaluated both in terms of the negative welfare associated with predation and the potential adverse effects on species populations and therefore their conservation. Data currently available suggests that domestic cat predation does reduce local populations of wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus - Wood mouse) in garden habitats. Investigations on other species are limited to date, but it may be prudent to assume that high levels of cat predation could have a significant impact on garden wildlife species until the contrary is proven. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
    • Cats kill the majority of wild mammals at night and wild birds shortly after dawn. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • Responsible pet ownership should be encouraged to reduce wildlife kill following cat or dog attack.
    • Domestic cats should preferably be kept inside at night to prevent them being able to hunt. 
    • It is recommended that cats be given their main meal in the late afternoon to encourage them to return home at this time, after which they will be satiated, and can easily be kept inside over night.
    • Commercial ultrasonic cat deterrents are available and are designed to keep cats away from specific high risk areas.
    • Cat collars with bells and ultrasonic deterrents are also available but their efficacy is questionable, particularly in the long term.
    (W51.July2002.WEH2)
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

(B151, D87, W51.July2002.WEH2, W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26)

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Garden Sheds and Outbuildings
  • Garden habitats may contain a number of outbuilding including sheds, garages, greenhouses, stables etc. 
  • Wildlife species may use areas within, around or beneath such buildings for shelter or sites for nests, dens, setts etc. 
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Hedgehog nests may be constructed in, around and under sheds and outbuildings. (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Nests - Burrows - Shelters (Literature Reports))
  • Hedgehogs which enter garden sheds may fall into open cans of paint, preservative, tar or similar, and trays of old sump oil (See: Oil) Always replace the lids or cover containers when not in use.
    • Hedgehogs which have been contaminated with oil, paint, tar etc, are in need of specialist treatment and should be transferred to an experienced wildlife hospital immediately. (See: Oiling))
  • Any shed or other outbuilding which is normally left with open access at night, or has been left open for a time, should be checked for evidence of hedgehog nests before the door is closed as there is a risk of trapping animals inside.
  • Take care when demolishing a shed or clearing out a shed in case a hedgehog has nested underneath or in the contents.

B257.2.w3, B337.A5.w11, D87, W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26)

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Demolition and Construction Work
  • Building, demolition and construction work can result in disturbance of wildlife species and potential destruction of their areas of shelter (nests/ dens/ setts) with adverse effects on their home ranges or territories.
  • Legal protection prevents disturbance of certain species and their habitats during demolition or construction work. Full consultation should be made to the appropriate legislation and professional advice sought where necessary. (See: Wildlife Casualty Legislation (with special reference to UK Wildlife))
  • Every attempt should be made to limit demolition and construction work within the breeding season of species likely to be resident in areas to be worked upon. In this way, disturbance of nests and litters of dependent offspring, which can lead to abandonment by the parents, can be avoided.
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

(W93.July2002.WEH3, V.w26)

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Ground Vegetation and Cover
  • Planting native species and allowing areas of the garden to run fallow provides a diversity of plant species. These may attract a wide variety of invertebrate life and offer seclusion, shelter and possible nesting sites to a variety of wild species.
    • Examples include cornflower annuals, brambles, nettles, hawthorn, cottage garden and woodland flowers, shrubbery, long meadow grasses, herbs. (W99.July2002.WEH1, W51.July2002.WEH2)
    • Recommended wildflowers include "bird's foot trefoil, vetch, hawkweed, wild white clover, bluebell, broom, wild cornflower, hound's tongue, common knapweed, lady's smock, wild marjoram." (D79)
    • Native wild flowers should be grown from seed and must never be taken from the wild. (D79)
      • It is illegal to dig up native wild flowers from the wild without the permission of the owner or occupier of the land on which they are growing. (W69.Jan04.w1)
      • One source of seeds suggested by The Wildlife Trusts is Emorsgate Seeds.
    • Recommended garden plants include "buddleia, scabious, ice plant, michaelmas daisy, phlox, sweet william, marigolds, sunflowers, ornamental grasses, wild irises, pyracantha, snowberry, hostas and cotoneaster." (D79)
  • Provision of ample ground cover is beneficial to a variety of wildlife species which are predominantly secretive and benefit from vegetation in which they can hide from predators, and that provides shelter. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • Garden lawns which are not treated with pesticides provide useful sources of invertebrates e.g. earthworms. (W99.July2002.WEH1)
  • Invertebrate species do not favour areas of bare earth but prefer to inhabit damp areas with ground cover including plants and mulch. (D88)
  • The type of soil, dampness, shade etc. should be considered when deciding which flowers to choose for your garden. (W69.Jan04.w1)

(W99.July2002.WEH1, W51.July2002.WEH2, W69.Jan04.w1, D79, D88)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Attractive garden habitats for hedgehogs provide ground cover and ample vegetation to support rich and diverse invertebrate populations which represent their prime food source as insectivores. (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Natural Diet (Literature Reports))
  • Old logs and wood piles attract invertebrates and fungi, provide a good local food source for hedgehogs and possible nesting sites.(W99.July2002.WEH1, D79)
  • Stone crazy paving with cracks and gaps provides useful habitat for invertebrates and is preferred to solid concrete, continuous flag stones, tarmac or decked gardens.
  • Placing garden rubbish (e.g. grass, leaves, twigs) and mulch along the base of boundaries and hedges will help to provide possible nesting sites and materials for hedgehogs.(D88)
  • Leaf litter provides a good foraging habitat for hedgehogs. (B274)
  • Take care when mowing or strimming an area of grass or other vegetation which has been allowed to grow long: there may be a hedgehog hidden inside it which could be badly injured by a strimmer or other tool. 

(B274, B337.A5.w11, D79, D81, D84, D88. W99.July2002.WEH1,V.w26)

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Nesting Sites and Materials
  • The availability of nesting sites and materials is an important factor affecting the distribution of many wildlife species.
  • Marked species variation exists as to ideal nest locations and nesting materials.
  • When designing a garden, try and leave at least some area of the garden to run wild with vegetation which provides a variety of useful ground nesting sites and materials for a variety of species. 
  • Do not tidy away all leaf litter, grass and other cuttings from the garden. If necessary, collect them into a corner of the garden which can be devoted to wild animals.
  • Man-made nesting boxes are commercially available or may easily be constructed in the work shop.
    • The design should be adjusted to the species which the nesting box hopes to attract (e.g. hedgehogs, bats, various birds). Consideration should be given as to the appropriate size of the box, entrance size and position, roof pitch and elevation etc. 
    • Nest boxes should be placed outside the reach of predator species such as domestic cats. 
    • Species-specific advice should be sought from expert individuals and organisations for further details on nest box design and placement, for example the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and The Mammal Society
West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Availability of appropriate nest sites and nesting materials are important factors limiting hedgehog distribution. (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Nests - Burrows - Shelters (Literature Reports))
  • Brambles, hedges, evergreen shrubs and pampas grass provide useful bases for nest construction.
    • Leave garden rubbish (e.g. grass, leaves, twigs) under and around these plants to offer suitable nesting materials for hedgehogs in the area.
  • Compost heaps provide attractive nesting sites and materials for hedgehogs and also offer excellent habitat for invertebrate species on which they can feed.(W99.July2002.WEH1, D88)
  • Old logs and wood piles attract invertebrates and fungi, provide a good local food source for hedgehogs and possible nesting sites.(W99.July2002.WEH1, D79)
  • Three or four logs may be arranged to leave an appropriate sized hole for a hedgehog to nest in (big enough for the hedgehog and its nest) and covered with masses of twigs and leaves. (B274)
  • Artificial hedgehog boxes should be located in a quiet undisturbed area with ground covering vegetation, preferably against a bank, wall or fence.(D79, D83)
    • Dependent on season, the box should be situated in shade in the summer and in a sheltered position in the winter. (D87)
    • The entrance should not face towards the north or north east, to avoid cold winds in the winter. (D83)
    • Boxes may be positioned in regions where hedgehogs have previously been seen to nest if they appear appropriate. (D87)
  • Suggested designs for hedgehog nesting boxes include:
    • "A plastic pot with its bottom removed tied onto a large plastic bin bag".(D87)
    • Breeze blocks covered with a paving slab roof. (D87)
    • Plastic swing bin laying on its side. (D87)
    • Inverted pet basket. (D87)
    • Rigid wooden boxes made from timber (e.g. 100 x 12 sawn strip or ply) with a removable lid covered with roofing felt. (D87)
    • Strong cardboard box with ventilation holes (15 x 5 centimetres) and an entrance (15 cm diameter) covered with nesting material (grass, straw, dead leaves) and finally a waterproof plastic cover. (D83)
    • Inverted milk crate with an entrance hole (14 cm diameter). (D83)
    • A fairly permanent construction made of wood or brick is recommended by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (Website Ref - W82 - British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS)) with a central chamber, narrow entrance tunnel, insulating layer of soil and leaf litter covered by polythene sheeting. (D83)
    • A 12 inch (30 cm) cube, with a removable lid (for inspection), waterproofed using roofing felt (which should overhang the sides) and provided with an air inlet in the form of a piece of hosepipe set into it at an angle. The box may be entered by the hedgehog along an entrance passage, 15 inches (45 cm) long and 6 inches (15cm) wide and high.  The box should be lined with a thick layer of dry newspaper and then filled with bedding such as dry straw. (D82)
    • A 13 x 12 x 16 inch (30 3 x 30 x 40.5 cm) box constructed from marine ply and fully waterproofed, partially filled with dry leaves and grass, but keeping the entrance clear, placed in a quiet area of the garden and covered with soil. (B275)
  • It has been recommended that when supplying artificial hedgehog 'houses' or nesting boxes, they should be solid in construction (e.g. cemented brick with a solid roof and long narrow entrance) to reduce the potential risks of foxes or badgers disrupting hedgehog nests and killing the hoglets. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • Wood used in the construction of man-made hedgehog homes should not be treated with creosote, or other preservatives which may be toxic. (D87)
  • It is not recommended that the top of hedgehog boxes be permanently attached since it may be necessary to clean the box in the future. (D83)
    • The box should be cleaned after hibernation; the box should be carefully checked for occupants by noting whether supplementary food is taken. (D83)
    • Alternatively, light sticks can be placed across the entrance and their displacement may be used to suggest that an animal is still resident.
  • The floor of all artificial hedgehog boxes should be covered with a substrate that will not cause injury to the occupants feet (e.g. earth or newspapers). (D83)
  • Provision of dry leaves, chopped hay, straw or shredded newspapers within artificial hedgehog nesting boxes may be useful for nesting material. (D83, D87)
  • It must be remembered that although man-made hedgehog boxes may be offered, hedgehogs may not choose to use them and instead select natural sites. (D87)
  • Artificial hedgehog nest boxes should not be frequently checked for occupancy since this will disturb resident hedgehogs.

(B275, D75, D79, D82, D83, D84, D87, D88, W51.July2002.WEH2, W99.July2002.WEH, V.w26, V.w45)

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Feeding Wild Animals
  • Feeding wild animals in your garden can be very rewarding and may provide excellent opportunities to watch the animals.
  • Providing water is usually just as important as providing food.
  • It is important to consider how food will be provided if you go away, particularly if you are providing food during the winter and animals may have come to depend on this food source.
  • It is important to recognise that food left to encourage a favoured species may also attract other species which are not wanted.
  • Providing food encourages animals to congregate at the feeding site and this may increase the risk of transmission of disease.
    • Food provided should always be fresh, not mouldy or rotten.
    • Spilt food should be cleaned up regularly (at least weekly)
    • It may be sensible to move the feeding site so that spilt food and droppings from feeding animals do not build up in one place.
    • Ideally utensils (bowls, hanging seed containers etc. should be thoroughly washed and disinfected regularly using 5% sodium hypochlorite solution or a safe disinfectant (e.g. Tamodine-E, Vetark), then rinsed thoroughly before re-use.

    (W84.Feb04.w4, D48)

  • Food must be provided in suitable containers for the species being fed. 
    • Steel mesh containers are the only safe way to offer nuts to wild birds. (W84.Feb04.w3)
    • Nylon mesh bags (provided containing fat balls or peanuts) are dangerous since feet, and even the tongues of some birds, may become trapped in them. (W84.Feb04.w3)

(W84.Feb04.w2, W84.Feb04.w3, W84.Feb04.w4, W84.Feb04.w5, W84.Feb04.w6, W84.Feb04.w7, W84.Feb04.w8, W84.Feb04.w9, D48, V.w5)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • A fresh supply of water made available may encourage hedgehogs to use a garden on a regular basis.
    • It is particularly beneficial to make sure that water is available in very hot weather.
  • Food such as dog food or cat food (tinned or dry) should be left in a bowl under a cover so that hedgehogs can get at it but cats and dogs cannot. Pictures of appropriate feeding stations are provided at the top of this page.
  • See: Feeding of Casualty Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog (Techniques) for more details of appropriate foods.

(B337.A5.w11)

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Authors & Referees

Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26); Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Kay Bullen (V.w45); Dru Burdon (V.w56)

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