Brighter days are here at last. The welcome signs of spring are all around: blossom on the trees; a puff of white cloud in the skies; and the aroma of freshly cut grass.
But for one of the UK’s best-loved animals, the onset of spring is a time of danger. As more of us get out in our gardens to trim our lawns and tidy up any messy edges, hedgehogs are at risk of serious injury, or in most cases sadly, death.
During the lockdown of 2020, as more of us turned to gardening to fill our days and get some fresh air, wildlife hospitals saw a huge increase in the number of injured hedgehogs coming through their doors due to strimmer accidents. Now, hedgehog rescue centres are making an appeal to the British public to prevent the same situation happening again this year.
Hedgehogs at risk
- With more people gardening during the COVID-19 lockdowns, hedgehog strimmer injuries and deaths have increased, which is contributing to the rapid decline in population of these prickly creatures in the UK
- Small animal rescue centres appeal for people to check for hedgehogs before manicuring gardens to help reduce the number of casualties
- One Voice for Animals UK set up in April 2020 to raise awareness of the challenges faced by rescue centres and to rally local support during this challenging time
Hedgehog rescues on the One Voice for Animals UK database are extremely worried for the future of these prickly creatures, which are already in decline. According to a 2018 report from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species on ‘The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs’, the UK’s hedgehog population was approximately 30 million in the 1950s; there are now fewer than one million hedgehogs left in the UK.
Ryston Rachel's Hedgehog Hotel, Downham Market, Norfolk
Rachel Brown set up Ryston Rachel's Hedgehog Hotel as a small ‘hobby’ rescue in 2014 and runs it on her own. She currently has seven hedgehogs in her home, and another five out with fosterers. Rachel has been releasing hogs steadily for a few weeks now: numbers overwintering in her care hit 33, an all-time high for the rescue. Last year, 206 hogs were admitted, which was a massive jump from the 105 of the previous year and a mere 49 in 2019. She attributes the increases to Covid lockdown meaning more hogs in need were spotted out in the day purely because people were at home. Rachel is asking people to check before Strimming or using garden equipment this spring.
Rachel said: “Strimmer-wise, I had six last year. Sadly, three had to be put to sleep straight away due to their awful injuries, two died before I could get them to my vet for assessment. One survived and was released.”
Ryston Rachels Hedgehog hotel is part of the One Voice for Animals UK campaign to educate people on the need to check their gardens for wildlife before using strimmers and mowers. Find them at https://www.helpanimals.co.uk.
Rescues at risk = hedgehogs at risk
With many large animal and wildlife charities closing the doors during lockdown, small rescues are struggling to deal with the influx of hedgehogs needing treatment. With growing food and vet costs, fewer volunteers able to be on-site, and no government funding or the ability to host fundraising events, many may have to reduce the services they offer or even close permanently, putting the lives of these prickly creatures at risk.
Val Green, Founder of One Voice for Animals UK said: “We have over 60 hedgehog rescues on our database and speaking to them, the consensus is that there has been a significant increase in hedgehog casualties and deaths since last spring caused by strimmers and other garden machinery. I would ask the public to please check thoroughly before manicuring their gardens as this simple act really could save a hedgehog’s life. Small rescues need our support more than ever at the moment, so if you can donate, whether that be money, supplies or your time, please do. Without their local communities rallying around them, many won’t survive, which will have a devastating effect on wildlife and animal welfare in the UK in the future.”
How to help hedgehogs
Check your garden, land or allotment for wildlife before strimming or mowing - carefully inspect all areas of long grass before turning on your lawn mower or strimmer. Thoroughly check boarders, hedgerows and areas of dense undergrowth for any hidden hogs or nests.
Make your garden hedgehog friendly – creating safe areas for the animals such as log piles, dense bush areas and leaf piles is advised. Don’t use slug pellets or other chemicals, they may poison hedgehogs and other animals.
Feeding As well as purpose-made hedgehog feed, wet or dry dog or cat food is ideal (but not fish flavours). Leaving a bowl of water out is also recommended. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so please NO bread or milk, and NO mealworms as it causes illness.
Little houses – hedgehogs need protection, so creating small box-like homes for hedgehogs is also encouraged. These can be perfect to store food for the animals too.
Hedgehog highways – talk to neighbours to ensure hedgehogs can move between gardens is another good step.
People wanting to help small wildlife rescues looking after precious hedgehogs and other animals in need can visit the One Voice For Animals UK database on www.helpanimals.co.uk, select the county or region they live in, choose sites to visit and decide for themselves which causes they want to support.
One Voice for Animals UK was set up in April 2020 to raise awareness of the challenges faced by wildlife and animal rescues across the country. A database featuring around 300 centres and charities, which are collectively taking care of approximately 22,000 animals, has been created to make it easier for people wanting to help those in need and the volunteers who care for them.
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