Where have all the hedgehogs gone ?

If there aren’t any hedgehogs in your area then there’s usually a very good reason. The main ones are :

(1) Badgers

Badgers may be cute but they spell danger for hogs

If there is a badger population in your area then the bad news is that badgers and hogs don’t mix.

Badgers, who like to eat earthworms like our beloved prickly friends, see hedgehogs as competition and have cleverly developed claws which enable them to prise open a curled up hog.

Badgers are the hedgehog’s only natural predator in the UK, so understandably we’d never consider releasing hogs into an area where there is an active badger territory

(2) Wildlife unfriendly gardening

It is thought hedgehogs need at least 15 gardens next door to each other that allow access and the ability for the hog to forage throughout the course of the night. Sadly, the incidences of having such a high number of gardens next to each other which are ‘wildlife friendly’ continue to plummet, due to the power of TV.

Concrete based fencing - functional but totally impenetrable for hedgehogs

As gardening programmes continue to encourage people to keep nice neat tidy gardens, with perfect lawns and plant arrangements, the number of wild scrubby areas which hogs like to hide away in during the day, and throughout winter continue to disappear at an alarming rate. With them go invertebrates that hogs like to feed on.

If you or your neighbours have a garden with decking, concrete driveways, a perfect lawn and nice pretty flowers don’t expect hogs (or indeed much wildlife at all) to come flooding in.

Of course, this all assumes the hogs can get into the garden in the first place – another ‘trend’ is concrete based fencing, making a lot of gardens completely impenetrable to wildlife in general.

The good news is there are relatively simple things you can do to help wildlife, and hedgehogs in particular. Natural England has some excellent advice on its website for wildlife friendly gardening, whilst the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have launched the excellent Hedgehog Street campaign which encourages neighbourhoods to make their gardens accessible and inviting to hogs once again.

(3) Decimation of habitat

Hedgehogs need woodland edges and thick hedgerow to construct nests and hibernacula. If you live in the middle of a housing estate with no nearby woodland (even a small copse) then that will explain the lack of hogs.

Having said that, some isolated communities of ‘urban hedgehogs’ are said to have developed strategies for coping with the decimation of their natural habitat – let’s face it, they have 15 million years of experience of adapting ! However, this brings them into close proximity to human beings and all the attendant perils of doing so, already described on our hazards page.

The good news is there are very simple things we as humans can do to make hogs’ lives a little easier, as explained on our attracting hedgehogs page.

(4) Insecticides

As we are continually bombarded with misinformation that insects are bad, despite being the most important part of the food chain, so our usage of insecticides increases. Unfortunately, some of them are detrimental to wildlife, not least slug pellets containing metaldehyde (generally the little blue pellets) which poison and ultimately kill everything which eats slugs such as hedgehogs and song thrushes. We would always advocate the use of organic slug pellets (if you have to use any).

Comments

  1. Deborah Moore says:

    We have 3 acres of scruffy unkept ground and haven’t seen any in last two or three years , no badgers around but farmland nearby????? Debbie

    1. clayts says:

      Farmland nearby will most likely be the explanation, more’s the pity – most farms will use pesticides or insecticides which kill off the natural prey items of the hedgehog, which means that they have presumably abandoned what you’d consider to be suitable habitat. This is why hedgehogs do much better in urban areas, rather than rural areas, where you’d think they thrive. Hogs have been on the planet for 15 million years and, whilst they are struggling at the present, their success as a species is down to their ability to adjust to our ever changing landscape. It is sad they’ve left your area, but this is something repeated up and down the land. The problem is we cannot artificially create new habitat for hogs – once they up sticks they are unlikely to return

  2. G Reese says:

    Sadly I’ve not seen a hedgehog since moving to rural West Dorset 6 years ago. The habitat (including food) is perfect for them, except we are overrun with badgers here. Every hedge row has a sett in it and the precious thin chalk downland looks as if it’s been invaded by wild boar.

    I have come down from rural East Yorkshire where the terrain and habitats are very similar – except for far far fewer badgers.
    Hedgehogs were plentiful there as were hare and ground nesting birds.

    Where I live now is a wildlife desert – apart from numerous deer and hundreds of badgers.

  3. clayts says:

    Whilst it’s not unheard of for badgers and hedgehogs to live side by side the problems come when natural food becomes scarce, and that’s when hedgehogs become badgers’ Number One enemy.
    Badgers are lovely animals, and as with all British wildlife, they will carve out a niche for themselves in the best habitat possible. Sounds like they are well set-up there (pardon the pun).
    Hedgehogs do exist in Dorset, as there is a hedgehog rescue in that neck of the woods, but sadly for you, not in your area.