The hedgehog population has continually declined throughout the years: from about 30 million in the 1950s, to 1.5 million in the 1990s, and down to less than 1 million today. But what are the causes that led to the decrease in the hedgehog population? Here are 15 threats to their survival, as well as simple tips that you can do to help arrest their declining numbers.
1. Roads and Vehicles
Every year, 50,000 to 100,000 hedgehogs are killed in vehicular accidents. The most common victims are males searching for mates and youngsters looking for food. It is inevitable that vehicles and hedgehogs will cross paths because roads are located in hedgehog territories. So try to slow down at night when hedgehogs are active.
2. Man-made Barriers
Man-made barriers such as walls can prevent access to certain areas of the hedgehogs’ territory which means they have to look further to find food. Metal grills and wire fences are also dangerous because they can get stuck in them and get injured. It is not a good idea to install low level barbed wire as this can trap and kill hedgehogs.
3. Natural Predators
Badgers and foxes are usually found on the same territories as that of hedgehogs and are their primary natural predators. Smaller hoglets are also vulnerable to weasels, ferrets, and rats. If you want to feed hedgehogs, avoid leaving the food outside a feeding station because this also attracts other animals like foxes.
Adult cats may not be able to harm adult hedgehogs but they are certainly able to kill smaller hoglets. Adult dogs, on the other hand, can easily maul hedgehogs so be wary of behavior that may indicate that your pet is chasing or attacking a hedgehog.
Wood piles attract hedgehogs that are looking for a place to settle during cold weather. This natural behavior can seriously injure or kill the hedgehog when the fire is lit so check the wood pile for disturbances with a torchlight, move the sticks around, and look inside by lifting the base with a long stick.
6. Compost Heaps
Hedgehogs like to nest on a warm compost heap or a leaf pile and they may get stabbed when the pile is turned or mixed with a garden fork so check the pile before moving it. You may not be able to handle the hedgehog but once disturbed, it will try to move away.
7. Garden Trimmers and Lawn Mowers
Hedgehogs will rest in tall grass or hide in them. A sleeping hedgehog may be woken by the sound of the trimmer or mower and will be able to run away but a sick or injured hedgehog may not. So again, make sure to check the area before you begin to trim.
8. Garden Netting
Netting can cause the hedgehog to get trapped and complications may arise if it cuts off the hog’s blood supply. Suddenly releasing the tension by cutting off the netting may cause further complications. Prevent this accident from happening by ensuring that the netting is stretched, anchored, and if possible, elevated from the ground.
9. Slug Pellets
If a hedgehog consumes a slug that is recently poisoned, then, it runs the risk of being poisoned as well. Of course, there is also the possibility of the hedgehog eating the pellet so try to use alternatives that are nontoxic to wildlife like Ferric Sodium EDTA or use slug traps instead.
10. Rat Poison and Traps
Traps not only attract the attention of rats but also juvenile hedgehogs looking to nest in these boxes that are dark, dry, and safe in the corner of the garden. Recent studies show that majority of hogs analyzed post-mortem have rat poison in their stomach so try to use other trap versions that are safe for wildlife.
11. Oil and Grease
Hedgehogs are not interested in oil or grease for food but their curiosity may get them in trouble as these toxic materials can coat their bodies. Tins of paint, oil cans, and other similar materials should always have a lid and stored in proper locations.
12. Plastic Holder
Hedgehogs may get trapped in plastic holders for beer or other drinks because their spikes hold it in place and may die because it disables them while some grow into the ring and die because the plastic material cuts into them. Reduce hedgehog injuries by cutting the plastic holders before throwing it in a recycling bin.
13. Open Food Cans
While trying to retrieve food from food cans or cups, the hedgehog may enter the container headfirst and get stuck when it can’t pull its body out because its spikes lock them in place. Be resourceful and reuse the cans or squash them first before you throw them in a recycling bin.
Some people are trying to help by feeding the wild hedgehogs but they do not realize that they may be causing harm as well. Wet cat food usually comes in tin cans where hedgehogs may get stuck, milk causes diarrhea, and bread or cookies contain sugars but not enough nutrients. Try to research on what you can feed hedgehogs to supplement their natural diet.
15. Pools of Water
Hedgehogs are good swimmers but can eventually tire out and drown. Garden ponds, swimming pools, and drains allow the hedgehog to fall through but the steep and slippery sides will prevent them from getting out. It is a good idea to place a plank of wood on pools and ponds which the hedgehog can climb and to cover drains with chicken wire.
Although there are a number of threats to hedgehogs, we can still assure their existence by taking care of them and their natural habitat. Aside from that, these spiky mammals can be house pets. Domesticated hedgehogs are common pets and CostFreak quotes hedgehog costs at about $160 to $350. You can also take care of wild hedgehogs by providing them supplementary food, clean water, and a hog hut. It can be just as interesting to watch them come and go through your garden.
by Kristy Matthews of CostFreak.com