Did you know that each hedgehog can travel for up to a mile a night to find enough food to eat? While this might seem easy in the countryside, it’s possible that one of the reasons hedgehogs are declining in cities is because they can’t get around between gardens to find food.
That’s where hedgehog highways come in! By making a small hole in your garden fence, no bigger than a CD case, you can help increase the distance a hedgehog can travel to feed. Even better – if you can get your neighbours to join in you can create a whole network of gardens for hedgehogs to move around in. There are more hedgehogs than you might expect in London, including in our own Regent’s Park.
Creating a Hedgehog Highway
Depending on what kind of fence or wall you have, there are different ways to make a hedgehog highway. For a brick wall you may just need to remove a couple of the bricks. For a fence, you should be able to simply cut a small opening in the wood with an electric or hand saw. For a wire fence, you could cut a gap with wire cutters and place a piece of tubing large enough for the hedgehog to get through, or lift the fence slightly and place the pipe underneath. Check out these examples on the Hedgehog Street website! https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/link-your-garden/
Why not make a sign for your hedgehog highway? This lets everyone know why it’s there, and can be a fun activity to do with kids! Or if you’re not in a crafty mood you can order premade ones from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, with all profits going towards helping hedgehogs. https://ptes.org/shop/just-in/hedgehog-highway/
Who's using your Highway?
Want to find out if hedgehogs are using your highway? One way would be to set up a camera trap. There are lots of different types for lots of different budgets, and they can help you see your garden in a whole new way – you never know what kind of unexpected visitors are using your garden at night!
If a camera trap is a bit too high-tech, why not try a footprint tray? Fill an old, flat baking tray with damp sand, smooth it out, set a dish of food in the middle and leave it out all night. In the morning, check out who’s left footprints in the sand! Hedgehog footprints are five-fingered and look like tiny hands!
If you’d like to get a bit more serious about looking for footprints, you could set up a footprint tunnel. These are plastic tunnels which use the same principles as the sand footprint tray, but using paper and hedgehog-friendly ink (usually charcoal mixed with olive oil). The tunnel means only smaller animals can get in, and the food is less likely to get scoffed before the hedgehog can find it! There are guides to making your own available online, or you can buy a pre-made one.
If you’re feeding hedgehogs, unfortunately the old myth of milk and bread is a bad idea – it turns out that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant! Instead, feed them cat or dog food. A dish of fresh water is always helpful to lots of different wildlife too.