Delving into the world of hedgehogs, an intriguing creature renowned for its benefit to gardens and biodiversity, we find a myriad of fascinating facts.
Understanding the Hedgehog’s Role in Ecosystems
They are not just adorable creatures with 6,000 spines that they employ as a defence mechanism when threatened – curling up into a prickly ball. They are also beneficial to our gardens. Being nocturnal, they have a remarkable ability to travel up to 4 km in one night to feed on a diverse diet. They are natural gardeners that feast on snails, parasites, spiders and insects, keeping your garden healthy. Occasionally, their menu might stretch to fruits, snake eggs and small rodents.
Given their considerable benefits, France recognises hedgehogs as a protected species, making it illegal to destroy their resting places.
Helping Hedgehogs Survive the Winter
When the cold of winter sets in, hedgehogs seek shelters and safe havens. To help these beneficial creatures survive the harsh months, consider constructing a hedgehog shelter, ideally during autumn. From November to March, hedgehogs hibernate and require enough food to build up fat reserves and a shelter for the cold months.
How to Create a Hedgehog Shelter
Building a hedgehog shelter is a simple process that requires a wooden crate, a shovel, straw, and dead leaves. Start by digging a hole 7 cm deep and 15-20 cm wide. Position the crate upside down with the entrance facing north-east and fill it with straw and dead leaves. For the crate, steer clear of painted or varnished wood. Once the crate is ready, cover it with more dead leaves and secure it with stones or tiles to shield it from rain. To keep predators like rats or cats at bay, construct a narrow entrance of around 15×15 cm.
Choosing the Right Spot for a Hedgehog Shelter
Picking the right spot for your hedgehog shelter is as important as its construction. It should be in a location shielded from wind, heavy rains, and the blazing sun. A quiet spot away from the hubbub of human noise and traffic is preferred. Ideal places include near walls, hedges, under piles of wood, or under sheds.
Attracting a Hedgehog to Your Shelter
To entice a hedgehog to your shelter, create a serene environment where it can roam freely at night. Refraining from using pesticides is recommended, as they can harm these creatures. You can also consider offering treats occasionally near the shelter. Hedgehogs enjoy apple slices, a bowl of water, dog and cat kibble, or sausages. However, be cautious to avoid bread or chocolate – these could be toxic to them.