Gardening Times

IN the mid 1990s hedgehog numbers in Scotland were approximately 300,000 but in recent years they have been on the decline.

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Why?

Natural habitats for native mammals are disappearing fast throughout the UK, some mammals are becoming rare, vulnerable or even extinct and this is where you can do your bit to help them.

British hedgehogs are one of the three true hibernating mammals in the UK, (the other two being bats and the rare dormouse).

Hedgehogs get their name from living under hedges, bushes and dense vegetation and they grunt and squeal like pigs.

They go into hibernation (a process where they slow their body down and live off the fat reserves they've built up in the autumn) during winter by making a bed in a dry place using leaves and grass.

In the warmer months of March/April after several months of sleeping, they wake up thinner and hungry so a garden with short grass providing juicy worms, grubs and beetles is a welcoming site for this small, prickly creature.

Although they are insectivores they will occasionally eat frogs, baby birds, birds' egg and fruit!

If you want to leave out food, leave only cat food and water, never milk as many people believe.

This small creature will travel up to a mile per night in the spring looking for food and a mate. Their young, known as hoglets are born in May - sometimes a second litter in September which doesn't allow time for building fat reserves making surviving winter unlikely.

Did you know an average adult hedgehog has more than 5000 spines which are modified hairs as body armour to protect itself from predators like the badger? They start with just 300 soft spines to make the birthing process a little easier for mum!

They are a true gardener's friend yet endure some of the most dangerous journeys in a garden.

Believe it or not, hedgehogs are good swimmers but if they cannot get out of a fishpond with steep sides they will drown. To avoid this place a small ramp or log coming out of the water or have a shallow end.

Vegetable netting not in use lying on ground can get tangled in their spines and legs causing great discomfort and pain, so keeping garden tidy will help.

The most toxic danger is slug pellets which poison their food source.

It's a myth that wildlife will enter your home. Providing shelter and habitats for them will keep them at a safe distance. And first and foremost is your safety, so never try to pick an animal up.

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