We often hear about large mammals, such as rhinos and tigers that are endangered or threatened, but we often don’t hear about the fate of smaller animals that rely on our backyards for food and shelter. In the United Kingdom they’ve found that since 2002 the wild hedgehog population has declined by 30%. Now the hedgehog population in the UK is less than one million. To put it in perspective, this vast decline is comparable to the loss of tigers globally, according to the BBC.
The decline of hedgehogs and other garden wildlife has occurred for a number of reasons, such as “over-management of parks and green spaces, loss of gardens to paving and decking, less insects to eat because of the use of pesticides, [and the] fragmentation of home ranges by fences and roads.” To help garden wildlife thrive, it’s up to us to do our part to make our green spaces habitable homes for plants and animals. Below are some tips and tricks on how to bring back the hedgehogs and increase the biodiversity of our backyards.
Create Highways for Foraging
With the increase of roads, fences and other infrastructure, hedgehogs and other small animals can have difficulties foraging for food, finding mates and establishing nesting sites. Hedgehogs can travel across about 20 hectares/1-2 kilometers every night to find the food they need to survive. One way to help small garden animals navigate through backyards and green spaces is by cutting small holes in your fence to create “hedgehog highways”. A 13x13 centimeter hole should do the trick. In Britain they even have an online Hedgehog Street map where homeowners can register their hole.
Build Hedgehog Homes
To help ensure that hedgehogs have a safe home in the wintertime, homeowners can build shelters for hedgehogs in a quiet spot against a wall or fence. An enclosed space that’s warm and dry will help hedgehogs survive the winter and also become a safe place for female hedgehogs to rear and raise their young in the spring. Alternatively, you can make hedgehog homes by piling up pieces of spare wood or logs.
Bring in the Bugs
Hedgehogs love eating insects, and there’s no better way to help them out by encouraging more insects to live in your backyard. Wood and log piles are not only great habitats for garden animals, but they can double as a home for insects such as earwigs, woodlice and centipedes. You can hit two birds with one stone and provide hedgehogs with a home where they can also feast on their favorite food. Another way to attract insects to your yard is by raking leaves into piles and leaving them for hedgehogs to forage for insects such as ground beetles.
Create Wildlife Friendly Gardens and Greenspaces
Consider planting a wide variety of plants in your garden and letting the grass grow longer in at least a small area of your backyard. By doing so you can attract more insects for your garden animals to eat. Also avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides that can cause harm to wildlife. And before mowing your lawn or doing work in your garden, make sure that no hedgehogs or other animal has taken residence there.
Build Infrastructure that Encourages Wildlife
Ponds are a great piece of backyard infrastructure that are beneficial to lots of wildlife found in gardens and greenspaces. Hedgehogs love ponds and are able to swim, but building stepping stones can help them get in or out if they need some extra assistance. Also try to keep your backyards (and front yards) as green as possible. To help out hedgehogs and other wildlife, avoid paving or putting in decks over large areas.