If you see one during the day, it’s either unwell, a pregnant hedgehog gathering nesting materials or a recent mum taking a break from the nest to find food and water. You can tell the difference. If it’s unwell and in distress the hedgehog will be slow moving, lethargic or appear to be sun bathing.
In these cases, you should seek expert advice. Pick up the hedgehog carefully, protecting your hands with gardening gloves. Place it carefully in a high-sided box with a towel, fleece or blanket in the bottom for it hide under. Offer meat-based (not fish) cat or dog food and water. Visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website for more information on what to do. There is a handy FAQ section here.
If it’s preparing a nest it will be moving around quickly and with a sense of purpose. You don’t need to do anything in this case. In the summer, food should be plentiful. In dry weather leave out water in a low dish and keep it topped up. Leave Mrs Tiggy Winkle to get on with her business and don’t disturb her.
Don’t try and move it on, especially in the breeding season.
Hedgehogs are protected, in England, Scotland and Wales, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Schedule 6 and in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, Schedules 6&7. What this means is they are: “protected from being killed or taken by certain methods under Section 11(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The methods listed are: self-locking snares, bows, crossbows, explosives (other than ammunition for a firearm), or live decoys. The species listed are also protected from the following activities: trap, snare or net, electrical device for killing or stunning, poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substances or any other gas or smoke, automatic or semi-automatic weapon, device for illuminating a target or sighting device for night shooting, artificial light, mirror or other dazzling device, sound recording, and mechanically propelled vehicle in immediate pursuit.”
There are loads of things you can do to make your garden hedgehog friendly. There are plenty of ideas here.
- If your garden is fenced, make a hole in the fence at ground level about the size of a CD case for them to get in and out.
- Avoid slug pellets because these are poisonous to hedgehogs.
- Don’t be too tidy. Leave a messy corner of leaves and garden rubbish piled up for them to hide in.
- Never leave out bread and milk for hedgehogs – this can make them very ill.