Around this time of year hoglets are being born. The usual time for the first births of the year is May, though this can be earlier if the weather has been mild.
To give mum and babies the best chance of survival it is essential that the nest is not disturbed. We know how tempting it is to "have a peek" or show others the nest, but it could easily scare mum into moving nests, or even attacking her young, so please be patient. Offering meat based pet foods or chopped unsalted peanuts along with fresh water near to the nest site (though far enough away to ensure potential predators aren't alerted to nests) will help keep mum well fed. It means she won't have to travel so far to get the food she needs and therefore reduces the risk of her running into trouble and not making it back to the nest. It will also supplement the babies food, helping them reach a healthy weight for when they wander off on their own when food may not be so plentiful for a while.
Please take care when gardening, hedgehog nests are likely to be in long grasses, hedges, compost heaps and bonfire piles. It is vital that any area is thoroughly checked before garden machinery is used. Every year carers see so many horrific injuries caused by strimmers and mowers that could so easily have been avoided. Compost heaps should be checked before digging in the fork, and bonfires moved or at least checked immediately prior to lighting.
Ponds are great for wildlife, and hedgehogs will drink from them. However, they sometimes fall in but are great swimmers; the problem comes when they cannot escape because of steep slippery sides. Keep pond and pool levels topped up so the sides aren't so high. A sloping edge is ideal, but half submerged rocks could offer a lifeline to a tired hedgehog. Some members suggest putting a piece of hessian or plastic coated wire over the edge just into the water so the hedgehogs can use it to climb out. If possible check ponds and pools every morning after hedgehogs have been out and about overnight.
During dry spells hedgehogs have trouble finding enough natural food and drink so it's especially important to offer help if you can to prevent them becoming dehydrated and starving.*
It is fairly widely reported that hedgehogs are in decline; these are all very simple things we can do to ensure any hedgehogs visiting our gardens are as safe as possible.
As taken from newsletter issue 52 (spring 2009) of The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
* Petty Witter says " Remember, it is a myth - hedgehogs should never be offered milk or bread."