Hedgehog decline

  Forum Editor 16:23 05 Nov 2011

Watching 'Autumn Watch' last night,I was shocked to learn that Britain's hedgehog population has declined from over 36 million individuals to an estimated 1.5 million.

The reasons are obviously complex, but it is thought the main one is climate change - hedgehogs born late in the year don't have time to gain enough weight to last through the hibernation period.

Apparently we can help by feeding them regularly whenever we know they're in the garden. Meat-flavoured cat biscuits, sultanas, digestive biscuits, chopped bird-food grade peanuts, and water (no milk, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant).

If you feed regularly the hedgehogs will get the idea, and come each night. They'll gain weight rapidly, and you will ensure their survival into next spring.

  Woolwell 16:35 05 Nov 2011

Part of the problem is the increase in badger and fox numbers (both have learnt how to catch and eat hedgehogs). The decline in hedgehog numbers has been known about for at least 2 years.

  Forum Editor 16:38 05 Nov 2011


Badgers and foxes have been around for a long time, and were once in far greater numbers than now; surely they haven't just 'learned' to catch and eat hedgehogs.

I was under the impression that a hedgehog was pretty good at protecting itself - by rolling into a spiny ball.

  Woolwell 16:44 05 Nov 2011
  Woolwell 16:46 05 Nov 2011

I should have added that the removal of hedgerows and the disturbance of natural habitats also contributes to the decline of hedgehogs. I haven't seen one this year.

  Aitchbee 16:47 05 Nov 2011

I live in Glasgow.The only wild hedgehog I have seen is a dead one...flattened by a car tyre.

I agree with Woolwell. The increase of fox populations in urban areas all over Britain is causing the decline.

Putting out food for hedgehogs will only attract more foxes.

  Forum Editor 16:50 05 Nov 2011


I'm learning.

Badgers have always been the hedgehog's main predator - that's not a new thing. Urban foxes have indeed learned how to kill hedgehogs, and some are killed by owls - that's not new either.

The main cause of the decline in numbers is, however, the change in our climate. Warmer winters mean that lots of hedgehogs are not hibernating. The problem then becomes one of a shortage of their primary food items which are caterpillars and beetles. They resort to slugs and snails, and these can cause lungworm infestations, which will eventually lead to failing health and death. Smaller hedgehogs that do try to hibernate were born too late to accumulate sufficient fat to last through the winter.

Whatever the causes, their numbers have declined to a point which is causing concern.

  Forum Editor 16:54 05 Nov 2011


"The increase of fox populations in urban areas all over Britain is causing the decline."

No it's not.

"Putting out food for hedgehogs will only attract more foxes."

Not if you do it properly

  TopCat® 17:14 05 Nov 2011

Missed the programme, Peter, but will watch on iPlayer later. We are fortunate in having two adult hedgehogs just now, more or less permanent in our garden. Never the twain shall meet, I note from their behaviour, as the single feeding dish first put out when we thought there was only one caused some friction. This has been rectified by one dish each positioned well away from the other!

I see one is already preparing for hibernation deep under our pampas grass rootball, whilst the other is fairly active from twilight onwards: think he/she has designs on warmer accomodation close to the garden waste area.

I believe I was helpful in raising a brood of four plus mum at our previous home. For many nights the mother 'hog would bring her hoglets(?) for feeds to our garden; usually at around 2am. I would first hear the snuffling sounds coming from the little 'uns, as they tried to keep up with mother. I'm sure it was this devotion to 'duty' that began my late night sitting periods that continue to this day! o:) TC.

  Aitchbee 17:28 05 Nov 2011

Forum Editor - thanks for that great link - I will construct a similar feeding station for the area behind my flat.The only thing is, I do know that foxes are on the prowl also.

  Woolwell 17:30 05 Nov 2011

Slugs do indeed cause lungworm infestations and is a serious problem. They also carry ticks and fleas. Do not use cat or dog flea treatment on a hedgehog as it might be toxic. They may also be infested with fly eggs. I used to know a lady who ran a hedgehog hospital and took a few to her for care.

The young are hoglets.

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