A few hedgehogs are being spotted in Dulwich, sadly the most recently sighted was flattened on the tarmac near Dulwich College. But its luckier local relatives are still around our area, despite traffic perils, and there are positive steps that we can take to boast their survival chances.
Don't accidentally fence hedgehogs in. Adult hedgehogs walk up to two miles a night in search of food - mostly insects and invertebrates such as earthworms, slugs, millipedes and the like, plus any small rodents and other little mammals (dead or alive) that come their way. A thorough garden makeover that seals up all the gaps in fencing can shrink a hedgehog's foraging territory in half. It won't be able to eat enough to see it through the winter hibernation period. Hedgehogs can climb quite well, but they can't bite, dig or head-butt their way through solid barriers! An impenetrable line of fencing also cuts hedgehogs off from potential mates, leading to localised die-off. So leave a gap or two.
Don't burn leaf litter, fork compost heaps or strim under hedges etc., without checking that a hog isn't snoozing under there. Hedgehogs are active at night and sleep under dry leaves and twiggy litter during daytime. Most common injuries among wildlife hospital inpatients are strimmer cuts (often necessitating the animal being put to sleep), other garden tool injuries, burns - ands road accidents.
Don't use slug pellets - or any chemical insecticide. If you must use pellets put them under a low tile that hedgehogs can't crawl under.
Do put out clean water, in a shallow dish, for hedgehog visitors. Milk can cause severe upset stomachs in hedgehogs, especially young ones, leading to their death through diarrhoea/dehydration.
Do adopt an underweight youngster - anything that tips the kitchen scales at under 1lb (450g) in early winter won't have enough fat on it to make it through to the following year. Either overwinter the lightweight youngster yourself, in your home, shed or garage, or get it to a wildcare organisation who will keep it until Spring. Young ones need food, warmth (and if very young orphans, help with their toileting). Put on thick gardening gloves if you need to pick up a (usually curled) hedgehog.
Do put out a little support feeding for your garden hedgehogs, fresh raw mince, a small amount of meaty (not fishy) dogfood, a few hard dog or catfood pellets (to help clean teeth, hedgehogs have awful tartar and wear problems, muesli, dried fruit, scrambled egg (no white bread and milk please, just clean water!)
Do trail something (chicken wire a bit of rope etc) over the edge of sheer-sided pool/swimming pool as an escape route for hedgehogs that fall in.
Angela Wilkes Chair, Wildlife Committee
For more advice on sick, injured or underweight hedgehogs, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (01584 890801), London Wildlife Care (020 8647 6230), RSPCA emergencies (0870 555 5999), general advice: 0870 333 5999