This week is hedgehog awareness week.
It started for me with a phone call from a person who had found a large hedgehog in trouble. After assessing its problems remotely, we decided that it was suffering, and had a genuine welfare concern, and so I was permitted to see it, even in lockdown.
It was delivered to us by the good samaritan, who brought his small daughter on this mercy run. How gratifying to find that the lesson of the day was caring for others. They had already named him Harry, and entrusted him to our care.
Later the same day I received a reminder about the risks to pets and wildlife of using chemical slug pellets in the garden. Vets receive loads of educational material every week, most of which I skim or bin. But this caught my eye, as a useful reminder.
Some slug pellets contain the poison metaldehyde. It is dangerous to almost all mammals and birds, as well as the target molluscs such as slugs and snails. It is a neurotoxin, attacking the nervous system. The slug bait is very tasty, and rather addictive to dogs, so they will consume it in large quantities, if they can get it.
They quickly become anxious and wobbly. If enough has been taken they may suffer convulsions, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and a racing heart beat. It can be fatal.
Hedgehogs are brilliant at reducing the number of slugs in a garden, and protecting all the gardener’s hard work. Surely encouraging these natural pest controllers is a better way than using chemicals.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is raising awareness and funds to support this species, which was listed of ‘principle importance to protect’ by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.
You could become a hedgehog champion for your street.
If we all provided hedgehog highways between our gardens, we could open up a lot of useful habitat for them. We can also provide them with log piles for shelter and food; check carefully before strimming or mowing; cover drains and deep holes, and provide escape routes out of ponds.
There are even more ideas on the britishhedgehogs.org.uk website.