Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation in Ireland during spring months, ready to breed and forage for food. They mostly live in our hedges but have also been found in meadows, forests, and suburban gardens. Once they’ve awoken, they must significantly increase their weight during the summer months. They accomplish this by scavenging for food during the night and they may even travel up to 3km per night in search of food, putting them in danger.
Hedgehogs are one of the most commonly killed mammals on Irish roads. Hedgehogs could survive up to ten years however many do not make it past their second year. A study conducted on the age of hedgehogs killed on Irish roads found 54% of road-killed hedgehogs were less than one year old.
Hedgehogs are in steep decline throughout Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals they are usually not seen during their travels unless found killed on our roads. To gather more information on our hedgehogs and their distribution the National Biodiversity Data Centre and NUI Galway have come together to create the Irish Hedgehog Survey and are asking people to log their sightings of hedgehogs across Ireland. You can help by recording your sighting here!
What to do if you find one
If you come across a hedgehog in your garden you can leave them some food. The best type of food to provide them is a wet cat or dog food. Hedgehogs can not digest milk or bread properly, and fruit or nuts are not suitable either. They may still eat these items, but they may cause illness or injury to the hedgehog from digesting them. A shallow bowl of water for the hedgehog to drink from should also be provided.
You can also make your garden more hedgehog-friendly by doing some of the following actions. Check out our Hedgehog Guide too for some more tips and ideas!
Make your garden more attractive to hedgehogs. Leave an area that is never disturbed to become overgrown and allow leaves and twigs to build up. This will help attract insects that hedgehogs love to nibble on. This area will also be an attractive location for them to build their nest. If you have a garden pond, make sure that there is a gentle slope for hedgehogs. If this is not possible you should block access to the pond as hedgehogs can drown in water. The same goes for drains around your garden – fill or cover them to protect any hedgehogs from falling in.
If you are using a netting on your plants don’t let the netting reach the ground. This can result in hedgehogs becoming tangled in the net. Another gardening action to take is to be vigilant. Check long grasses before strimming/cutting. Also, check compost heaps before sticking your fork in to ensure no sleepy hedgehogs are hiding! Avoid using chemicals throughout your garden in particular slug pellets as these can be harmful. A slug pellet alternative is to use eggshells. Wash and crush used eggshells and then scatter these around the base of your plants to deter slugs.
Don’t forget to read and share our Hedgehog Guide with friends! And you can also donate to help us protect and support animal welfare by clicking here.