• Yateley’s very own Happy Hedgehog Rescue wants to raise awareness of what people can do to help local hedgehog numbers.Jayne Morgan encourages people who find a hedgehog to throw a special hedgehog tea party when it is ready to be released.Hedgehogs she rescues will often be taken back to the people who brought them in, and Jayne encourages people to throw a hedgehog tea party with their neighbours.”When I take a hedgehog back, I tell people to get all their neighbours round, have some food and drink and then, for a couple of minutes as they let the hedgehog out of its box, everyone should have a look at it,” she explained.

    “Making visual contact and seeing a hedgehog in front of you really helps. It makes people want to do things to protect them.”Over half of Britain’s gardeners did not see a single hedgehog in their gardens throughout 2016.An annual survey published by BBC Gardeners World Magazine found a worrying decline in the spiky creatures visiting our gardens.Of the 2,600 people surveyed, 51% did not see a hedgehog throughout 2016, compared to 48% in 2015.Only 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.As well as a drop in hedgehog sightings, the survey also reported a decline in the number of garden birds, butterflies and ladybirds spotted.

    Jayne Morgan has been running The Happy Hedgehog Rescue in Yateley for seven years.Although the number of hedgehogs she rescues are increasing, she is aware that numbers of wild hedgehogs are declining fast.She said: “Just on my street, hedging is disappearing, lots of trees are being cut down and there are more cars than ever before.”This isn’t good for the hedgehogs and it’s only going to get worse.”

    However, the magazine survey did find that 60% of people said they had done something to help the plight of hedgehogs in the last year. Measures included not using slug pellets, keeping leafy areas for them and keeping an eye out for hedgehogs before using strimmers and lighting bonfires.The peak time for hedgehog activity is usually from July to September, when you are more likely to see young hoglets. But last year, hedgehogs were spotted much later by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), who also look out for them during their annual bird counts.

    A mother and her hoglets at the Happy Hedgehog Rescue in Yateley (Image: UGC)

    The Happy Hedgehog Rescue currently has around 200 hedgehogs. With warmer winters, litters are coming later and are struggling to get through the colder months.Jayne believes people will often try to keep hedgehogs as a pet if they find one outside during the day. But she emphasised that this is not helpful: “If you see a hedgehog out during the day then it needs help.

    “Putting it in a box in your house and giving it some food will not be enough. It will need medication and specialist care.”In the 1950s, the estimated hedgehog population in the UK was 30 million. This has now plummeted to just one million, with a third of this loss thought to be in the past decade.Lucy Hall, BBC Gardeners’ World editor said: “Gardeners are increasingly acting to help wildlife, but the question is can we do it fast enough to halt this sharp decline in numbers?

    “Our message to all garden owners is to see your outdoor space as a small-scale nature reserve – part of a network of gardens that link to make a great bit, valuable habitat.”Jayne agreed with this advice and said: “If everyone does just one thing, it will help hedgehogs everywhere.”She can’t believe that, despite their falling numbers, hedgehogs are still not on the endangered species list.The good news though, is that Wellington College in Crowthorne has recently shown an interest in becoming a hedgehog sanctuary. Jayne plans to go down and check out the grounds of the school in the next few weeks.

    Why are hedgehogs declining so rapidly?

    It is not entirely understood, but the main factors are thought to be loss of their habitat and road deaths.The fragmentation of their habitat is also a problem.Hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates, but they can’t do this if gardens are separated by fences or walls.

    How can I help the hedgehogs?

    Hedgehog Street recommends the following things you can do.

    • Log piles – collect any old dead wood and pile it up in a quiet corner of your garden. The bigger you can make it the better. This provides a safe, secure site for breeding or hibernating
    • Compost heaps – make an attractive nesting site. Open air composting is also great for creepy crawlies (AKA hedgehog food!) Watch out for hedgehogs when turning them with your fork
    • Leaf piles – can be used as a nesting site and are also good for bedding material for other nest sites or hedgehog boxes
    • Overgrown corner – pick a corner of your garden and leave it to go a bit wild. It will be great for nesting and hibernation sites, and also good for insects
    • Ponds – hedgehogs will benefit from having a year-round supply of water and will thrive on the added insects and amphibians. They are excellent swimmers – just make sure there is a gently sloping edge for them to escape from
    • Link your garden – make a hole in the bottom of fences or walls so hedgehogs can pass freely through your garden. 13cm by 13cm is big enough to allow them through, but too small for most pets. You can even put up a hedgehog highway sign to stop the hole being closed
    • Food and drink – they benefit from this, especially during cold or dry periods. Put out a shallow dish of water and any combination of the following foods – meat-based dog or cat food (dry is best), unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts, sunflower hearts, dried meal worms. Do not give bread and milk!

    Building a hedgehog home

    It is best to provide a natural feature like a compost heap or log pile. But you can also make an artificial hedgehog house (or hibernacula) or buy a ready-made one.Bear in mind these points when you set up a hedgehog home.

    • Put the house in a shady, quiet area of your garden
    • If the box doesn’t have a tunnel entrance, try to include an interior tunnel or dividing wall. This will prevent predators (badgers, foxes) from getting to the hedgehog with their paws
    • Use untreated wood – ideally locally grown timber, which encourages good woodland management practices
    • Consider putting in a trail camera to keep an eye on them

    Special Thanks to Surrey Live for their Article- https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/local-news/yateley-happy-hedgehog-rescue-encouraging-12574591