5th May 2016
For those not already in the know, we’re in the midst of Hedgehog Awareness Week, May 1stto 7th!
During this time wildlife advocate groups including the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) work to educate the public to the plight of one of our most beloved and misunderstood native mammals. Hedgehog numbers have declined rapidly in the past decade and unless we all take immediate action we may lose these amazing animals forever.
The (BHPS) has issued some handy tips to make your garden safer for hedgehogs in the brilliant info-graphic below:
There are also a few other things you can do to help…
Ensure that hedgehogs can safely access your garden. A 13cm x 13cm gap in boundary fences and walls will allow them to get in and out during their nightly foraging patrols. Lack of habitat it putting hogs at risk due to exposure and starvation.
Check your compost heap carefully before going at it with the garden fork. A split second lack of concentration could be death to a hog.
Do not use pesticides or poisons in your garden. There are many wildlife and pet safe options to control garden pests, including attracting birds and hedgehogs to your plot!
Hedgehogs can swim but they can also drown. As with the guidance for ponds above, cover drains or deep holes if possible and always provide an escape route.
Make a feeding station from a large lidded plastic storage tub (35 litre or bigger). Cut a round hole in the side and insert a length of standard width drainpipe for the hog to enter though. Place it in a secluded part of your garden and pop and dish of meaty cat or dog food (no fish or gravy) and a shallow bowl of water inside. Alternatively you can use an unlidded tub tipped upside down with a doorway cut in it but it will need weighing down to stop it blowing away and you might find the odd cat or fox tries to tip it over with no drainpipe attached!
While we are on the subject of hogs it would be wrong of me not to take the opportunity to talk about those non-native species that are increasing in popularity as pets. We are of course speaking of the African Pygmy/Four-toed Hedgehog, the Egyptian Long-eared Hedgehog and the hedgehog-like Tenrecs (which are in fact not hedgehogs at all but through convergent evolution some species happen to look similar to them). There are other species available but I will not feature them here.
No one can deny that these angelic little animals are incredibly cute to look at they do not make good pets. Sorry folks, it’s true. They can be incredibly smelly and messy in their toilet habits and regardless of the protestations of enthusiasts these animals do not want to be our companions. These are solitary animals and while some Tenrecs are known to live with their conspecifics in the wild they have no interest in sharing their space with large primates like us. They also have vicious needle-like teeth and aren’t afraid to use them if they feel threatened just as they will use their defensive spines.
Lots of exotic hogs are advertised for sale as being “huffy”; read aggressive and fed-up with people bothering them! Don’t forget that these species are crepuscular and nocturnal by nature and won’t want to be woken up for play-time and bath-time (why do this, hogs don’t have bubble baths in the wild!) on our daytime schedule. In fact handling these animals can be incredibly stressful for them as can the presence of other pets and potentially small children. At a fundraiser earlier this year we were horrified to witness a pet owner produce an African Pygmy Hedgehog from a cloth pouch and proceed to pass it around members of the public in a very noisy and busy room full of people and their dogs. The hog was clearly in a heightened state of distress but upon being questioned the owners explained that it was fine simply because “it is our pet”. Regrettably they proceeded to hand the animal around (right in front of our exotic pet crisis awareness stall) until asked politely to take the poor animal home. We found this incident incredibly disheartening, it should have been the perfect opportunity to educate a pet owner for the benefit of their animal’s welfare but it fell on deaf ears. Over and over we see exotic pet behaviour completely misinterpreted to the detriment of the animal.
Shockingly we have even seen these animals advertised for sale in garden centres and have seen them in classified adverts for as little as £30 each when previously they commanded hundreds of pounds. It could be assumed from this that there must surely have been a significant increase in the number of animals on the market, both commercially and privately. As for as the more unusual species, the Tenrecs, we are very concerned as to where these animals are coming from and the route they are taking to the UK considering the tight controls on exports of Madagascan wildlife. Who knows, that cute face in the pet shop could be a wild-caught and illegally imported captive…
Join in this year's fun and fundraising by joining the official Hedgehog Awareness Week Facebook Event.
If you’re free on Sunday 8th we would love to see you at Hogs Rest Fundraising Afternoon for fun, cakes and refreshments!
And as always, don’t buy an exotic hedgehog or tenrec as a pet. Be awesome and be the change – for the animals!
Supported by Ladbrook Insurance, a specialist animal charity insurance provider.
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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)
Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations. She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations. Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.
Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna. She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions. Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own. She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!