Autumn hedgehogs

WildNet - Tom Marshall

It's that time of year again! The nights are drawing in and there's starting to be a bit of a chill in the air. After a rather wacky year of snow in spring and sizzling sun through summer, Autumn appears to be upon us and hedgehogs will be feeling it too!

Hedgehogs will generally be spending the coming month or so rustling around in the undergrowth preparing winter hibernacula and fattening up for the colder months ahead. You can help by keeping fallen leaves accessible in piles, and by ensuring there are plenty of nesting opportunities in your local patch. Hibernation nests require a support structure to keep the leaves in place, so a bramble patch, log pile or gap under a shed will be popular spots. You can find our hedgehog-friendly gardening tips here. You could also try making your very own hedgehog house; tips can be found from the Hedgehog Street website here.

The invertebrates hedgehogs rely upon will soon become few and far between. You can help them on their way by leaving out a dish of meaty cat or dog food, and a shallow dish of water. This is especially useful for mothers that have been busy rearing young, and youngsters that were born later in the season. Adult males are often quicker off the mark for hibernation prep as they haven't been involved in the rearing of young.

We often have queries about young hedgehogs at this time of year; remember that taking hedgehogs from the wild is a very last resort, and in many instances not necessary. If you are concerned about an underweight hedgehog, don't panic, there is still time for them to fatten up! You can give them a helping hand by leaving a nice supply of food in your garden and ensuring there are some cosy nesting sites near by. If the temperature falls and a hedgehog looks small and is acting ill or distressed, then further action may be required. You can get in touch with British Hedgehog Preservation Society for more advice. See some of our general advice here.

Autumn is a particularly hazardous time due to bonfire night. Remember to create your bonfire on the day it's going to be burnt, or move your stores to a new location so that there isn't time for any hedgehogs, amphibians or reptiles to take up residence.

Lastly, remember to enjoy watching your spiky visitors whilst you can! Why not make a feeding station on your patio so you can enjoy watching them scuffle around the food bowl through the window - they can provide hours of fun!