12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Six hedgehogs a laying

12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Six hedgehogs a laying

Hedgehog - Tom Marshall 

Christmas is in the air and here in Ipswich we’re starting to feel festive. Join our Wild Learning Officer in the run up to Christmas by celebrating some of the town’s wild spaces and species as we adapt the well-known words of 12 days of Christmas. Traditionally for the sixth day of Christmas we’d be receiving six geese a-laying, instead we’ve swapped them for six hedgehogs a-laying.

Hedgehogs are one of Britain’s few mammal species that hibernate when temperatures are consistently low heading towards a sheltered spot to spend the winter in.

Hibernation is a state of inactivity where animals lower their body temperatures and metabolisms and slow their heart rates and breathing so that they can survive the winter without eating for several months, when food is limited. Hedgehogs can however, on warmer days, wake up and forage for extra food and to go to the toilet with their bodies cleverly adapted to wake up if temperatures are dropping so low that they are at risk of freezing. So, don’t be immediately be alarmed if you see a hedgehog out and about in the winter. If a hedgehog seems to be moving about with purpose and looks healthy and plump, it is likely to just be taking the opportunity for a quick toilet break or a foraging trip.  

Let us know if you’ve seen a hedgehog and log your hog here

Hedgehog - John Hawkins Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Hedgehog - John Hawkins

Despite our lyrics for today’s blog, it would be surprising to find six hedgehogs nesting together in the winter, but they can be found in high numbers in the same area. As habitat loss is an ever-increasing issue for our wildlife, hedgehogs can be found maximising scarce nesting sites with several in one location, in individual nests. 

With suitable habitats and over winter nesting sites being a limiting factor for our prickly friends, turning a corner of your garden into a hog friendly zone can be a lifeline for this declining species. Hedgehog homes are becoming popular with gardeners but a survey carried out by the University of Reading revealed that hedgehogs preferred homemade homes or natural sites such as log piles, brambles patches, dense hedges and leaf piles over bought hedgehog homes. They also prefer dry leaves and pet hay or straw in homes over empty ones, homes in back gardens over front, and older homes that have been in place for a while over newly placed ones. It would seem that hedgehogs are animals that know what they like, and we would encourage everyone to leave a corner of your garden messy with logs, and leaves or perhaps adapting ready made/ bought homes giving hedgehogs their preferred nesting opportunity.

Check out our website for wildlife gardening tips here

Hedgehogs - Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography

Hedgehogs - Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography

Hedgehogs have recently been listed as vulnerable to extinction in the UK and they are currently a schedule 6 species meaning, that under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) they are protected from harm but the main reasons for their decline is not being addressed, such as habitat loss and fragmentation.

In a response to hedgehog numbers declining, MP Species Champion for hedgehogs Chris Grayling, has tabled an amendment of the Environment bill calling for hedgehogs to be a schedule 5 species, meaning that their nesting sites are protected, and developers have a legal obligation to survey for the presence of hedgehogs and mitigate for them on proposed new developing sites. 

Our friends over at Hedgehog Street are calling for people to sign the petition in support of this tabled amendment and they also asking you to write to and lobby your local MP, with the aim to get as many MPs to add their names to the amendment maximising the chance for the issue to be debated.

Head to Hedgehog Street’s website here to show your support

Ipswich can be proud of many things, one of which are our healthy hedgehog populations and our town being one of the country’s top hedgehog hotspots in one of them. This winter why not help our hedgehogs and provide suitable nesting sites in your garden and add your voice to ours and sign Hedgehog Street’s petition? We would love to hear from you if you do.