Hello to all wildlife aficionados in Bournemouth, Poole, and Christchurch. If you’ve had the chance to spot a small, spiky creature in your garden under the cover of the night sky, you’ve likely encountered a hedgehog, an integral part of our nocturnal ecosystem. These creatures are not just endearing, but they also play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. If you are privileged to host these captivating creatures, let us equip you with an understanding of how to care for these prickly yet charming guests.
The Intriguing European Hedgehog
Our diverse region, from the stunning coastal landscapes of Bournemouth, the dynamic urban life of Poole, to the historic allure of Christchurch, is home to the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). These creatures generally live between 2-5 years in the wild, but under favourable circumstances, they have been known to live up to ten years.
Despite their seemingly diminutive size, hedgehogs are true adventurers. They can traverse an average of 1-2 km per night, traversing gardens and open spaces across our towns as they hunt for food and potential mates. This extensive roaming is part of their ecological function, as they help in pest control by feeding on various insects.
Recognising the Signs of a Hedgehog’s Visit
A hedgehog’s visit to your garden can be an exciting observation for nature enthusiasts. Their shy behaviour and nocturnal habits can make them elusive, but signs of their presence can still be found if you know what to look for. Small, cylindrical droppings and disturbed areas of your lawn from their nocturnal foraging are key indicators of a hedgehog’s visit.
Feeding Your Spiky Visitors
Hedgehogs have an expansive diet that reflects their significant role in local ecosystems. While their natural diet is diverse, including insects, worms, berries, and even small rodents, it can be supplemented by providing water and specialised hedgehog food. This is readily available in pet stores around Bournemouth, Poole, and Christchurch. As an alternative, meat-based wet dog or cat food is also acceptable.
It’s important to remember that not all human food is suitable for hedgehogs. Bread and milk, for instance, are harmful to them and should be avoided. Similarly, feeding them large quantities of mealworms or peanuts can lead to nutritional imbalances and potential health issues.
Creating a Hospitable Space for Hedgehogs
Whether it’s the vibrant suburbs of Poole, the peaceful gardens of Christchurch, or the green expanses of Bournemouth, we can all contribute to making our spaces more hospitable for hedgehogs. A simple act, like leaving a corner of your garden undisturbed with piles of leaves or logs, can create a perfect nesting spot for them.
For those who wish to do more, consider investing in a purpose-built hedgehog house, providing a safe haven from environmental elements. Additionally, ensure ‘hedgehog highways’ are incorporated into your fences – small openings that allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens, facilitating their extensive nightly explorations.
Understanding the Challenges Hedgehogs Face
Today’s rapid urbanisation poses a series of challenges to the natural living conditions of hedgehogs. The use of pesticides, road traffic accidents, and loss of natural habitats are significant threats to their survival. However, by consciously making our gardens across Bournemouth, Poole, and Christchurch more hedgehog-friendly, we can contribute towards their conservation.
Welcoming a hedgehog into your garden, whether you’re based in Bournemouth, Poole, or Christchurch, is an opportunity to engage directly with nature and contribute to local biodiversity. By understanding their needs, providing food supplements, creating safe spaces, and helping reduce risks posed by urbanisation, we can assist these charming creatures to thrive. Together, let’s extend our stewardship towards our prickly friends and do our part to support our local biodiversity.
Because every pet’s a superstar at The Bournemouth Observer.