A Prickly Affair – helping wild Irish hedgehogs find sanctuary
Hedgehogs are undoubtedly one of the most unique of all Irish mammals. Weighing less than 1kg this insectivore has been part of the Irish fauna since supposedly being introduced by the Normans as a food source around the 13th Century. Since then they have fascinated folk the country over. They have earned their place on the Wildlife Act 1976 (amended 2000) to be included as a protected species.
Protected or not these prickly insectivores face all manner of problems on this fair island. Once numbering almost 40 million in the UK, they are now at risk from extinction there and a recent UK census has put the number there at just 1 million.
How are Irish hedgehogs faring?
We simply don’t know as a census has not been conducted for some time. If antidotal evidence is anything to go by, then they are in trouble. Simply ask any rescue centre and you will hear of stories from people who “used to see them every year but they seem to have disappeared” or the avid gardener who since using slug pellets “hasn’t seen a hedgehog”.
Another common tale is of the family in rural Ireland who used to watch big families of hedgehogs come and go yet “since the construction of the motorway” they have all but disappeared. A lovely couple from North Dublin who had been feeding ‘Sonic’ for years were devastated to find him dead in their uncovered pond, and a 9 year old Manchester United supporter lost sleep over finding his beloved ‘Spike’ trapped in the football nets in the back garden one morning.
Unfortunately the simple fact is that in many places we are losing our hedgehogs, a delightful, fascinating species that has roamed this planet, unchanged, for 15 million years. They are harmless creatures that wander the neighbourhood in search of food and then curl up under the old garden shed, make a nest, have their babies and hibernate. They are charismatic yet uncomplicated beings.
By changing a few simple things we can stop our hedgehogs going the way of their counterparts in the UK. We can save them. It is not too late.
What can we do to help protect and preserve these thrilling animals?
- Avoid using slug pellets, pesticides and weed killers. The active ingredient is metaldyehyde which is a toxin that when ingested causes convulsions and death. Let hedgehogs do the work or use natural alternatives like copper wire, ground egg shell, coffee grounds, beer traps etc.
- Cover drains and stop wandering hedgehogs getting into trouble.
- Leave an area of the garden wild. Leave out autumn leaves, hedge trimmings, logs etc to help not only hedgehogs, but also invertebrates particularly our bees which are also in danger.
- If you have a pond, place mesh over it. Hedgehogs can swim but they need a means of getting out or they will drown.
- If you do burn garden waste, please ensure there are no sleeping hogs inside and move the pile before you burn it.
- “A hedgehog out during the day is not OK”. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and generally only venture out during the day if disorientated, injured or sick.
- If you do find a hedgehog in trouble please contact your local wildlife rescue centre.
You can find a list here http://www.irishwildlifematters.ie
Yvonne McCann, Hedgehog Rescue Dublin
About: Hedgehog Rescue Dublin was established in 2013 with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and where possible release wild Irish hedgehogs. It is based in Rush, Co. Dublin. We rely solely on donations from members of the public and receive no funding whatsoever.
You can find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hedgehogrescuedublin