It’s that time again. Wood smoke in the air, windfall apples lying in the grass, turning leaves, fine crisp mornings. Who doesn’t love Autumn?
Well, maybe not arachnophobes. It’s that time when sizable eight-leggers zoom across the living room carpet, drawing a nervous eye away from the TV. It turns out these beasties aren’t actually Autumn invaders. They’ve been living in the house with us all along. But Autumn is mating time for the house spider, and the hunt for that one lady spider who will make his life complete brings the “sex-crazed” creature out of hiding.
Food not love
Hedgehogs are on a mission too, but their quest is less romantic. It’s not love, but food they are searching for. They need to get as much flesh as possible on those little hedgehog bones before it’s time to hibernate in November.
Help them out by not being an over-tidy gardener. Piles of leaves, twigs and logs provide not just a cosy nest for hogs, but also first class accommodation for slugs, bugs and beetles, making them veritable hedgehog larders.
Now is also a good time to give hedgies a helping hand with some nightly snacks. The little creature has one enormous appetite, so some crushed or chopped unsalted peanuts, and sunflower hearts will go down a treat. And don’t forget a shallow dish of clean water. Absolutely NO milk though. It upsets their tums and gives them diarrhoea.
Juvenile hedgehogs that may be from a second brood of the year cannot survive the winter if they weigh less than 650g. If you spot a small hedgehog, DON’T follow the normal rule for wildlife which is leave well alone. Pick the little beastie up and weigh him/her. If your hoglet comes in at under 650g, phone your local hedgehog rescue. The little guy will need expert care over the winter.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and shouldn’t be seen in the day. If one does appear while it’s light, she may well be suffering from hypothermia. Place her on a warm (not hot) towel-wrapped hot water bottle in a box, in a quiet dark place, and cover the box with another towel or blanket.
Make your garden hedgehog-safe
If you’re strimming or mowing check corners and under hedges first, to avoid harming resting hogs. Remove any kind of netting – hedgehogs can suffer serious injury from getting entangled in strings, elastic, rubber bands, plastic and nets. Cover swimming pools, drains and holes. And if you have a pond, make sure there are stones or bricks a hedgehog can use to climb out if he falls in.
As the nights draw in, an Autumn bonfire is a thing of wonder. And Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes Night are just around the corner. If you’re collecting wood for your bonfire, don’t build the fire until you’re ready to light it. Or if it’s already stacked in a heap, take it apart again to make sure no little creature, unaware of the danger, has made it home.
And please NEVER use slug pellets in the garden. Not only do they kill hedgehogs’ major source of food, but are also poisonous to the little mammals.
A winter home
If you can devote a small corner to a winter home for your garden visitor, it will be sure to be appreciated. Purpose-built hedgehog homes are on sale at garden centres, or you can make your own. Even a slate or a board propped against a wall and lined with leaves is a help.
With such simple things we can make a difference for an iconic little animal we are in danger of losing altogether.
Hedgehogs are a listed endangered species. Their numbers have suffered a catastrophic decline, from 30 million in the 1950s to 1.5 million now. A loss equivalent to that of tigers.
Urge the government to take action and help save the hedgehog from extinction here
For everything you ever wanted to know about hedgehogs visit Hedgehog Street
And don’t forget to enjoy this beautiful season of the year!
Why hedgehogs are in trouble and what you can do to help – BBC
Hedgehogs in the garden – RSPCA
Invasion of giant house spiders as mating season begins – The Telegraph
Tiggywinkles, Tigers & Tunnels