A prickly affair!
What creature rolls itself up into a ball when it feels threatened – apart from me?! Well, a number of creatures do; the armadillo, pangolin, centipede and woodlouse to name a few. But I am; as I’m sure you have guessed, talking about the hedgehog – the European brown variety to be precise, as this is the one we will see in our UK gardens. They fall into a scientific category with an unpronounceable name, which means ‘truly fat and blind’ (bit rude!) They’re covered in an average of 5-7 thousand spines made from the same substance as our hair, are known collectively as either an array or a prickle, are largely immune to snake venom, call their babies ‘hoglets’, and have an average heart rate of 300 beats per minute. All that going on in our gardens and in the undergrowth!
Talking of which; during the months of national lockdown, the newspapers reported folks across the UK hearing ‘goings on’ in the nations’ hedgerows – noisy, amorous hedgehog couples, working on their solution to their ever declining numbers. Their valiant efforts are expected to have boosted the population in what has been dubbed, the hedgehog ‘summer of love’.
Now it’s our turn to help our prickly foragers in their illustrious mission. One way we can do this is by keeping parts of the garden wild. Don’t tidy it up and let the natural world do its thing! Hedgehogs like areas with lots of hiding places that will not only offer protection but will be teeming with goodies for them to feast on. Check bonfires before lighting; Mrs Tiggy Winkle may be hibernating in there! Check piles of grass cuttings, leaves and compost heaps before disturbing them. Don’t use any chemicals in your garden. If you have a pond, make sure our friend can climb out if she falls in. You can do this by ensuring the pond has at least one sloping side into it. And I know you know this – but just a reminder – never give them bread and milk as they can’t digest it. You can leave meaty cat and dog food (no fish flavours), sunflower seeds, nuts and kitten biscuits for them to munch on. Let’s cheer this beloved fellow on. I’ll leave you with one last factoid – they may look cumbersome but can run surprisingly fast, covering 100 times their body length in a minute. To you and me, that’s the equivalent of 10ft per second. See if you can outrun one. Go on, I dare you!
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