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Hedgehogs

Take Care with Bonfires

Hedgehogs are attractive little creatures which, because they rid our gardens of pests such as slugs and snails, should be seen as friends.
Unfortunately, November the 5th is the hedgehog Armageddon with thousands being accidentally killed in bonfires.

It's the same with gardeners. If you've only just built your bonfire, the little creatures should be safe. However, if you have been pain stakingly accumulating a pile of wood over a period of days, or even weeks, then please search through it thoroughly for sleeping hedgehogs before setting it alight.

Don't assume that because you haven't seen one there are no hedgehogs in your area or garden.
Scientific studies have shown that individual hedgehogs cover at least one kilometre every night - enough to encompass several gardens.
It is far safer to assume hedgehogs are everywhere and, if you are good enough to erect the hedgehog equivalent of a Des Res , you should expect such accommodating creatures to thank you and quickly move in.

 

Lawnmower Danger for Hedghogs

PET owners who are also gardeners sometimes find themselves in a quandary.
If you own a dog and he is in the habit of using the lawn as a toilet, you learn to use a "pooper scooper". But when smaller pests start to threaten your garden, what do you do? Most slugs and snails find bedding plants very tasty indeed but many pet owners don't like killing them with pellets because thay can harm other wildlife.

Many people scoop them up and put them into a nearby field. But make sure this is a considerable distance away, otherwise they will all creep back. The larger brown snails live for up to 16 years and are very territorial. If you put them even 100 metres away, they will be home in a few days.

Slugs and snails may seem pests to us, but to creatures such as thrushes, blackbirds and hedges, they are food.
Hedgehogs thrive on them so, when buzzing about with your lawnmower, watch out for the Iittle prickly creatures fast asleep among the grass.
Andy and Gay Christie, at Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre, near Beith, have to deal with dozens of hedgehogs injured in this way every year, so do try be careful.

Hedgehog Fleas

Question: I have a hedgehog who visits my garden every evening and I am now feeding him and leaving fresh water for him. However, I am sure he has lots of fleas as every few feet he stops and scratches vigorously. Other than that he seems perfectly fit and well and is gaining weight already.

Could you please recommend anything for killing the fleas (i.e. dog/cat flea killer), so that his life is more comfortable.

Answer: I checked with Andy and Gay Christie at the Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust (who look after dozens of hedgehogs each year) (01505 502415), and they recommended a Pyrethane based flea powder (as we would use too). If you see any ticks, then your vet will recommend an Ivormec tick powder.

Western Isles Plague of Hedgehogs

In the Western Isles, specifically on Uist and Benbecula they face a plague of hedgehogs.
At the beginning of October 2000, conservation bodies launched a 300,000 project which will ultimately lead to the removal of an introduced and alien species the hedgehog - widely blamed for a catastrophic decline in the number of defenceless, ground-nesting birds whose eggs hedgehogs love to eat.

I remember when the first hedgehogs were introduced to the Western Isles in 1974 as part of the school education project, before later being kept as pets and garden slug killers. Needless to say the soon escaped and, finding conditions to their liking, now number an estimated 10,000.

Old Beliefs of Hedgehogs

In "Northern Notes and Queries or The Scottish Antiquary, Vol 2 p. 46, 1888." there are details of payments being made in the Parish of Hartishorne, Derbyshire to people killing hedgehogs, or urchins as they were also known as. This because there was "a popular delusion that these harmless animals sucked the cows as they lay out in the fields".

The ancient Romany name for hedgehogs is hotchi-witchi, and one of their beliefs was that cows never lie down if there are hedgehogs around for fear that the hedgehogs will drink from the cows udders leaving the cow dry.