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Night-time Travellers

1st of October 2013

On clear evenings I usually spend my late night dog walks gazing up at the stars but lately it’s been eyes down as Scatterdells Lane has hedgehogs again and I don’t want to tread on one and squash it!

A neighbour told me some weeks ago that he was putting out cat food for an adult and two hoglets. Then late one night Ted was fascinated by something on the bank and when I put on the torch there was a little prickly ball. Ted didn’t know what to make of it but I was delighted, even more so a couple of nights later when it was bumbling down our drive seeking out slugs from my hostas. Hedgehogs like a varied menu; snails, slugs, earthworms and other creepy crawlies with a few blackberries or some apples, pears or plumbs for pudding. Years ago people used to put out bread and milk for them but these days the best advice is to put out dog food or non-fishy cat food as too much milk upsets their stomachs. Hedgehogs hibernate in winter when their food would be scarce, but they need to weigh about a pound or 450g to survive, so this is a great time of year to put out food so that they can fatten up for their long sleep.
Their numbers have been declining over the last few years; I had only seen one, once, in six or seven years before this one turned up. My guess is this is due to the increase in both of their main predators, the motor car and the badger. Badgers don’t bother about their spines. They eat the soft middle and leave the prickly skin completely clean. Rolling up in a ball is no defence against the wheels of a car. In my childhood one would see a lot of squashed hedgehogs on the roads, but now one sees very few, a sign of their decline. They may travel a couple of miles in a night on their solitary hunt for food, but I wish this one would stay safely in my garden away from the traffic. I know there is no hope of that.

If you drive down Scatterdells Lane after dark, please go slowly and keep your eyes on the road. You may spot a little ball of prickles…… or even Ted and me!
Wendy Bathurst

 
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