Wildlife Column with Prof Ian Rotherham
Peter Wolstenholme sent some remarkable images of a fox and a hedgehog in his Woodhouse garden, and interestingly the two animals seemed perfectly comfortable together.
The hedgehog probably is secure in the knowledge that its defensive prickles will surely be a match for even a hungry fox. Likewise, the fox probably knows its own shortcoming and doesn’t fancy a mouthful of spines. Of course if it was a badger rather than a fox, the scenario and likely outcome would be very different. The badger has remarkably strong jaws capable of opening a curled-up hedgehog and then eating the poor creature.
One of my neighbours, Andrew Plant, had such an incident captured on his security camera a few years back; and the evidence was left on his driveway – the empty skin of an eviscerated hedgehog.
We might pull a face of horror at such an unfortunate end to Mr Tiggywinkle, but it is worth remembering that not so long ago the poor old hedgehog (i.e. ‘hedge-pig’) was consumed by poor people such as itinerants in the countryside.
The animal was basted in clay and then roasted whole on a fire. The spines, fur and skin apparently just peeled off! Today the formerly common hedgehog is now a threatened species, due to the usual suspects of urbanisation, land improvement, and intensive farming.
Our gardens provide hugely important habitats and opportunities to provide hedgehogs with some degree of sanctuary and as autumn arrives it is good to plan things like hedgehog houses and simple piles of branches and brash with logs and stones to provide secure, dry winter hibernation sites. You may already have hedgehogs in your garden and simply not know.
Of course, do be careful when tidying up, and especially if you decide to have a garden bonfire – make sure a hedgehog hasn’t taken up residence.
Gardens are full of wildlife surprises such as the other week when a peregrine falcon went over.
Even more amazing last weekend, was a small, fast-flying falcon called a ‘hobby’, a summer visitor preying on big dragonflies which are abundant at present.