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Do you check for wildlife before you strim? 🦔

After a surge in strimmer injury cases this year, Hedgehog rescue Prickles & Paws is urging gardeners to check for wildlife before they strim. Can you help?

This is a guest article by Prickles & Paws Hedgehog Rescue. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

If I asked you to spare five minutes to prevent an animal that is vulnerable to extinction from serious injury, I’ve no doubt you would. That animal could be in your back garden and is none other than Britain’s favourite mammal, the hedgehog.

At Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue we admit hedgehogs for a myriad of reasons, but by far the most distressing cases are those that have been “strimmed”. At the time of writing, we’ve admitted nine hedgehogs with strimmer injuries so far this year.

Why are strimmer injuries so common?

Strimmer injuries are often fatal and are so easily avoided. Whilst hedgehogs have excellent hearing, their natural instinct is not to run from a danger, but to freeze and curl into a ball.

This means that garden machinery such as a strimmer poses a real risk to nesting hedgehogs: their prickles simply can not stand up to a strimmer, mower or hedge cutter.

It’s not just laceration injury that can occur, the force of a strimmer will “spin” a hedgehog resulting in severe bruising, head trauma and breathing difficulties. 

A five-minute request

This is where the five-minute request comes in. We are asking everyone to simply check their gardens before strimming or mowing. Hedgehogs love long grass and overgrown areas – that bit of the garden you’re always meaning to tidy up.

So please, before you cut or strim long grass, have a good rummage! You can use a broom handle or your hands to part the grass and undergrowth, literally a few minutes to potentially prevent injury or save a life. 

If you do find a hedgehog, please do not disturb it, particularly during the summer months when it may be a female with young – call your nearest rescue for advice instead.

Why not consider leaving a corner of your garden to “go wild”? It’s never a messy garden when it’s a wildlife garden! 

You can read more advice and find out more about our work here.

Do you check for wildlife before you start strimming? Will you take the time to help us now we’ve got the word out? Thank you for your support.

🦔 🐾

This was a guest article by Prickles & Paws Hedgehog Rescue. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Crusader says:
19 May 2022

I don’t use a strimmer as I don’t have any grass, but I know of another danger which threatens hedgehogs and that’s mesh fencing. Back in 1988 I rescued a hedgehog which had become trapped in a mesh fence which was round it’s throat and because it’s spines were hooked on it it couldn’t pull itself free, and this was in darkness and luckily I was working on a house there so I had some tools and a torch there so I had to carefully reach in between it’s spines and cut the fence which luckily was only plastic so I managed to get it free. But what if it had been thick steel mesh? You can’t cut that with a little pair of side cutters, so I would recommend fitting some kind of panelling along the bottom of mesh fences where they’re in use to try and prevent the little critters from getting trapped.

I have cut hedgehog arches in the bottom of the fences surrounding our garden so thar they can travel between gardens. This means it is even more likely that they will come into ours although we don’t have any wild or unkempt areas.

The bigger threat in our garden is to frogs which are usually to be found along the edges of the lawn against the raised borders. I always look out for these before doing any work along the edges and in the corners. Checking for frogs ensures that any hedgehogs get protected as well.

I am a little surprised that the hedgehog is Britain’s favourite mammal. More popular than dogs and cats? I should think the red squirrel gave it a fair run for its money as well. Hedgehogs are not exactly the most winsome of creatures although I wouldn’t want to see them wiped out as they are good for gardens. They eat slugs, snails, beetles, earthworms, birds’ eggs, nestlings and carrion.

I expect that Emma is referring to wild animals: https://www.rsb.org.uk/news/hedgehog-wins-favourite-uk-mammal-poll

Thanks, Wavechange. Well, . . . well-done to the Hedgehogs.

My vote would have gone to the Beaver for a number of reasons, primarily their industriousness and their family unity.

I am surprised the Red Fox is highly favoured. Perhaps that is because it has a characterful role in popular culture and literature. It is not a very beneficial animal and is a killer of useful creatures but should not be harmed if it stays where it belongs.

I remember this from our Conversation on hedgehogs last year, John. It’s mentioned in the introduction: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/hedgehog-street-champions-birthday/

I suspect that to be a favourite animal it helps to be a little elusive but not that uncommon, and to feature in TV programmes.

I had forgotten that Conversation and I see that I felt warmer towards hedgehogs then than I have been in this one.

We possibly have to thank Beatrix Potter for the sentimental attraction of the hedgehog [Mrs Tiggywinkle] and the squirrel [Squirrel Nutkin] but the support for the odious fox [Mr Tod] surprises me. Luckily we don’t get foxes in our garden but my mother-in-law had a daily visit from a vixen at her home in the inner suburbs of south west London. I was quite shocked one morning to see it walking along the top of the back garden wall towards the house.

A few years ago a fox regularly visited our back door, no doubt along with many others, and was fed. It was a very pretty animal, in my view, and we were pleased to interact with it (to a small degree). One evening, a neighbour was chatting to me at the front door and suddenly stopped, astonished; I looked down and there was the fox standing by him. Sadly, a few days later it was killed by a car.

We have a Hedgehog nesting box in one of our lawns, so we do see them first thing in the morning.

I rarely use a strimmer, having found that edging shears do a better job. Once or twice a year I use it to trim round trees and bushes. There is barely enough long grass there to hide a hedgehog but I do check.

Edging shears are harder work but better than a strimmer – in my experience. They vary greatly in quality; I’ve a pair of CK that are solidly made and cut well. They can still damage hedgehogs of course. I leave parts of my garden undisturbed in the hope some wildlife will find a home – piles of logs, nettles, blackberries and such like.

Despite backing onto open fields I have only seen two hedgehogs in the last few years, but then they come out at night so maybe unsurprising. The most recent was a couple of weeks ago when using a torch to close the greenhouse and saw one curled on the grass path. Hopefully it will open a snail bar for its friends and help protect my new plants.

I rarely use a strimmer too but normally do check normally check before mowing. I haven’t had to as of late as I’m taking part in No Mow May.

I have also bought a little Frenchie puppy and have had to puppy proof the garden from all sorts of things. The main one being snails and slugs (that I’ve seen a lot of lately) which he likes to pick a fight with often crushing the little guys.

It’s been fun to say the least haha

Hi Chirag,
I haven’t heard of No Mow May before and hubby actually mowed most of our lawn yesterday just leaving a few patches where wild orchids grow. We don’t have many wild flowers yet except daisies and they will soon flower again.

Our lawn is covered in wild flowers in July and August which is when we have a mowing system to help the bees as little else is in flower then. We mow in strips, moving the strips over half a strip each mow so flowers get a chance to flower again and the grass doesn’t get too high.

Grass that is allowed to grow too high can become a danger to wildlife. Fledglings such as pheasants and ducklings, squirrels and ground feeding birds such as blackbirds and robins are in more danger from predators such as cats as they don’t see them coming. Frogs and toads also move into long grass so it is better to mow on a high setting first.

You just have to find the right balance.

That’s really helpful Alfa, thank you. I am going to try that out next weekend if the weather allows me too.

Thanks for sharing this – I’ll definitely look closer when sorting the garden! I set up a little hedgehog hotel at the bottom of the garden, but haven’t had any visitors yet as far as I’m aware!

It puzzles me that I live in the countryside and haven’t seen any… but I saw one ONE THE BEACH when I went down to Cornwall last year! Funny little things! Must have been on his holidays – HA!