However, whether or not animals use the refuges is contingent on the design, their location, location, and the overall conditions of the surrounding environment. If the setting is not right or the wrong method, wildlife may be in danger or face a higher risk of being snatched by predators.
Artificial refuges like bird boxes can be used to create nesting areas in which natural alternatives are not available. Nadezhda Kulikova/Shutterstock
There isn’t much information about the factors that make a house a habitat for animals other than birds or about how efficient artificial habitats are in protecting a species. However, garden centers and other retailers have an array of options of houses, from ceramic ones for toads, to wooden and concrete bat roosts. A lot of them are designed and erected with the idea of mammals in mind.
One of them is the ground-dwelling, nocturnal hedgehog. They have experienced a steady decline for a long time and are classified as endangered on the mammal redlist. Some areas of the countryside have seen populations decline by as high as 75% over the last 20 years. In areas where populations are still present and hedgehogs do make use of the gardens of homes and this is that the public, by offering the nest box (or “hedgehog houses”) can play an important part in their protection.
In the latest study, I have discovered that you could be able to increase the likelihood of a hedgehog taking place in your garden nest box through, among other things, being mindful of where you put it and how you leave food and bedding materials.
Hedgehog numbers have dropped by between 30 to 75% in different regions of the UK countryside since 2000. Colin Robert Varndell/Shutterstock
Census of housing for hedgehogs
Beautiful photos, as well as videos showing hedgehogs with nest boxes (both made from scratch and purchased from a store), are abounding on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. But there’s not much knowledge about how to pick the right nest boxes. It’s because we are advised not to disturb hedgehogs that are nesting.
To address this issue, researchers from The University of Reading (including myself) and experts from the conservation group Hedgehog Street created the hedgehog housing census. This online survey gathered details about the way nest boxes are used throughout the UK.
Over 5,000 survey responses were received. Based on this information, we looked at the use of hedgehog boxes for various kinds of nesting. They typically construct distinct nests to have a place to relax during the day, places to raise young, and a place to rest during winter, and they may also move between multiple nests in any given instance. For each kind of nesting, we modeled how the placement of a nest box appears to be determined by its shape and dimensions, in addition to the characteristics of the surrounding environment and garden.
In all seasons, the study found that hedgehogs were more likely to use an enclosure in which food items – like animal food that was meaty as well as bedding were available. Gardeners often left piles of dry leaves in the area of the garden that hedgehogs could eat and carry in the boxes.
Hedgehogs are also more likely to utilize nest boxes if they can access the gardens in the front and back, which highlights how important it is to create connections between habitats. This could be accomplished by cutting a hole through the fence’s bottom or by removing a gap underneath the gate, which will generate a hedgehog road. In addition, the chances of a hedgehog residing in the box increased when they were situated under shade, such as in trees, or on solid surfaces like patios and with entrances set away from open areas.