Hedgehogs have been in the news this week, but for all the wrong reasons.
The BBC’s Gardeners’ World magazine surveyed its readers and found that more than half of them had not spotted a hedgehog in their gardens at all during 2016 (compared to 48 per cent in 2015).
Just 12 per cent said they saw a hedgehog regularly.
The warmer weather at the beginning of this winter meant that hedgehogs hibernated later than usual and so they should have been visible for longer, which makes the decline in their sightings all the more worrying.
The loss of hedgehog habitats, such as hedgerows and open woodland, and road deaths are thought to be the main causes of the decline.
Usually July to September is the peak of hedgehog activity in gardens when young hoglets can also be seen, but activity declines steeply with the arrival of winter.
Around 60 per cent of the 2,600 people surveyed said they had done something to help the plight of hedgehogs last year such as stopping using slug pellets, leaving fallen twigs and leaves for the hedgehogs to hide and sleep in, or keeping an eye out for the animals before using strimmers or lighting bonfires.
What else can we do to assist our hedgehogs?
They will start to come out of hibernation in March and they will be hungry, so be prepared to feed them. They enjoy dog and cat food (but not the fish variety), white meat, nuts and raisins and some hedgehog experts recommend scrambled or chopped up eggs as a particular favourite.
Hedgehogs also need a fresh supply of water in a shallow bowl.
And leave at least one hedgehog-sized hole at the bottom of your garden fence so that these little creatures can move freely about.
Most cats like their freedom too and we have two new arrivals in our main cattery, Will and Lady, who roamed a bit too far and who came to us as strays. Will, a very handsome young cat, is super friendly and came from the Willaston area. He likes nothing more than to sit on your shoulder and rub his head against you, and he is clearly very used to human company - but his previous owners have not contacted us in the two weeks that he was in our isolation and quarantine unit and so he is now looking for a new home.
Equally friendly is Lady, also a young black and white cat, who likes to be cuddled and fussed over. Her origins are also a mystery but one thing we know for certain is that she doesn’t like other cats and so she doesn’t enjoy being surrounded by them as she is at Ard Jerkyll. She hides at the back of her pen and so she is being overlooked by visitors, but once she is picked up she relaxes and purrs loudly - she really is the epitome of a good companion animal.
Over in the kennels we continue to be amazed by the number of dogs that stray particularly now that we’re in peak lambing season. The society runs an out-of-hours dog warden provision, and during working hours it helps DEFA with its service, and during 2016 it reunited 163 dogs with their owners. If you see a stray dog the please report it to DEFA between the hours of 9am and 5pm by calling 686688; and please call the us at other times on 851672.
Please remember that the society has a ’lost and found pets’ Facebook page which is an excellent medium for reuniting owners with their stray animals.
We’re hoping that customers both old and new will ’stray’ to our refurbished Tearooms now that it has re-opened. Tracey and her team have now added a range of hot paninis to the menu, as well as homecooked chips, and so there’s even more to tempt you to Ard Jerkyll.
In the Isle of Man Examiner’s business coverage, we meet the new directors of the MSPCA.
The Examiner is in the shops from Tuedays.