Being a keen gardener and loving wildlife usually go hand in hand. The one adds so much to the enjoyment of the other. But when holes start appearing in unexpected places in the garden, you may not be so keen. If something is digging up your lawn or burrowing under your fences, you probably want to know what it is. Could it be hedgehogs?
Do Hedgehogs Dig Holes?
To decide whether holes in your garden are likely to be made by hedgehogs, let’s first look at whether hedgehogs can actually dig and why they might want to.
Can Hedgehogs Dig?
Yes, hedgehogs can dig. They have quite strong, five-toed front feet. Whilst hedgehogs claws aren’t strong enough to pull apart larger prey or hurt you if you pick them up, they are quite good enough for digging through soft soil.
So if hedgehogs can dig, why would they want to?
Digging for Food?
Hedgehogs certainly dig for food. Hedgehogs are insectivores; favourite foods include earthworms and beetles, both of which live on and in the ground. A hedgehog can smell a worm or other tasty treat buried 3 inches underground.
Digging for food is a learned behaviour, and studies have found that mature hogs are much more successful diggers than juveniles. The older hogs can claim the bigger share of favourite foods, with juveniles more often having to rely on what they can find on the surface.
Digging for Access?
One of the first clues you may get to the presence of hedgehogs in your garden is spotting some hedgehog poo.
Another common sign of the presence of hedgehogs is little pathways or “tunnels” through your borders or undergrowth.
Whilst hedgehogs don’t make tunnels in the ways that, say, rabbits do, if they come to a barrier in their path, like a fence, for example, they will try to scrape away under it.
Hedgehogs need to travel quite some distance to forage for their food each night, so these access holes are important and should never be blocked up. You could even choose to help the hedgehogs out by installing your own hedgehog highway.
Digging to Build a Home?
Some species of hedgehogs do dig burrows to nest in, but this isn’t a behaviour of the European hedgehogs we have here in the UK.
Hedgehogs do like a tight space to nest in. Particularly for hibernation or breeding nest. They need to build their nests in a tight space so they can get leaves to form into the thick ball, which will provide them with warmth and weatherproofing through the winter. This is why hedgehog houses can work so well for them.
So they will choose spaces under hedges (of course!), amongst the roots of trees, in log piles, under decking or sheds. They may even nest in old rabbit holes.
But our hedgehogs here in the UK don’t dig burrows for nesting.
So, Is That A Hedgehog Hole?
As you can see, if you do have hedgehogs in your garden, they might be responsible for a little excavation work here and there.
Small holes in the lawn, about the size of your thumb, could be hedgehogs digging for food. But if you see nuts or seeds in the bottom of the hole, it’s more likely to be squirrels.
Scraped holes under your fences could be hedgehogs, particularly if they come at the end of a “tunnel” or pathway trodden through your borders.
Check out our guide for other signs that you might have hedgehogs in the garden.
If it’s Not A Hedgehog Hole, What Is It?
We have lots of animals who are better diggers than hedgehogs. Some of them you may be happy to welcome into your garden. Others not so much.
Mice and Voles
Mice and Voles dig tunnels for nesting and to travel underground. The openings are typically found in the undergrowth or near tree roots; they may be hidden by leaves or debris. They are generally roughly circular in shape and about 3cm across.
Squirrels don’t dig for access, and our squirrels here in the UK don’t make their nests in burrows. But of course, squirrels do famously dig to bury food.
You probably won’t notice a squirrels leader if he has finished the job; the intention if for the food stash to be well hidden. But a larder that has been opened, or abandoned unfinished, may look much like the kinds of holes that hedgehogs dig for food. The man difference likely being that there could be traces of nuts or seeds in the bottom.
Those distinctive piles of fresh earth appearing in the garden are a nightmare for those of us who like to keep an immaculate lawn.
Moles are one of our most illusion mammals as they spend most of their lives underground.
Though molehills may be a nuisance, moles do a good job of improving soil quality. So you might want to think twice before moving them on.
Check out the RSPCA guide for advice on dealing with moles.
Rats are enthusiastic diggers and build nests and tunnels underground. Typically their holes are circular and about 9cm across. They often have a fan of fresh earth at the entrance.
Rats will tunnel under fences, and it’s easy to mistake a rat run for a hedgehog highway. Be careful before you block that hole up.
There is lots of advice out there on how to deter rats from your garden, but in reality, a lot of the things you can do to deter rats will also deter other wildlife.
Many animal lovers tolerate rats in the garden but take action if they start to get close to the house or outbuildings,
If you think you have a rat problem contacting your local council can be a good place to start.
We’ve only really scratched the surface of creatures that might be digging holes in your garden. Other culprits could be water voles, foxes, badgers or even stoats. For a fuller guide, take a look at this article.
Hedgehogs – Not Destructive Diggers
Hedgehogs do dig, but unlike moles, who may wreck your lawn, or rats who may not be welcome, hedgehog digging does little damage.
A few worm-sized holes in the lawn seems a small enough price to pay for offering sanctuary to one of our best-loved and most endangered mammals.
Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If you have questions or suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.