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Stay balanced: feeding hedgehogs safely

Scientific research warns against over-indulging hedgehogs with too many mealworms. We explain why it’s vital to maintain a healthy balance when you’re feeding these much-loved mammals in your garden.

We all know the value of a sensibly balanced diet. And that applies equally when you’re putting food out for the hedgehogs visiting your garden.

In recent years wildlife rescuers have reported an increase in animals suffering broken and deformed bones. It’s the tell-tale sign of depleted calcium levels, caused by too much phosphate in hedgehogs’ diets. And latest research points to a possible cause: too many mealworms offered to hogs by well-meaning wildlife lovers.

It’s tempting to leave out a bowl full of juicy mealworms, knowing they’ll be snapped up eagerly by any hedgehogs passing through your garden. But scientific opinion now suggests that the all-important ratio between calcium and phosphorus levels could be playing havoc with hedgehog health. In foods like mealworms with the wrong balance of these two metallic elements, the phosphorus can actually strip calcium away, leading to a range of bone-related problems.

Happily there’s a straightforward solution. You wouldn’t live on just one type of food, and the same applies to your hedgehogs. So don’t keep leaving big bowls of worms out for hedgehogs to gorge themselves on. Provide a specialised food like I ♥ Hedgehogs™ that’s recently been re-blended, replacing mealworms with dried calci worms for a healthier calcium/phosphorus ratio. And as an extra bonus it’s had sultanas removed and honey levels reduced, helping prevent tooth decay.

One last word of advice. A British newspaper misleadingly suggested that “Britain's national hedgehog charity has asked people not to feed the animals mealworms”. That’s not quite the case. It’s all about finding a balance, where a sprinkling of mealworms can happily take their place in a varied diet for Britain’s best-loved garden mammal.

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