Posted: 15/01/2015 at 13:51
Mark, I don't see any reason not to put feed out for hedgehogs, especially in Winter when their normal food sources are absent. Of course they are wild animals and can generally get by but they are becoming rarer and like starlings and other 'classified red' animals, they need our help. Birds are wild animals but we feed them - there is no argument that this is the right thing to do.
If a hedgehog breaks it's hibernation and starts looking for food, it will possibly die. It has woken up because it is hungry or ill and does not have enough fat on it's body to get through the Winter so it starts foraging for food that isn't naturally around in Winter. Sue at Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue told me all this so it's on good authority.
Even in Summer, hedgehogs resort to slugs rather than eating them as a first preference; in fact eating too many slugs, which suffer from lungworm, passes this fatal disease onto the hedgehog as I understand it so an alternative food source would be good for them in my view.
Mark, if you decide to put food out, dried cat food (meat rather than fish based) and/or dried mealworms are nutritious and neither will freeze or become putrified outside. My own ideas of how to stop cats getting at these is maybe to put a couple of bricks on their sides, parallel to each other and about 6" apart, and place something on top and astride the bricks to form a tunnel which only the hog can get into. I found the hog that I am currently overwintering under my bird feeder so knowing that he will go there when I release him in Spring, I will place the feed tunnel under the feeder.
It sounds like you have had hogs in your garden previously so you can't be doing much wrong in terms of your garden's suitability for them! Let a bit of your garden go wild and a bit messy, beside or behind a shed maybe, and throw swept up leaves down there along with twigs and any logs you have. Make sure your boundaries have escape routes in them - hogs roam through as many as 10 gardens each night looking for food. Grow a patch of wild or insect benificial flowers so that they have a source of insects and bugs to eat.
Here is a great hedgehog site which I have used to help me overwinter my hedgehog (he is still hibernating by the way!)
Whatever you decide to do, good luck and here's hoping you spy those lovely cuteys again in your garden.