The spiky hedgehog needs our help
Hedgehogs were once regular visitors to our gardens snuffling around for food in our flowerbeds, or to see if we have left any out for them.
Amanda Norman, from Wixams Hedgehog Support said that in the 1950s there were around 30-36 million hedgehogs.
“Now there are only around one million in the whole of the UK, they are in serious decline and need all the help we can give them. It is our gardens that can make a difference to the hedgehogs in your neighbourhood. We must help them and HALT THE DECLINE!”
Amanda set up the hedgehog rescue at her home in Wixams after finding a poorly hedgehog in her garden. With so few rescues locally she felt there was a need and with the help of a local vet she admitted her first hedgehog last October. She said:
“It wasn’t long before I had my second, and then my third. We have now saved 16 hedgehogs over the winter.”
Amanda’s runs the hedgehog hogspital is in a spare bedroom, with hibernation units in a summer house in her garden. She now carries out most of the medical tests herself, and is fasciated by hedgehog poo. Amanda said that you can tell a lot about the health of a hedgehog by analysing its poop under a microscope.
“It’s then that I can tell which treatments they need.”
Many gardens are now inaccessible for hedgehogs, especially in new build homes. A hedgehog highway, which could be as simple as holes in fences or gaps under gates, will allow hogs to get in and out of gardens and so will allow them to search for food.
“Hedgehogs have lost so much of their natural habitat, if everyone linked their gardens with a 13 by 13 cm gap in their garden fences it would help hedgehogs regain a vital resource for food.”
Hedgehogs can cover two miles in a night, a hedgehog highway in the whole neighbourhood will allow the hog to roam away from the roads.
“So, that’s why we need hedgehog highways linking gardens in our neighbourhoods, It will link them with other hedgehogs, give them areas to forage, find a mate, makes nests, and to have their young.
“There is nothing nicer than the pitter patter of hoglets across the patio on a warm summers evening.”
Hedgehogs that do visit your garden can be supported by feeding them with cat/kitten kibble. As this is a dry food, it is important that there is plenty of water in shallow bowls dotted around the garden. Amanda added a warning about food, she said:
“Please avoid feeding hedgehogs mealworms, sunflower hearts and peanuts. These foods give them something called metabolic bone disease, this is extremely painful and will lead to death.”
Sadly, it is on our roads that most people see hedgehogs, it is impossible for the hogs to avoid them. Amanda said that Wixams has many hedgehogs, and it would be great if Wixams, and all the towns and villages in Bedfordshire had ‘Hedgehog Awareness‘ signs to help to slow drivers down.
What should someone do if they come across a hedgehog in the road? Amanda said:
“Your safety is the most important thing, don’t go into the road if is not safe for you to do so.
“If you do move it, move it to the verge and not away from the area as it knows where to get food and water. An unfamiliar area could cause problems for the hedgehog.”
As hedgehogs often carry parasites, Amanda recommends using gloves, or perhaps a tea towel, to handle the hedgehog. This will also help to protect you from the prickly spines.
What to do if you think a hedgehog is in trouble
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, and it is rare to see a healthy hedgehog in the daytime. If a hedgehog is seen in the day, observe it to see if it is ‘acting with a purpose’.
“In the breeding season, female hedgehogs can be seen in the daytime gathering nesting material, or perhaps they are looking for food and water while her hoglets are asleep.
“But she will be acting with a purpose.”
Amanda said that signs of a sick, injured, poorly hedgehog in the daytime include walking in circles, being unsteady on their feet and looking thin and dehydrated while laying in the sun, “this is a hedgehog in need of help!“.
Sometimes in late summer or in the autumn, late litter juvenile hoglets can be seen desperately looking for food, as they will be too small to hibernate.
“We are getting some of these poor these hedgehog in now, they have somehow survived the winter but are in bad condition.”
If you come across a hedgehog in distress or if you are worried about it, carefully place it in a high-sided box.
“Please Don’t feed them at this point, them as if they are de-hydrated any fluids in their bodies will be used up to digest the food, de-hydrating them even more.
“If you can, provide some heat from a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel to try to prevent shock. Make sure they can move away from the heat if they need to.”
Water can be provided in a shallow bowl and the Rescue Centre should be called as soon as possible. A hedgehog should not be left for a few days to see how it goes as there could be a hidden issue.
“Hedgehogs can go downhill very quickly and die. Time is of the essence, the sooner they get to rescue – the better their chances.”
Hedgehog Awareness Week
Wixams Hedgehog Support is looking for more volunteers to help look after hedgehogs. If you are interested in helping with supporting hedgehogs a message can be left via its Facebook page.
If you have a hedgehog emergency Amanda can be reached on 07847 335663.