Wild Hedgehogs

Wild Hedgehogs And When To Rescue And Care For Them

Warning!

It is completely illegal to keep a wild Hedgehog (Erinaceus Europaeus) in captivity as a pet here in UK so to see one for sale on a well known on-line classified adverts website is quite shocking and upsetting. Please report any similar adverts to either myself via email or BHPS via their website or Tel: 01584 890 801. The local rescue is run by Claire at Hodgepigs Hedgehog Rescue in Waterlooville, Hampshire. Tel: 07827 440607 

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Handling Tips For Rescuing A Wild Hedgehog

If you find an injured hedgehog, wearing thick gardening gloves, pick it up by holding it in both hands round the middle, scooping it up. Put it into a cardboard box lined with newspaper and give a small towel or tea towel for it to hide under. If the hedgehog is very poorly or is cold, you can also give it a hot water bottle or a drinks bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a tea towel, to snuggle up to.

If you will have it for any period of time before it can be taken to a rescue centre, then offer dog or cat food in a shallow bowl, plus a non-tip dish of fresh water. The room must be kept quiet.

Do’s and Don’ts to protect hedgehogs in your garden

  • Do leave some areas of wilderness where the hedgehogs can snuffle for insects.

  • Do put out water for drinking.

  • Do put out a bowl of dog food or meaty cat food around dusk.

  • Do install, in a quiet part of the garden, a hedgehog house.

  • Do look to see if your hedgehog is limping or appears to be injured, or in late Autumn look out for underweight hedgehogs

  • Don’t put out bread and milk

  • Don’t pick up fit hedgehogs

  • Don’t leave black sacks lying around.

  • Don’t use slug pellets or other chemicals, they may poison hedgehogs and other animals.

  • Don’t light a bonfire without checking to see if a hedgehog or other wild animal has moved in.

  • Don’t fork over compost heaps in case hedgehogs or other animals have taken up residence.

  • Don’t spray hedgehogs with dog or cat flea sprays. It will be detrimental to the hedgehog.

FAQ

Hedgehog fleas and ticks (seen as greyish shiny lumps, often behind the ears) are not usually a problem unless there are dozens, which can lead to anaemia. Removal of ticks should be avoided as it is very easy to leave the mouth parts behind which may lead to a serious infection. Removal of ticks - especially if a heavy burden should be done by vet or rescue centre.

Out in the day?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and only come out at night. Any hedgehog out during the day is probably in trouble and should be taken to a Wildlife Rescue Centre. If you are local to Southsea Linda Hewitt runs Berts Hedgehog Retreat, Portsmouth Hedgehog Rescue. The phone number is 07776231904. Local vets may not have specific facilities to care for hedgehogs. No hedgehog should ever be out in day time (dusk and dawn exceptions and breeding season, see image below) and will definitely need help if seen in day time.

Too small to hibernate hedgehogs/overwintering

As a visual guide - if smaller than the length of your hand or the size of a melon it is too small to hibernate. Underweight hedgehogs will not survive hibernation, so need to be kept indoors until April time. Overwintered hedgehogs need to be kept indoors in a constant-temperature room (around 65°F or 18°C) to prevent them from trying to hibernate.

Try and give them as much space to walk around as possible, to give them exercise and build up their muscles. They will be more active at night, so if you need to let them out for exercise, then do this after dusk. If you hide their food, or put it a long way from their bed, it helps them to forage for it.

Food wise, we feed about 100 grams of dog or cat food (non-fish flavour) per evening. Plus a handful of cat/dog biscuits. We don't recommend raisins or digestive biscuits, as these are too sweet. Instead you could offer mealworms (dried or live) as a treat, they mimic their natural diet and can be obtained from most large pet shops. They also need access to fresh water each day.

Weigh the hedgehog every day at cleaning out time, but don't handle it at other times. In the room it is in, try and keep to the natural light patterns, to help with waking/sleeping pattern. Have the curtains open and don't turn on the light except when necessary. This will help keep it in a normal rhythm for release in the spring.

If you notice any health problems, please call Tiggywinkle's helpline on 01844 292292 for advice. Any sick hedgehog needs to get to your nearest wildlife hospital or phone BHPS on 01584 890801 for your local rescue centre. Do not give cold or sick hedgehogs ANY food or fluids until they are warmed up - or the shock might kill them.

Releasing overwintered hedgehogs

There is no definitive time for releasing overwintered hedgehogs, but once the frosts are over should be fine.  These hedgehogs need hardening off like a plant.  Initially keep indoors but turn heating off in the room.  If all is well move to an outside shed or garage, and finally to the garden for release.  Ensure nocturnal habit is well established and should the hedgehog stop feeding at any time, take it back a stage and start again from there. Hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600 grams for their winter hibernation and they are much lighter when they awake from this. Hedgehogs that get too big lose their ability to curl up tightly, their only natural defence. Release should be on a warm damp evening - if released too early there will be no natural food for them to find.

How big does a hedgehog need to be to hibernate?

We suggest that a hedgehog should weigh at least 600 grams before going into hibernation to ensure it has a good body fat resource to see it through the long sleep. Hedgehogs much smaller than this will still try and hibernate, but if the body fat is too low, it will not survive and would not wake up again. From early November you might want to keep an eye on any visiting hedgehogs to see how much they weigh. It wouldn’t disturb them too much to weigh one on your kitchen scales. At the start of November they should weigh around 500 grams, or they may need to go to a wildlife hospital for overwintering.

How long should I continue to feed a hedgehog into the winter months?

Please put food and water out all year round - as many hedgehogs die of hunger and dehydration ( especially important if you feed dried food) Autumn and early winter is the essential time to feed hedgehogs in your garden, as they need to put on enough weight to reach a safe hibernation weight before late December. However, hedgehogs might not be the only visitor to your garden who would appreciate an easy place to find food in those hard winter months, so do continue to put out food for several days after it stops being eaten. It might be that a hedgehog has just gone somewhere else to find food for a little while. Also hedgehogs can wake from hibernation if disturbed or the weather conditions change, so they might be about looking for food when the ground is frozen and easy meals are hard to come by.

I have a hedgehog sleeping on my lawn, is it ok?

No, hedgehogs will only sleep in a nest during the day, so any hedgehog lying out on the lawn will be very poorly and will need to be picked up and taken to your nearest wildlife hospital as soon as possible. You can pick them up using gardening gloves and put them into a cardboard box, although they are good climbers when well, so you would need to ensure it cannot escape.

I have seen a hedgehog out during the day, what should I do?

Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal, so any hedgehog out during the day time has a problem and will need to be picked up and taken to your nearest wildlife hospital. (For exceptions see image below)

What should I feed a hedgehog?

Hedgehogs are insectivores, so the best diet is the bugs and grubs in your garden, which will help keep the pests down. However, to encourage them in to your garden you could offer a ‘top-up’ meal of a good meaty-based diet would be ideal. We recommend 100 grams per day of any meat flavour dog or cat food, plus a handful of dog or cat biscuits to keep their teeth healthy. Mealworms are no longer recommended. Rescue centres up and down the country are seeing increasing numbers of their prickly patients with metabolic bone disease which is linked to feeding large amounts of mealworms. Metabolic bone disease is a very distressing condition which basically robs their bones of calcium and leaves them so weak that they are barely able to stand up.

 

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so milk can make them very ill and should never be offered. Instead, put out a dish of fresh water each night. Hedgehogs are active during the night, so the best time to put out food is just after dusk, when they are starting to search for food. The Autumn and Winter months are the most important for them to find food to put on enough weight before hibernation, so always make sure you put out food at this time of year.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Typically, hedgehogs hibernate from late December / early January until late March time. However, this is very dependent on the weather and the individual hedgehog, as some will hibernate earlier or later and some not at all!

What should I do if I disturb a hibernating hedgehog by accident?

A hedgehog that has gone into hibernation uses up valuable body fats if they are disturbed. If you do accidentally disturb a hibernation nest, cover it back over with a thick layer of dry leaves and perhaps leave some dog food and water nearby, so if the hedgehog does wake up, he can easily find something to eat before he goes to find a new hibernation spot and rebuilds his nest.

Information was taken from St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital Website. 

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