This year I turned 55. I received several hedgehog birthday cards. Another friend gave me a scarf with hedgehogs on it and recently the postman delivered a pair of hedgehog socks from a friend in the Netherlands. Does this mean I have become a hedgehog lady? Oh, well. It could be worse I guess.
I am currently looking after four prickly friends.
George arrived recently from Eggesford, weighing 149 grams. He appeared pretty clueless about eating and drinking by himself. I had to hand feed him throughout the day and when I had to go out to work I had to park him with a hedgehog friend who could take over the feeding shifts until I could collect him. After three days I thought I had seen George lick a bit of kitten food off a plate and I decided to brave it. No more hand feeding. Success: by next morning he had gained some weight, proving he had mastered the wonderful art of eating!
Melissa arrived about 2 months ago, weighing even less than George. She also needed hand feeding and now weighs well over 400 grams. There is a good chance she can be released before winter, with enough body fat to be able to hibernate successfully.
Woody and Jessica are hogs that were parked here by another hedgehog carer, who had grandmother duties in London and needed a home for her hogs for a fortnight. Woody is in the process of recovering from lungworm and roundworm. I’ve been treating him with Ivermectin (weirdly, this has been in the news recently as a possible Covid remedy) and will wait for him to gain enough weight, so he too can be released.
Jessica is more or less the right weight by now to be released (650 grams), so we will wave her off in the next week or so.
Four hedgehogs is not very many, compared to my friend John Groves’ ‘ward’ in East Village, filled with 20+ spiky patients. My four hogs keep me pretty busy. Yes, I know, my kids have just left home and my nurturing energy needs to go somewhere. Laugh at me if you like, I don’t mind!
My hedgehog routine
I get up at 6 a.m. and try to get all my hog work done by 8 a.m. Each hedgehog needs to be weighed every morning, the weight needs to be recorded, all hogs need to be checked over for problems and/or signs of progress. Some need medication.
Each one of them needs a clean plastic box with a lid (with air holes of course) stuffed full of torn strips of newspaper, the dirty box needs to be rinsed and disinfected, food and water bowls need to be replenished.
Throughout the day I pop into my purpose built hog room (courtesy of husband John the Builder, bless him) to make sure they are all OK and just before I go to bed I top up their food. As they are nocturnal feeders, most eating happens at night.
So, how did I get to this point?
A year ago I had never even held a hedgehog. It all started with an article in the Crediton Courier about a Hedgehog Rescue in East Village (near Sandford). At the time we were in the thick of Lockdown III and in dire need of some inspiration. Initially I thought caring for hedgehogs might be of interest to my daughter, who is passionate about wildlife and conservation. It soon became clear that it was going to be me tearing endless strips of newspaper, rinsing out poo-y boxes and learning everything about hedgehog care.
In July I travelled up to Tewkesbury, to do a one-day course in hedgehog rehabilitation in the Vale Wildlife Hospital. After that I started my own small hedgehog rescue in Coleford. I have discovered that there is a whole network of hedgehog carers, most of whom know each other and signpost finders of injured or poorly hedgehogs to a carer in the relevant area.
Autumn is a busy time for us hedgehog carers
This is the time of the so-called ‘autumn juveniles’ i.e. hoglets that were born too late in the year to survive winter without being rescued. Some of them will need treatment and/or hand feeding, others simply need to be kept in a box indoors and fattened up so they can be released at some point. As hedgehogs are now on the International Union for the Conservation for Nature’s Red List of endangered animals, we cannot afford to simply let these hoglets die.
If you are interested in learning how to care for injured and/or sick hedgehogs, do get in touch. Sharing knowledge and enthusiasm is always good fun. And Devon needs more hedgehog carers. It feels awful to have to turn hogs away, especially when you know colleagues are also full up. I can assure you that it is interesting and fulfilling and even though you can’t save them all, it is magnificent to release them after months of care and nurturing. That is what makes it all worthwhile.
Since I wrote this article, hoglet Ben joined the club. When the 6th one (Brian) was dropped off here a few days later, I knew I needed to draw a line and managed to get a colleague to take him on.
Tel 01363 85394
Riverbank, Coleford, EX175DB