Britain’s hedgehog population has been in a state of steady decline - down by a quarter over just the last ten years! For a creature than is beneficial to our gardens and a delight to watch and be around, this is well and truly a shame. Intensive agriculture, encroaching development and being too slow while crossing roads (!) have all led to a sorry situation all around. But there are people willing to help. There is the British Hedgehog Society as well as smaller recue and care centres, like Willows Hedgehog Rescue, dotted around the country.
Some of you may know just how mad I am about hedgehogs. I’ve signed up at Hedgehog Street and recently joined Wild About Britain to learn more about how to get involved in their care, rehabilitation and conservation (both incredibly informative and highly recommended).
And yesterday, a little hoglet decided to take me up on that!
Lily and I were out for a quick run around the dog field in the middle of the afternoon (on our previous visit we’d been roughed up a bit by two massive boxers the owner couldn’t quite control, and since this is often the case we had been avoiding the field in peak times). As we entered we noticed a gentleman walking his pitbull around the field on a leash. Since it’s unusual to see leashed dogs within the field, I thought that he might be a bit hard to handle and for safety’s sake kept Lily on a leash as well. Turned out that there was a wee hoglet in the dog field and the bigger dog had tried to get at it, hence the owner had slipped the lead on him – I came upon the little bundle of prickles and touched him lightly to see if he was alive and he was! The other dog walker came up to me and explained about his dog and what had happened earlier. We couldn’t see how he’d got into the field, and clearly it wasn’t the place for a wee hedgehoggy to be, seeing the dog traffic, so I decided to take him home and call the wildlife folks and see what was to be done. Lily was very well behaved and after the other two left I let her off leash and she ran about while I collected the little dude in my fleece.
As we were walking home I started wondering whether I’d done the right thing – but all the reading I’d done suggested a) dogs would maul hedgehogs and often did – and b) a hedgehog would not be out during the day unless something was wrong. I got on the Wild About Britain forum where I got immediate responses providing advice, contact numbers, encouragement and agreement that it was in the little guy’s best interests for me to have brought him home.
I called the county rescue but just got a message saying they weren’t taking in any more casualties (its the time of year when they are quite overwhelmed and, very likely, under-funded) – so will try again today, just to get him checked over and make sure he’s fit and fine.
He didn’t look too tiny (I’ll weigh him later today) so I imagined he’s about a month old and weaned. I mashed up some of Lily’s food and put it in the cover of a jam jar, same for water and put them in a box set up with newspaper, a hot water bottle and a towel. And sure enough, the second he smelt the food, his nose began to twitch and he scuttled right to it and pigged out noisily! Since then, he’s eaten a few times, drank some water, taken many naps, spent the night pinging around all over the little run I put together for his nocturnal meanderings and been a regular marauder! His poo has become firm and he generally looks like he’s in good health.
I’m hoping that he can be checked over by the rescue people or otherwise the vet, and that he’s in the pink. Perhaps they’ll let me keep him around, our garden’s been overrun by slugs and could do with a resident Hedgehog-in-Chief when he’s older. We’ll have to sort him out with regards to having an outside run and a place to hibernate (if he’s old enough to survive it) or learn how to over-winter him inside if he’s not – but the man of the house says that’s all doable and if we can convince him to adopt our garden it’ll be a win all around.
Do click through the picture to read a great article in the Guardian about how beneficial they are and how to lend a helping hand by making your garden hedgehog-friendly. I’ll keep you updated on what happens to our little friend. I haven’t named him as yet – thought we’d wait till be got an okay from wildlife folks, but the shortlist so far is:
Do let me know if you have some suggestions, we’ll add them to the pile and take a family vote if he becomes a permanent resident.