The Hedgehog Year

Between late April and late October each year, animals are released back into the wild. We try to send them back to the area they came from as there may be resistance to local disease. Our second preference is a site already frequented by hedgehogs where people are willing to provide shelter, food and water for at least the first week.

Much time, care and cost goes into rehabilitating so we won't release into areas with no hedgehogs, known badger runs, escape-proof gardens nor places where pesticides are routinely used. Slug pellets, for example, contain Metaldehyde which is lethal to wildlife and some of our casualties are victims of poisoning.

Below we tell you what happens to hedgehogs during the year and what rescue centres can expect to arrive on the doorstep. We hope this will give an idea of the cases we see and how you can help to lighten our load.

Month by Month

Click on a month to see what's going on


  • January

    January

    Issues:

    Underweight, lungworm, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation

    Most hedgehogs will be hibernating but even at this bleak time, some venture out from their nest during mild weather to find food and water. Hedgehogs lose around a third of their body weight during the long sleep. If they were underweight when they started they need to keep topping up or they will die before the spring arrives.

    Those that have been rescued have to be kept awake until they are well and large enough (over 600g) to survive the winter. If these had not been found and brought in to a rescue they would have died and indeed, by this time, many are too weak to be saved.

    Very late-born hoglets are still arriving. These can weigh as little as 120 grms, 4-6 weeks old, born during a mild spell in late-Autumn. Each year we see more and more cases of hoglets born as late as December, particularly in the south-east. Unless rescued, these stand no chance at all of surviving until the Spring. If you need evidence for global warming, this is it.


  • February

    February

    Issues:

    Underweight, lungworm, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation

    Most hedgehogs will be in hibernation with the exception of our patients.

    Generally the only hedgehogs we receive in February are sick or abused, and occasionally half-grown malnourished ones that are desperately trying to find food during a mild spell.

    These animals are usually in severe trouble and many don't make it. If you know you have hedgehogs in your garden, please leave food and water out all during the winter for animals such as these. You could save a life.


  • March

    March

    Issues:

    Dehydration, starvation, injuries

    Early Spring warmth begins to bring some hedgehogs out of hibernation. Those that successfully hibernated will be thin and extremely hungry and thirsty! A shallow dish of chicken-based cat/dog food, along with a shallow dish of water, put out each night will help them enormously.

    Although a quiet time compared with summer, the first calls about sick or injured hedgehogs will be coming in. Gardeners beginning to tidy up the winter mess are using mowers, shears, strimmers and forks and the calls about injured hedgehogs are not far behind.

    This marks the start of our Spring/Summer campaign asking all gardeners to PLEASE take care and check all areas where hedgehogs are likely to be sleeping BEFORE starting to use hazardous equipment.

    Mating can occur in this month but it's rare, they're usually far too busy trying to find food.


  • April

    April

    Issues:

    Dehydration, starvation, injuries

    In the latter half of this month we prepare to release over-wintered, fit hedgehogs back to the wild. The majority have by now come out of hibernation and the weather is reasonably reliable. All our long term residents spend a period in pre-release pens to adjust to being back in the wild and fending for themselves.

    Matings occur in this month, especially in late-April. The female is circled by the male, until she accepts him. All snuffling and grunting you hear is her telling him what she thinks of him! He plays no other part in raising a family.

    Birth sites include flower-beds, underneath hedges, underneath sheds, in unused rabbit burrows, in compost heaps and even in bags of rubbish that have been left unattended.

    ALWAYS check in rubbish sacks before you dispose of them.

    ALWAYS check compost heaps before you plunge a fork in.

    ALWAYS move a bonfire before you light it.

    The pregnant female makes a nest of dry leaves, grass, moss or anything else suitable and unsuitable.

    Calls about injured and sick hedgehogs are now increasing.


  • May

    May

    Issues:

    Dehydration, injuries, disturbed nests, orphans

    In May the calls begin to increase. Many animals that came out of hibernation in a poor state manage to struggle on but if the weather is dry and they can't find water they will come out during the day in desperation. Injured hedgehogs appear as well as the spring orphans and disturbed nests.

    We usually receive our first newborns by the end of May and if they come in without their mother, they need constant incubation (usually at 30 deg. C.) and round-the-clock hand-rearing on specialist feeds. We do not give milk to any hedgehog.

    You may well hear mating occurring in your garden. A lot of hoglets are born during the late-Spring/ early-Summer period - many of these (sick, injured and orphaned) find their way to us in the following month.

    We receive some with horrific injuries. Hedgehogs often snuggle down during the day in long uncut grass or around the borders of lawns. PLEASE CHECK BEFORE MOWING or STRIMMING!


  • June

    June

    Issues:

    Dehydration, injuries, disturbed nests, orphans, ticks

    Overwintering one hedgehog costs around £100. This includes food, heat and medications. When you consider that we tend to have around 80 animals in at any given time, you can work out how much we need to raise during the summer and autumn months to keep us going. Now is the time we start to do our fundraising in earnest.

    Volunteers are indispensable at this time as we still have to cover rescues, feeding orphans, medications, cleaning, etc.

    More little ones and disturbed nests arriving. Hogs are now coming in with old, partially healed and infected injuries as well as recent ones.

    Most hogs will arrive with some ticks but some will be covered in them and suffering from anaemia. If you have piles of leaves lying around in your garden, please clear them up carefully but make sure you're wearing gloves. Ticks like to nest in damp leaves.


  • July

    July

    Issues:

    Dehydration, injuries, disturbed nests, orphans, ticks

    Lots of calls for advice and many for rescue of sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, sometimes entire families and often multiple animals coming in the same day.

    Although there ought be plenty of natural food available, supplementary food and water should be provided at all times, especially during a drought.

    We continue to release successfully treated and fit animals but NEVER during a prolongued dry period. There is such a lack of natural food and water that more hedgehogs actually die of thirst and hunger than those that die on the roads

    You can help by planting native species in your garden to attract domestic insects. Leave unkempt areas behind sheds or at the back of borders.

    PLEASE CHECK BEFORE MOWING or STRIMMING!


  • August

    August

    Issues:

    Dehydration, injuries, disturbed nests, orphans, ticks

    Lots of calls for advice and/or rescue of sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, sometimes entire families and often multiple animals coming in the same day.

    Although there ought be plenty of natural food available, supplementary food and water should be provided at all times, especially during a drought.

    We continue to release successfully treated and fit animals but NEVER during a prolongued dry period. There is such a lack of natural food and water that more hedgehogs actually die of thirst and hunger than those that die on the roads

    You can help by planting native species in your garden to attract domestic insects. Leave unkempt areas behind sheds or at the back of borders.

    PLEASE CHECK BEFORE MOWING or STRIMMING!


  • September

    September

    Issues:

    Dehydration, injuries, disturbed nests, orphans, ticks

    Still lots of sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs arriving! Much the same as the previous 2 months, but the onset of wet weather is a welcome relief for dehydrated animals.

    Hoglets born at this time may or may not be large enough, or have enough weight, to survive the oncoming Winter and so, the first "Autumn Juveniles" appear at the rescues.

    Hedgehogs start to take on board as much food as they can so that they are a good weight before winter sets in. Supplementary food is extremely welcome.

    PLEASE CHECK BEFORE MOWING or STRIMMING!


  • October

    October

    Issues:

    Dehydration, emaciation, injury, underweight, dog attack

    The calls keep coming in but nestlings tail off and sick juveniles take over. Many dog attacks, poisoning cases, strimmer injuries and dehydrated animals arriving now.

    The healthy hogs begin to build their hiberniculum (a large nest, made from dry leaves, moss and grass), and by late-October the older, larger hogs start to hibernate.

    Babies and juveniles will not have enough fat reserves to survive hibernation. Anything under 600g needs to be checked over by a rescue and may well need to be cared for throughout the Winter months.

    Supplementary food provided in your garden in a feeding station is extremely welcome.


  • November

    November

    Issues:

    Two words... Bonfire night

    The bane of any animal rescue, Bonfire night. The two weeks either side of the 5th are the most hazardous in the whole year for all wildlife but in particular sleepy hedgehogs. Huge piles of wood and sticks make very inviting places to make a nest and this results in a lot of burned hedgehogs that arrive with us having been cooked alive.

    The message here is simple PLEASE CHECK BEFORE YOU LIGHT!

    Sadly we also see cruelty cases. Some youths morons seem to think it's fun to stick lighted fireworks into a curled up hedgehog. Rarely are these animals saved. They usually arrive screaming. If you have the misfortune to come across this, contact your local Wildlife Crime Officer and take the hedgehog to the nearest vet immediately.

    All rescues batten down the hatches for at least 2 weeks either side of the 5th to try and prevent animals dying from fright.

    By now many hedgehogs will be hibernating, while some are still quite active and charging around looking for food.

    Still receiving calls about orphaned hoglets and displaced or confused juveniles needing our help


  • December

    December

    Issues:

    Underweight, enteritis, dehydration, orphans

    In theory, December through until April should be our quiet period, yes we have a lot of overwintering hogs but they should by now be recovered and just being fed and watered.

    In practice, we are still taking in large numbers of animals suffering from lungworm, enteritis, emaciation and poisoning as well as seeing more and more late born babies.

    When there is a sudden cold snap, mum will often go into hibernation and the little ones come out one by one looking for help. If you find any, please do not attempt to rear them yourself no matter how tempting or how cute. These babies will be compromised and need an experienced eye watching for signs of illness. They go downhill extremely fast and need the correct medication on hand. Vets rarely have the experience to deal with them and will pass them on to a rescue by which time it can be too late.


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