Hedgehog crisis: a prickly problem
The hedgehog population is declining at an alarming rate due to loss of habitat and the consequent environmental pressures such as dwindling food supplies.
These timid little creatures are also becoming pray to larger mammals such as badgers who are also feeling the pinch. Lynne Garner of Herts Hogline, a voluntary organisation caring for Hertfordshire’s hedgehogs for the last 20 years, explains the important conservation work they are doing and how you can help build a better future for one of our best loved and least understood mammals.
When I first started caring for hedgehogs, some 20 years ago, little was known about the problems they were facing. However today the worrying facts are known, as these two quotes demonstrate:
“Surveys show that populations have dropped by almost 50% over the last 25 years and the indication is that this decline is still continuing in England and Wales. If nothing is done to reverse the trend then this mammal could be extinct from some areas by 2050.”
People’s Trust For Endangered Species
“Britain’s hedgehogs could soon be an endangered species after their numbers plunged by an estimated 35 million to just one million over the last 50 years.”
International Business Times, 2nd February 2013
Our work of rescuing sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs is more important than ever. Based in Bishop’s Stortford and run completely by volunteers our HQ is a 6′ x 8′ converted shed. The volunteers and myself fit the care for these prickly creatures around our own lives and, with the help of a number of local veterinary practices, rescue between 40 to 75 hedgehogs a year.
This little hog was found in October. He came to us because he was too small to hibernate. However it was noticed he had a strange lump on his side. Our fantastic vet discovered he had a punctured lung and air was expecting into his body cavity. This air had to be drained off a couple of times. He made a full recovery and will be released back into the wild this spring. Pic ©Lynne Garner
It is our aim to return all hedgehogs to the wild. However, if a hedgehog is disabled by its injuries and cannot be released safely we have a list of safe gardens which allow the hedgehog to live as natural a life as possible in a safe and secure environment.
In March 2011 we were awarded the Burgess/Wetnose award for Best Small Animal Rescue. In the same year we reached our 500th rescued hedgehog (records started in 2000). As part of our work we aim to help educate the public in how they can help. We achieve this by visiting local groups such as WI’s, Gardening Clubs, Brownies, Scouts and schools. In return we ask for a donation and the chance to sell items. The advice we give is simple and includes:
- If you have a pond with steep sides then fit a ramp.
- Keep netting at least 15cm (6″) off the ground.
- Leave out food and water. This can be special hedgehog food, tinned cat/dog food (non-fishy flavours) or make your own by mixing chopped/crushed unsalted peanuts, dried mealworms, sultanas and sunflower hearts.
- Always check under hedges and long grass before you trim/cut it.
- Always check compost heaps prior to pushing in a garden fork.
- To avoid hedgehogs making a nest in your shed/garage keep the door closed at all times.
- Do not use slug pellets; find safer alternatives. If you do have to use pellets then:
- Use only when you know the problem will be at its worst and remove pellets when not needed.
- Place pellets in or under a tube so hedgehogs cannot reach them.
- Remove any dead or dying slugs/snails and dispose of safely.
- Always check a bonfire before you light it.
- Provide a good home by buying one or making your own. Plans for a hedgehog home can be found here
- Where possible try to create pathways between gardens.
- Hedgehogs are completely nocturnal, so if you see a hedgehog during the day they are likely to be unwell and in need of help.
- Never treat hedgehog for fleas yourself, many medications suitable for pets can be lethal to hedgehogs.
- During autumn and winter you may find small hedgehogs (weighing under 600 grams) that are too small to survive hibernation, so they need to be rescued.
If you find a hedgehog in need of help please feel free to contact us for advice. However none of our carers or myself are medically trained, so all hedgehogs have to be seen by a vet first. We can pick up (if within our area) from the practice and care for under their supervision.
How to support our work
At present we have enough carers and good release sites and have closed our books to new offers. However we are in need of funds so to help us achieve this please:
- Pass on our details to local groups (within a 20-mile radius of Standard Airport) who can book us for a presentation.
- Collect used printer cartridges (unable to use refills or Epson) we can sell these on.
- Visit our blog, click on the support us page and order your office supplies on the link provided.
- Hold your own fund raising event.
To discover more about how you can help hedgehogs visit www.hedgehogstreet.org
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