Sunday, October 27, 2019

HEDGEHOGS: Bonfire night, Juveniles, Autumn and Hibernation.

                                       It is that time of year again Folks.

Hedgehogs have declined from approximately 30 million in the 1950's to around 1 million today and are continuing to plummet in numbers due to US.

As we  are approaching November the 5th, Bonfire night, if you are going to have a private bonfire party please, please, please check your bonfire before lighting it for any wildlife such as hedgehogs who might be sleeping or hiding in it.

If possible build it on the night before you start your party as it saves having to check or perhaps if already built and not too big  simply dismantle and rebuild maybe somewhere else even.

It can take a hedgehog 4 hours to come round from the state known as torpor/hibernation.
This gives them no chance if the fire's lit and they have decided to hibernate underneath.

Alternatively please use a broom handle or something similar to lift the logs /wood and shine a torch to check for hedgehogs, remember this is not fail safe, hedgehogs blend in so well and will be hard to spot against wood especially in the dark.

It really is best to just move the pile a few feet away on the day, that way any hedgehogs found can be moved somewhere safe until the event is over or build it just before you light it.

Better yet attend your local bonfire display, bigger and better fireworks, other entertainment as well is usually on as well plus a nice warm bonfire.

If you don't check before lighting your bonfire then you could be burning an animal alive or leaving them with horrific injuries which they may or may not survive such as below.
With such injuries many have to be euthanized, others may need to be re-homed in an enclosed garden because their spines may not grow back or be patchy leaving them vulnerable or they may not be able to curl up properly again due to scar tissue making them vulnerable to attack from predators such as foxes or attacks from dogs.

                                             A survivor of a bonfire which was lit without it first being checked for hedgehogs.
Sadly, This lady died, likely from the heat leaving 3 hoglets orphaned.

In fact always check before lighting any bonfire, to you it is a bonfire, to a hedgehog it is a home, sometimes its final home as they are burned alive.

Also, if you see a hedgehog out during the day it will be in trouble and need help as they are nocturnal animals and sleep during the day.


PLEASE, do act if you see a hedgehog out during the day.
A hedgehog out in the daytime is in trouble and needs urgent help.

Pick the hedgehog up, with gloves if you have them or a blanket/towel or tea towel, place the hedgehog in a high-sided box (it must be high-sided as they are excellent climbers), cover the hedgehog over with the tea-towel or blanket and take it inside.

o NOT leave it outside or outside your local rescue without notifying them.
Time can be crucial for sick or injured hedgehogs

Offer only a shallow dish of water, no food.

 A sick dehydrated hedgehog should not be offered food, it can do more damage than good.

 Fluids are more important.

Food will only shut the body down quicker if dehydrated.

If you have a hot water bottle place it warm (not hot) underneath the hedgehog and do not allow the hot water bottle to go cold, it can have the reverse effect and do more harm than good if left to go cold.

 If you don't have a hot water bottle then a plastic drinks bottle will suffice.

Allow room for the hedgehog to move away from the hot water bottle if it wants to.

Keep in a quiet room away from noise and call your local hedgehog carer/rescue or wildlife hospital for further advice.

To find your nearest rescue; please call: The BHPS on 01584 890801.

Also at this time of year some of the ladies are having a second litter so be careful when doing your garden such as digging or strimming as you may disturb a nest or worse kill or injure a hedgehog and/or her babies.

In fact at any time you are working in your garden such as digging or strimming, 


Hedgehog nests are messy and may not look like a nest at all sometimes just looking like a pile of leaves, twigs, grass and sadly may even contain bits of plastic so no littering, recycle everything you can and cut up anything that can encircle a neck or body of a hoglet or adult, tie a knot in plastic pack/bags such as crisp wrappers so a hungry animal cannot get stuck in it.

Breeding season for the British hedgehog is usually April to September although this year 2019, as it was so mild and warm in February we had hedgehog sexy time occurring earlier than usual with hedgehog rescues getting some super early hoglets needing help.
Courtship is noisy, the male will circle the female and she will tell him to pretty much bugger off.
males will compete so there will be the equivalent of my bits are bigger than your bits and lots of pushing and shoving with occasional biting and shaking.
In my garden the males will do their circling whilst the lady is eating and she will tell him "bugger off, I am eating" which never appears to stop them persisting with their wooing.
I had one lady (Tiggy) so fed up she backed her back end against the side of my greenhouse.
The lovelorn male (Junior) couldn't circle her as he normally would ended up going along the side of the greenhouse, through the missing pane in the back, through the greenhouse, out the front door and back round to his beloved.
She still told him to bugger off but eventually she did produce babies so his use of single brain cell must have worked its studly wiles on her.
I always advise my boys to wait until the lady has finished eating and they may then be more receptive to their manly charms.

They never listen.

This was the scene that confronted me when I was checking my garden and I saw a strange shadow at the end of my garden.

Armed with torch and camera I discovered two of my hogs in flagrante delecto.
Meet Junior and Tiggy who did successfully manage to complete the act at a later date resulting in two babies, Edmund and Edwina.
She however wasn't enthralled by his efforts and carried on walking along the fence with him hanging on for dear life.
It looked promising until she walked under my garden gate and he didn't and fell off, just at exactly the wrong moment as was helpfully pointed out by a friend of mine when I posted pictures on my FB.
He did however persist with his wooing and I ended up with babies

If you accidentally disturb a nest

If a nest is disturbed the mother may abandon her hoglets or kill them.

Carefully cover it up again and if there are hoglets, do not touch them as the mother may simply abandon them or worse, kill them.
Keep an eye open and see if mom reappears.
She may return or may move the nest and hoglets to another site
If she does not return and the hoglets are ‘peeping’ or are venturing out of the nest, then they will be in need of rescue.
Some ladies have a second litter. although the average litter size can be four or five, often they only manage to successfully wean two or three.
Late fall hoglets often do not survive as they simply don't have the time to build their reserves that allow them to hibernate successfully.
To hibernate successfully it is recommended the hedgehog weighs at least 650g, anything smaller may not survive depending on how harsh winter is.
It is also another good reason to provide food and water as hedgehogs may not hibernate until November or December if the weather is mild plus, they do not sleep all the way through like bears and if it is mild they will wake have a drink and food before going back to bed.

If you come across hoglets that look to be too small to hibernate, you can weigh them and if substantially below 650g contact your local rescue who will take them in and over winter them.
This is not something you should attempt do yourself at home as hedgehogs can be noisy and smelly and they will poo a lot, and I mean a lot.
They will likely have a worm burden and require treatment or even things like mange or ringworm, ticks, fleas or mites all of which need treatment or removal.

A Hedgehog Nest

Hibernaculums are often built under bramble or scrubby vegetation to provide structural support but, as here, they can also be relatively unassuming piles of leaves. Hibernating hedgehogs are often disturbed by gardeners clearing up piles of leaves during the autumn and winter. - Credit: Colin Brown.
If you are lucky to have such a gorgeous visitor as a hedgehog and you have a dog or dogs, when you let them outside to do their business at night and your dog(s) will or may attack a hedgehog or 'play' with it, it might be a good idea to check first to see if you have guests and if so wait a few till they leave or keep your dog on a leash to prevent it going for the hedgehog even if your dog is friendly and you don't think it will attack your hedgehog or decide to play with it thinking perhaps it is a ball or just being nosy.

Such injuries may not appear serious but are as they are puncture wounds and in the summer such injuries can be a target for fly strike with the maggots  appearing quickly and then proceeding to eat the hedgehog alive.
If caught early enough the hedgehog can be treated, the eggs and maggots removed and antibiotics etc applied.

Hedgehog Feeding Station and Support Feeding

If you do have visitors and want to do your bit to encourage them you can build a simple feeding station.
You can buy a cheap storage box (Wilko is good plus as they are transparent you can see if you have visitors)
Turn it upside down and cut a 13cm x 13 cm hole in the front and cover sharp edges with some duct tape. and place a brick or something heavy on the top to keep it from being blown away.
A couple of dishes, I use a large flat puppy dish as I support feed a lot and a dish for fresh water is great and feeding them either meaty cat meat (no fish) or meaty cat biscuits or kitten biscuits which are the perfect size for hedgehog and hoglet mouths.
I also prefer biscuits as they don't go off regardless of the temperature unlike meat in summer and doesn't attract anywhere as many flies or cats.
Currently mine are on Spike's Biscuits which they love.
Spikes also do a semi moist biscuit.
There are other brands such as Brambles who also do a meat, find what works for your hedgehog visitors.
Mine are fussy so it is Spike's or whatever my cats are eating which is currently Iams chicken kitten biscuits.
In the summer it is worth putting out extra water bowls, this years I had one long shallow trough and 5 large water bowls for cats, hedgehogs and birds, everyone stays cool, refreshed and happy although I think my cats prefer drinking from the shallow trough as the birds bathe in it.
I think my cats think it was some sort of cold, bird flavored soup.
Hedgehogs are opportunistic feeders and will eat pretty much anything they can get their little claws on

Do not feed wild hedgehogs bread or milk as they are lactose intolerant and bread has little nutritional value.Do not feed them dried meal worms as they are high in phosphate and can actually cause a painful bone disease in hedgehogs and, in worst case scenarios, result in them losing their ability to walk. The high phosphate levels in theses worms are sapping hedgehogs of calcium and reducing the strength of their bones.
The hedgehog will, given the chance, eat these to the exclusion of all other foods but as the rare occasional treat they are OK if given just a couple.
Sunflower hearts and peanuts are very fatty, and hedgehogs enjoy them for this reason, so feed them only as a treat or within a balanced diet.
Hedgehogs can often be seen foraging under bird feeders, and it's believed that it's the food that attracts them, it is more likely the insects and critters that fallen bird food attracts.

Sticking to hedgehog biscuits,meaty cat or puppy biscuits or meaty cat or dog canned food and clean fresh water is the best option and your hedgehog visitors will have a nice healthy diet.

If you do have visitors then it is also worth considering  providing a hedgehog house both for general sleeping, mothers nesting and/or hibernating.
They are reasonably priced and come in a variety of shapes and sizes or you can build your own if you have a DIY bent.
Straw, Leaves and Hay are all recommended for nesting material so it is worth saving those leaves.
Place it out the wind and where it will be sheltered such as under shrubs and where it is quiet and shaded and with an 
entrance hole out of the weather (ideally facing East to South)
Part fill it with some of the above to initiate a nest and see if you get occupants.
Make sure to give it a good clean in the spring once the occupant has vacated the premises.

Build your own Hedgehog house

Hedgehog Rescues
It would also be nice if, you find out where your local hedgehog rescue is if you could perhaps donate food, supplies such as puppy pads, newspaper, latex gloves etc.
Many rescues have wish lists on Amazon where you can decide what you would like to donate, every little bit helps as running a rescue is expensive with not only food and other supplies but also vet bills for things like medication and even surgery.
If you have some spare time perhaps even volunteer a couple of hours to help out with cleaning and feeding and you can get up close and personal with these wonderful animals, each with their own personalities.
Perhaps even, if you drive, offering your services to go and collect a sick or very young hoglet that may have been abandoned by its mother for whatever reason or the nest has been disturbed.
Also if you have a fully enclosed garden where nothing can get in or out, it is worth offering your garden to your local rescue as a safe garden where a hedgehog that cannot be released back into the wild for what ever reason, such as blindness can live.
provide a hog house and support feed and your disabled hedgehog can live a safe happy life bimbling around your garden.
Who knows, perhaps if another disabled hedgehog of the opposite sex shows up maybe offer that one a home as well and you could end up with babies which can then be released into the wild.
You could even foster and be the halfway house between one from your local rescue to being released back into the wild.
It allows them to get acclimatized to the weather and being able to find their own food  from your support feeding before being fully released back into the wild.
It lets the rescue know the hedgehog can cope and is fit and healthy enough for the big wide world and being released back to the area where it was initially found.

Every little thing will help make a difference to these rapidly decreasing number of animals, less than a million left in the country having fallen victim to vehicles (drivers think they will run out the way when the hedgehog simply curls up into a ball and promptly gets squished or seriously injured) so drive carefully and keep an eye open for hogs in the road, perhaps if you can do so safely, stop and remove the hedgehog from the road and place on the side on the grass or whatever, building new estates both residential and industrial destroying their habitat or blocking their thoroughfares through gardens with walls and fencing down to the ground, in which case why not make a space in your fence for hedgehogs to go through (13cm x 13cm is optimal), a hedgehog tunnel or if you don't want to damage your fence, make space underneath the fence deep enough for them to get through.
You can even get little signs for them saying hedgehog highways and templates on amazon or Ebay
Why not get together with neighbors and everyone make a space in their fence to allow our nocturnal visitors through?
If they are building new housing estates go to the meetings and demand they make provision for hedgehogs with spaces in fences and walls to allow them to travel through gardens and in safety.
See if they can put up SLOW Hedgehog signs if you have hedgehogs in your street or allow you to put your own signs up.
Also if you have a pond, make sure that if an animal falls in, it can get out again so things like a small ladder or some stones making it shallow enough for them to get out even though hedgehogs are excellent swimmers and climbers, If they can't climb out of a deep pond they will tire and drown and yet another needless hedgehog death.

Hedgehogs are a gardeners best friend as they eat slugs and bugs so be honored when you are graced with their presence and who knows, you may even end up with babies.
Below in the the link can be heard the various sounds hedgehogs can make so even if you can't see a hedgehog, you may hear them around.

Various noises a hedgehog can make

Hermione, one of my regular visitors as a baby weighing about 300g  or so. She was tiny and fit comfortably into the palm of my hand
She does not like sharing and when she is eating regardless of how large the food dish is, she will shout at then and get so cross she will go backwards and if that doesn't work, she will take a run up and try and shove them away which confuses some of my big boars who come in at well over a kilo and wonder what is going on.

Once again, you can find out more if you visit the British Hedgehog Preservation society at the

Below are a couple of pictures of just a few of my wild hedgehog visitors also showing the type of dish I use and why

Dinner time at Chateau de Hobs, First sitting

When my backdoor is open and I wasn't fast enough refilling their food dish for dinner.
I do wish however they would learn to wipe their feet first before entering.

Again I was slow serving dinner so Tiggy (back) Hermione (middle) and Junior decide to help themselves to my then 2 cat's dinner.

Some useful sites

Hedgehog Street

British Hedgehog Preservation Society
St Tiggywinkles

Ark Wildlife Shop

And for those of you with pets, I highly recommend this site for all your pet needs.
Economical with a huge variety of products at all pricing levels, something for everyone.
In particular if you have a cat, and I have 3, I strongly recommend Grey Master ultra clumping cat litter.
It is economical price wise plus all you need to do is scoop out the solid clumps for disposal rather than having to throw the whole trayful away as it stinks and is pretty much one solid lump of yuck.
Less litter is thrown away each time you need to clean your cats litter tray so it lasts longer
Also cats find it feels nicer to their paws.

Zooplus Pet Supplies

Have a great day everyone, thank you and big hugs from me, my 3 cats
Wingnut Cubert Picklebutt.
Clancy falahdoodledoodah McHooligan.
PoppyDoppy FrankenKitty
All my hedgehog visitors.

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