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July 2002 - The Hedgehog.

Hedgehog at night

One morning in the middle of July my husband noticed a small hedgehog snuffling around in the rock rose. It was quite early in the morning and he looked fine so I left him alone. Then a few days later I saw him later in the day in the Pyrocantha at the back of the pond. Unfortunately by the time I had looked at the Internet and found out that you should always pick up hedgehogs you see out during the day he had disappeared.

The following day I was sitting on the bench when I saw what I immediately assumed was a dead hedgehog in the sun, behind the pond. However upon investigation he was alive but pretty much collapsed. I picked him up carefully with a pair of leather gloves, brought him inside and gave him a drink of water and dispatched my husband to get some cat food. He proceeded to drink a lot of water and stuff some cat food and was obviously very thirsty (strange since he was behind the pond).

He was well enough to curl into a ball and had no obvious injuries or parasites. A patch of his prickles was a bit loose and the skin didn't look too healthy underneath but he could move around and eat well enough. I didn't want to pull him around too much.

This was of course just the start of my troubles. It was a Sunday and so I couldn't contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. They had a number on their answer machine, which lead to another answer machine with a a number etc, etc. After ringing around I was finally told to call the RSPCA. The lady there said that there had been a lot of calls and that hedgehogs should just be re-released at dusk. I wasn't happy to do this as the hedgehog obviously had problems and the web-sites that I had read said they shouldn't be released under a certain weight. He weighed 265g so I decided to evict poor Charm from his indoor guinea pig hutch and keep the hedgehog overnight so that he could see the Vet in the morning. Charm didn't mind that much as he got to live for a week in the indoor run which is four times as big but only gets used in wet weather due to the space it takes up.

One of my main concerns was not transferring anything from the hedgehog to our pets and so strict quarantine was put in place around the downstairs bathroom. He was given a box to hide in and no-one went in except to feed him and clean him out (they are nothing if not smelly). Hands were washed with antibacterial hand was after doing anything near him.

The next day I took him to the local vet who again said that he looked fine and should be released. However I decided to ring the British Hedgehog Preservation society who said that I was right not to release him and gave me some advice and the number of local carers. This is where I discovered that no-one has room for a sick hedgie in July. I spoke to a very nice local lady who asked me to keep him if I could, feed him up for a few days until he was obviously putting on weight, worm and de-flea him before release.

So Mr Hedgehog spent the next four days in my downstairs bathroom. He was wormed with Panacur (I got the correct dose for from the vet) and de-flead with Johnson's Ridmite. Between Sunday and Thursday his weight went up from 265g to 350g so I would suspect that he was severely dehydrated when I found him. His colour improved and right from the beginning he ate everything that I gave him. This was mostly chicken cat food and crunchy oat cereal with lots of fresh water. Look at some of the web sites below for advice on feeding.

I had a hedgehog nesting box in my garden which was not being used (large spider's web over entrance for several days). I cleaned it out and put the hedgehog in a guinea pig run overnight so that he got used to the nest box and a feeding station. The feeding station is a washing up bowl with a four inch entrance cut in the front. The food and water is put at the back and bricks are put on top to stop cats tipping it over.

I had been advised to wait until colder damp weather before releasing him and luckily the hot, dry weather had broken by the end of the week. I moved the nest box during the day to behind the hedge where he was found and put the feeding station near by. The food was eaten the fist night but not the second. Since then food has been eaten but it is difficult to tell if it was him or another hedgehog.

Due to not wanting to disturb the hedgie unnecessarily the only photo that I is one of him in the run taken with the IR on my camera which allows photos to be taken in complete darkness (I knew I'd use it one day!). Hopefully his few days in captivity enabled him (or indeed her) to get over whatever the problem was, fatten up a bit and then manage fine in the wild. Certainly the worming will have helped him out and it may well be that the problem was a heavy intestinal parasite load. I know that if I had left him out in the sun during the day he would soon been a target for flies laying eggs and wouldn't lasted very long.

Update : I have continued to get the odd sick hedgehog over the 3 years since the first. Sadly many of them are very sick and/or injured by the time they are found wandering around during the day. I do not normally attempt to look after them myself, but have found knowledgeable contacts locally that will help with them.

My advice is that if you find a hedgehog out during the middle of the day is to bring him somewhere safe in a secure box, and then get advice from the BHPS about what to do or ring your local vet who will have details of your local wildlife rescue services. If you have a local wildlife hospital this is a very good idea. British Hedgehog Preservation Society - has a carers list and helpline and put me on to a local lady who gave me good advice about what to do.

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