How to save hedgehogs

Not all hedgehogs need rescuing, no matter how vulnerable they look. Here’s how to spot those that need help – and how to give it.

Image by reader Judi Low of the ‘Hedgehog Highway’ which she installed in her garden fence to encourage hedgehog traffic. She says “almost straight away hedgehogs started to come in to the garden, and I now have a resident hibernating in an also newly-installed hedgehog house!”

This year has been incredibly busy at our Hedgehog Rescue; we have now had over 780 hedgehogs admitted since
2018. This month we have really struggled to cope with the number of young and orphaned or abandoned urchins. It is really hard to have to turn so many away from our door, especially as there are very few other places close by to take them. It is heart breaking.

What can you do to help these poor baby hedgehogs? Firstly, keep feeding them in your garden to help them put on weight. Even if they do not come for a few nights, please keep putting the food in the same position in your garden at around the same time and they will know where and when the food will arrive. The hungriest ones will always be the first to arrive. They eat more than you think and a hungry hedgehog can eat up to 200 grams of food a night.

Safe feeding tips

Place the food in a dish, not on the ground. A dish will keep the food cleaner than if put on the earth. Wet cat food in jelly freezes more quickly than dry cat food but either will help a hungry hoglet.
Leave fresh water out in several places in your garden. Do not feed a hedgehog by the light of a torch. They will get used to seeing the torch light and associate it with food delivery. When they see a car’s lights they will run towards it expecting food only to find something much bigger and less forgiving.

When to rescue

If you find a small hedgehog out during the day, at this time of the year they will be in need of help. Pick the hedgehog up wearing gloves and put it in a high sided box with some heat. A hot water bottle or warm water in a plastic bottle will need to be replaced regularly to keep the hog warm. Put an old towel or jumper into the box to help it stay warm and snug. Give it some water in a shallow saucer or bowl.
Let it have a good drink before offering some cat food in jelly. Our maximum capacity for hedgehogs is 38, as we only have space and time to care for that many. Anything over puts pressure and stress on me and the lovely volunteers who all kindly give their time and energy free to help the hedgehogs. However, a healthy hedgehog out at night feeding in your garden will probably do very well. If you continue support feeding all winter, it will survive; it is the lack of available food that causes most issues. Some folk are encouraging people to pick these night visitors up and take them to a rescue. If they are healthy and well, they are more likely to die in a rescue of the stress caused by being picked up and put into a box, driven to a rescue and caged. A healthy hog does not need to be inside in the warm but outside in the wild so it can look after itself.

Which animals to rescue

A healthy hog is out at night; an ill hedgehog can be seen out of its nest during the day, and these are the ones the spaces in a rescue should be saved for. If you do pick a hedgehog up at night because you consider
it is too small to hibernate, and put it in a box with the intention of caring for it yourself, please do so with the support of your local rescue. They will talk you through the care needed and give you help and assistance.

Jeanette at Hedgehog Rescue of Hazelbury Bryan 01258 818266

If you’d like to support Jeanette’s work and our North Dorset hedgehogs, please consider purchasing something from the rescue’s Amazon wishlist here

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