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OWR Hedgehog Protocols

Disclaimer

It's worth mentioning that OWR's protocols towards wild hedgehogs shouldn't be viewed as the only way to approach rescue efforts. It's essential to respect the diverse views, opinions, and protocols of other rescues. At OWR, we strive to stay informed and adapt our protocols as we learn more about the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick, injured, and misplaced juveniles.

Permanent captivity of disabled wild hedgehogs

Our top priority at OWR is to ensure that all of our patients can thrive in their natural habitats. While we work diligently to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, we do not operate as a sanctuary since this does not align with our mission. We face limitations such as resources, personnel, time, funding, and ethical considerations, which prevent us from providing permanent sanctuary to disabled hedgehogs. We approach each hedgehog as a unique case and pursue all available veterinary and rehabilitation options before making a decision. If a hedgehog cannot successfully adapt to life in the wild despite our efforts, we either refer it to a suitable sanctuary or, if necessary, humanely and painlessly euthanize them on welfare grounds.

The use of hedgehogs in educational talks, TV or media purposes 

OWR does not promote nor condone the use of any wild animal to be subjected to any unnecessary stress or exposure for the purposes of educational talks, TV appearances  or any other media platforms.  Educational talks, should in our opinion be focusing on promoting good standards of practice and welfare, not parading a terrified wild animal amongst members of the public. 

No patient of OWR will be used at educational talks or for display purposes to members of the public.

Should a hedgehog be required for a TV or media appearance, then we only allow the filming of any of our patients to be done onsite and with the following disciplines in place: 

The recovery of a animal will not be disturbed by either the presence of people (including film crew) , nor the technology used for filming. 

No animal will be handled unnecessarily, filming of triage, examination and treatment is considered to be acceptable, providing this doesn't interfere with our staffs work and or cause the animal any further alarm or distress.

 

Under no circumstances will patients be used for selfies, self profit or to promote bad practices in anyway shape or form.

We like to think that by promoting good practices, this reinforces such professionalism within this fragile industry.  

The only accepted circumstance for the agreement of TV or social media involving our patients is for the sole promotion of the species, OWR's work and promotional content for the industry itself.  

Amputations on wild hedgehogs

We here at OWR consider amputation of legs, arms and/or tails on any wild animal to be an extremely intrusive intervention towards the natural, phycological and physiological behaviours of them. Therefore we neither carry out or condone any amputations on any wild animals.  A number of issues presents themselves upon amputation of a hedgehogs leg, which may include: 
 

  • Inability to self groom

  • Stability issues

  • Promotion of sores

  • Displacement of weight distribution

  • Insufficient escape maneuverers from predators such as dogs, foxes and badgers

  • Abnormal weight distribution on bone mass and soft tissue

 

All of the above would prelude the release of a wild hedgehog. Releasing a hedgehog with any of the above would go against many welfare regulations and should be deemed as neglect of care.  

 

In theory, a hedgehog who looses one back leg 'can' remain in captivity, but under no circumstances should they be released into the wild. A hedgehog with more than one leg or either front leg missing should be humanely destroyed.

 

Leg Fractures in wild hedgehogs

It is not uncommon for hedgehogs to experience fractures in one or more of their legs. Unfortunately, these fractures can often lead to compound injuries and severe infections, such as osteomyelitis, which can make it difficult for the limb to recover. In these cases, we believe that the most humane option is to consider euthanasia.

To treat simple fractures in hedgehogs, we often resort to the simplest stabilisation of the tibia, radius and ulna, metatarsal or metacarpal bones using simple plaster casts. However, for more complex fracture sites presented in the humerus and femur, the decision to attempt stabilization will depend on the likelihood of a successful outcome.

In our experiences, we have found extracutaneous fixations and internal pinning to be effective methods for stabilizing fractures. These methods have proven successful in the treatment of previous patients, and we are confident in their ability to provide good stabilisation for hedgehogs in need.

Walled gardens for hedgehogs in semi-captivity

Walled gardens are not ideal considered ethical for the purposes of wild hedgehogs in captivity. We reserve the right to decline the kind offers for the use of them as there is many elements to consider, consisting of both neglect and inability to maintain good sound observations on the health and well being of the hedgehog.

Release of partially or totally blind hedgehogs

Considering the eyesight of a hedgehog isn't its most effective attribute, the loss of one eye is considered on a case by case basis, however the consideration of not releasing the hedgehog back to the wild may be decided upon the reasons as follows :

  • Inability to determined appropriate night and daytime hours

  • Lack of reasonable vision when crossing a road or track

  • Likelihood of severe compromise towards its natural lifespan

Any hedgehog who looses sufficient site in both eyes should be humanely destroyed.

  

Hedgehog persecution

Hedgehogs are a protected species here in the UK. It is a criminal offence to knowingly abuse, injure, take or kill a wild hedgehog. In any event that OWR remotely suspects a wildlife crime has been committed towards a wild hedgehog, we reserve the respectful right to report these actions to the relevant authorities. 

Autumn juvenile hedgehogs

Towards the end of November (usually when the temperatures start to plummet in this area) we generally advise that any hedgehog weighing under 450g is unlikely to survive hibernation (if it does) or die from starvation in freezing weather conditions.

As a result, come the colder months, many juvenile hedgehogs are taken into care and are fed through the winter here with us.

 

If they reach 600g they are then given the opportunity to hibernate in an outside pen, where they are closely monitored with food and water being made available at all times should they intermittently come out of hibernation. Eventually they are released in April or May.

With that said, there have been many situations through advice, support feeding and regular monitoring that have allowed wild hedgehogs to remain in their natural habitat, undisturbed and have not had any requirement to be subjected to unnecessary captivity. Each and every hedgehog case should always be referred to the professionals and no two scenarios are ever the same.

Whilst this protocol is what we here at OWR currently operate, this doesn't suggest that another way of doing it is wrong. Wildlife rescues tend to sometimes have different views, opinions and approaches. This approach works for us, however should you contact another wildlife rescue , they may choose to do things a little differently, and as long as the hedgehogs are being looked after properly, at the end of the day, we are all doing this work for the same reason/ outcome.

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