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Hedgehog rescue advice

Q / What is a Hedgehog?

A/ 
Hedgehogs are small mammals that belong to the subfamily Erinaceinae, in the eulipotyplan family Erinaceidae. There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in New Zealand by introduction. A common misconception is that porcupines and hedgehogs are related when in actual fact they are not.

FACT: A hedgehog can have as many as 6,000 quills on its body. 

When in danger, the hedgehog curls into a ball so that the quills cover the entire area of their exposed body and protect the animal from predators. The hedgehog's only natural predator is the badger.


 

The advice given below is only a guideline, we advise that you contact your nearest wildlife rescue organization as soon as possible.

Wildlife help & Advice

European Hedgehog

Erinaceus europaeus

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  • Running around in circles, squealing, 'making short and sharp pipping noises' during the day

  • Obviously injured or trapped in netting

  • Wobbly on its feet (swaying with a side to side motion) 

  • Out during the day sunbathing in the middle of a lawn

  • Any youngster out during the day on its own.

  • Any hedgehog that's been picked up by a dog

Q / I've seen a hedgehog out during the day, is this normal?

A/ 
Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal creatures. If a hedgehog is seen out during the day it's likely to be in trouble and will need rescuing and taking to a wildlife rescue center. The ONLY exception to this rule is a nursing mother, who will be gathering nesting materials, however, she will likely be moving with a purpose (looking like she's in a rush and making calculated movements). 

A Hedgehog that is in need of rescuing is as follows :

 

Q / It's now winter and I have just seen a hedgehog out at nighttime feeding, shouldn't he be hibernating?

A/
Firstly, the reason the hedgehog is not hibernating.. is because he/she knows that they cannot hibernate due to insufficient fat reserves, they are not stupid. Or more likely, it isn't actually cold enough to warrant hibernation just yet! 

Hedgehogs don't follow a calendar like you and I do, in fact, the decision to hibernate is based on temperature. As soon as temperatures start to drop to around 2 degrees centigrade and below, only then will a hedgehog start to think about hibernating.

This is always a conflicting subject, however, we have evidence to suggest that over the past 5 years our winters here in the south of England have become much milder, meaning hedgehogs are not hibernating as much (sometimes at all) and this is fast becoming more and more a problem due to insect life not being as abundant as it would be in say spring or summer.

Hedgehog nest disturbed?

First and foremost, DO NOT rush in and start removing the babies. Call a wildlife rescue who will assist in making the correct decision with you. It's thought that if the mother is disturbed, she will abandon her young or worse still eat them! The truth is yes, this does and can happen. But in MOST cases, this can be easily avoided and the family of prickles can remain together in the wild ( FAR BETTER THAN AT ANY RESCUE CENTER ). 

 

Here are some tips and a step-by-step approach to help and guide you if you've accidentally disturbed a nest of hedgehogs.

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  1. Back off! (Cover up the nest and do not start touching the youngsters (ESPECIALLY NOT WITH YOUR BARE HANDS)
     

  2. Observe from a distance. Watch to see what the mother does. Mum will likely not move and should be asleep, if she seems to turn aggressive or start attacking her young you will need to ring a wildlife rescue immediately.
     

  3. CORNER OFF THE AREA AND LEAVE WELL ALONE. Provide a shallow dish of water to assist mum but DO NOT provide any food. Any food items will attract predators and could compromise the location of the nest and the litter of hoglets.
     

  4. If the Youngsters begin to move out of the nest and start making 'pipping noises' once disturbed, please collect them up and house them in a cardboard box with the nesting material they were in (The smell of their mum and their nest will comfort them) and call a wildlife rescue immediately.

Hedgehog rescue equipment

We have put together a step-by-step guide into how you should capture and contain a hedgehog that you have been asked to pick up/ rescue. Please consider when doing so, that you are dealing with a wild animal. This isn't the moment for a social media picture, nor is it a chance to educate children or anybody. The animal needs help, fast. So please follow the instructions below and take it to your nearest wildlife rescue center or your local vet immediatley.

Equipment you will need.

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A pair of heavy-duty gloves

(Gardening gloves are fine)

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x1 Cardboard box

At least 40cm high

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x1 hot water bottle

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2-3 white towels.

  1. Using your gloves,  scoop up the Hedgehog.

  2. Cover the Hedgehog with a white towel.

  3. Line your cardboard box using a white towel.

  4. Fold another towel around the hot water water and place it on one side of the box

  5. Place your hedgehog next to the hot water bottle.

  6. Bring the box indoors, away from flies, heat, drafts, and call your nearest wildlife rescue center.

You will notice, that we havnt mentioned putting any food or water in with the hedgehog. Thats because any hedgehog that is in trouble will require neither food nor water. The animal is sick, it will not be able to digest or even swallow food items in severe cases. Water isn't going to help at this point. The animal needs rehydrating, but using a medical grade liquid to replace vital electrolytes. This is normally done via injection.

Hedgehogs are prey animals. Therefore their stress levels are going to be rocket sky-high when captured by a human. They do not recognize that we are trying to help ( If anything they think we're trying to eat them).
Please bear this in mind, the best place for this animal is with somebody who has the skills, equipment, and facilities to deal with them. It is NOT a chance to be a big social media hit, or show the children/friends what you have found. This animal is dying, and it is down to you to make sure it receives the help not only they require but also deserves. 

White towels are excellent ways to determine whether there is an injury or not. Blood will show up on a white towel and so will many other juices and clues as to what happened to the animal. One thing to make sure is that there are no holes in the towels to avoid the animal getting caught up or tangled in a mess.