Prickly flood evacuees

European hedgehog
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The terrible floods in Northern England are all over the news and their impact on people and human life is absolutely devastating. But very few news channels are mentioning the horrific impact on wildlife.

Last night I welcomed 6 hedgehog evacuees from the RSPCA in York, which is at risk of flooding. All the animals have been evacuated for their safety. Dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, hedgehogs – the ark was full and all have gone to emergency homes until the flood waters subside.

The hedgehogs include this ‘old timer’ above. Her ginger spikes and pink nose (normally brown) give her age away. She has survived at least three winters but time has taken its toll and this year she has fared badly and is severely underweight.

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Flood waters encroach upon the RSPCA buildings in York

But despite her problems, she is one of the lucky ones. She is safe, dry and has a home. How many animals have lost their lives and homes in the floods? Farm animals and particularly sheep are susceptible to the effects of flooding with many grazing areas being located near rivers. Abandoned animals, neglected by their owners, may also have suffered.

Wildlife casualties will also be many – although the impact is difficult to quantify. They can’t be interviewed about how the flood waters have destroyed their homes. And it was already bad before the floods came. Hedgehogs were already teetering on the brink. Their numbers have declined rapidly since the 1950s and there are thought to be less than a million left in the wild. Will the floods hasten their demise?

But there may be a glimmer of hope. Hedgehog scientists have suggested that hedgehogs choose to nest on higher ground, avoiding the worst flood prone areas.

This mild weather also means that many have not hibernated and so may have stood a chance of reaching higher ground before they were washed away in the flood water.

I can but hope and we will know in the Spring when we see how many emerge from hibernation and whether my friends in the flood zone see their regular spikey visitors again….

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The entrance to the York RSPCA under water

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