Hedgehog building a nest

Hedgehog friendly fencing
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I love this video of Trevor collecting leaves for his nest.

This is the middle of Winter but hedgehogs often wake up during milder spells for a bite to eat or to move nests.

It shows that hedgehogs will use hedgehog boxes and how important it is not to tidy your garden in winter but to keep all those lovely Autumn leaves for hedgehogs.

Please read my other blogs for information about how to build a hedgehog box and how to site your hedgehog box. I’ve also got lots of tips on wildlife friendly gardening.

You can also see whether there are hedgehogs in your area and who has created hedgehog holes to link their gardens here.

The hedgehog in the video is Trevor. He spent time in my rescue in Summer 2017 due to an infected abscess. He was released back to the wild after a few weeks of treatment and once the abscess was fully healed. It is wonderful to see him so healthy and happy back in the wild. If you are thinking about buying a wildlife camera, you can read my top tips here.

Wild hedgehog abscess

Trevor when he came into my hedgehog hospital

Trevor healed

Trevor just prior to release with his abscess fully healed. You can see from his pink nose that he is probably a couple of years old.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Dogs attacking hedgehogs

Wild hedgehog abscess
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I love dogs and I love hedgehogs but sadly I am seeing an increasing number of hedgehogs coming into rescue after being attacked by dogs.

Many hedgehogs are injured by dogs in private gardens and in parks and countryside when out on walks. A number of hedgehogs I have admitted with bite wounds have been from gardens on the edge of city parks. Hedgehogs love to live in the piles of leaves that dogs love sniffing through.

The problem is that dog canines bite deep into the hedgehog. The wound then quickly seals over and can then be hard to spot. Many people let the hedgehog go again thinking that it is okay. Then, up to several weeks later, abscesses appear when the deep wounds get infected.

A hedgehog with an abscess will struggle due to the infection and then often succumb to other problems, such as an increased parasite burden and it is a downward spiral, ending up with the hedgehog struggling and then being seen in daylight (when they are nocturnal).

There is also usually more than one infected wound – all four canines will normally puncture the hedgehog.

Abscess

Hedgehog with an infected abscess on its face caused by a bite wound

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Hedgehog with a burst abscess. This hedgehog had 8 abscesses caused by individual puncture wounds from teeth.

Treating abscesses requires a lot of TLC. The abscesses will have to be cleaned daily. Deep abscesses may also have to be drained by a vet. The hedgehog will have to be put on a strong antibiotic.

Although dogs are a major cause of bite wounds, there are also other animals that can attack them, including foxes and rats, although rat attacks are rare. Cats don’t tend to cause problems for hedgehogs.

The best way to prevent dog attacks and dog bite wounds in your garden is to ideally keep the dog out of the garden at night. If you do need to let it out, then keep it on a lead. Always check for hedgehogs first. Turn an outside light on before you go out, which will also help to encourage any hedgehogs to move away.

You need to be particularly vigilant if your dog has attacked a hedgehog before. It will likely do so again.

If your dog does pick up a hedgehog when you are out on a walk, it is always best to get the hedgehog checked over by a rescue, particularly if you see any blood on the dog or hedgehog.

As well as attacking adult hedgehogs, dogs can also disturb hedgehog nests so it is particularly important to be vigilant around the breeding season from May to September. You may have a hedgehog nest in the garden that may be disturbed by a dog even during the daytime….

If you have an injured hedgehog, there is information about what to do here

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work by making a donation or purchasing my handmade silver jewellery that raises funds for my hedgehog work.

I am pleased to say that both the hedgehogs featured in these images have made a good recovery.

Top plants for your hedgehog haven

Wildlife gardening
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Help hedgehogs thrive in your garden with this guide to plants that are great for our spiky friends. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t mainly eat slugs. Their favourite foods are beetles and caterpillars. Growing plants to attract insects is therefore one of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs. Plus, you’ll help bees too!

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A garden full of plants looks beautiful and also provides a haven for insects – a hedgehog’s favourite food

As well as providing food and shelter for insects, plants also provide shelter for hedgehogs to forage and nest underneath. The more ground cover the better! Don’t be too tidy – when plants die back in the Winter, keep the remains on the ground to provide Winter hidey holes for insects. Don’t forget fences and walls – cover them with climbing plants and ivy.

Any native plants are good but here are a few plant ideas to get you started.

Wildflowers

  • Field Scabious
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Meadow Cranesbill
  • Red Campion
  • Common Knapweed
  • Wild White Clover

TIP: Many garden centres now offer native wildflowers as plug plants or you can grow them from seed.

Solitary bee on scabious flower

Scabious attracts bees and hoverflies

Wild corner of garden for wildlife

A wild corner left long and featuring Red Campion, Knapweed and Clover

Hedging

Hedges provide a great habitat for a wealth of wildlife including nesting sites and berries for birds. They also provide free access for hedgehogs between gardens, unlike walls and fences. Native species are best:

  • Beech
  • Field maple
  • Hawthorn
  • Geulder Rose
  • Berberis (not native but its flowers are great for insects and its berries for birds)
  • Hazel

Shrubs

  • Alder Buckthorn
  • Goat Willow
  • Dogwood
  • Buddleia
  • Pyracantha
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Buddleia in flower is a magnet for butterflies and other insects

Good luck with your planting and please share your pictures!

Please read my blog for more tips for hedgehog friendly gardening.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York and I am also a keen gardener. All the photos are from my own garden. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work, please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

You can also support my work in other ways here.

 

How to identify an elderly hedgehog

Elderly European hedgehog
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Old-timer Elsie is a great great great great grandmother hedgehog – possibly even greater! She has likely survived at least four winters.

In a hedgehog, ginger is a sign of longevity. Their spines turn ginger and Elsie almost glows orange!

Hedgehog skin pigmentation also changes with age. A majority of hedgehogs are born with brown noses but elderly hedgehogs start to lose this pigmentation and their skin starts to go pink. This is particularly striking in this old lady currently residing with at Hedgehog Appreciation Prickly Pals Yorkshire 

 

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Pigmentation changes in the nose of an elderly hedgehog: Pic courtesy of H.A.P.P.Y – Hedgehog Appreciation Prickly Pals Yorkshire

Elsie has survived harsh winters, numerous hazards including roads, ponds, strimmers… but this year she has not fared so well. She is thin for her size. Her rear is baggy and pointed, whereas it should be round.

As with humans, their dental health can also suffer with age. Teeth get worn and rotten and infection can set in. Elsie is on antibiotics to treat an infection in her mouth.

Elsie needs TLC to restore her to full health and then we will find her a lovely garden where she can relax and live out the rest of her days. She’s one lucky hedgehog.

You can find out more about me and my work rescuing hedgehogs here

My hedgehog hospital is entirely self funded. You can support my work by purchasing my handmade silver jewellery or making a donation.