Baby hedgehogs!

Hedgehog orphans, orphaned hoglets
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Hoglet season is in full swing and I am inundated with little spiky orphans.

The reasons for them coming into care and many and varied. In some cases nests have been disturbed whilst gardening and mum has abandoned the babies. In other cases, it is likely that something has happened to mum – she has been killed or injured.

Each of the babies will be cared for until it is big enough to go back to the wild. That is likely to be at around 8 weeks old and 500g+.

Their treatment depends upon their age and what is wrong with them. Hoglets whose eyes have not yet opened will need hand feeding by syringe until they learn to lap by themselves.

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Hoglet being hand fed formula

Even tiny hoglets can pick up internal parasites if they have spent any period of time in the wild having to fend for themselves. If mum had internal parasites, she can also pass them on to her babies and these start to show up from a few weeks old.

It is hard but rewarding work caring for hoglets. Hygiene has to be scrupulous because they can be very vulnerable at a young age. All feeding equipment must be sterilised after every feed. Bedding needs changing frequently.

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Baby hoglet whose eyes have just opened. They can get covered in food and need cleaning regularly to avoid them having a build up of food on their skin

Once weaned, they make a huge mess stomping through their food bowls and so their cages can need cleaning several times a day. Like with adult hedgehogs, their poo needs testing regularly if they are not gaining weight or show symptoms of illness. This is to check for internal parasites that may need treating. Whilst some baby hedgehogs come into rescue and do not need any treatment, others can struggle with parasite burdens from a young age.

 

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Hoglets moving to an outdoor run to prepare for release back to the wild

Once they are ready to return to the wild, they are released to where they came from or to other suitable locations if that is not possible. They will be given food, water and nest boxes to ease their transition back to the wild.

Hedgehog behaviour comes naturally to them and being raised by humans does not disadvantage them as long as handling has been minimised during care. They soon learn to forage for themselves back in the wild.

The video below shows hedgehog behaviour at a very young age. The huffing is his natural warning to stay away and is used as a defense in the wild.

This year seems to be particularly bad for hoglets. Many are coming in at a much lower weight than is normal for their age, which suggests that mum may be struggling to give them a good start. I’ve also seen a 400% increase in admissions of orphans compared with last year.

There are many other factors that can influence the numbers coming into rescue, including increased awareness of the plight of hedgehogs, other hedgehog rescues in the vicinity closing and hot dry weather….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

 

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.

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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.

Hedgehog romance

Wild hedgehogs courting
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It is that wonderful time of year when hedgehogs are courting. You’ll hear them before you see them – they make a really loud ‘huffing’ snorting sound that can keep your neighbours awake at night! Courting generally happens between April and September but, milder weather means that litters are now sometimes being born even in Winter.

David Attenborough sums it all up perfectly

Hedgehogs normally have four to five babies. They stay in the nest for around 4 weeks and then will accompany mum on foraging trips for around a fortnight, before leaving to go off on in their own directions.

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A female hedgehog with her baby on my patio

It is very important to avoid disturbing a hedgehog nest because mum may kill or eat her babies. Avoid garden maintenance, such as removing sheds or outbuildings, during the nesting season. If you do disturb a nest accidentally, cover it straight back up. Do not touch the babies. Check from a distance to see if mum returns. If she does not and you hear ‘peeping’ (like a baby bird noise) from the nest, the babies are in need of rescue. Seek advice from a hedgehog rescue urgently. Do not touch the babies with your bare hands and you need to keep them warm.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com. You can also follow my hedgehog rescue stories at www.facebook.com/littlesilverhedgehog

Poo glorious hedgehog poo!

Hedgehog poo
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Hedgehog poo

Hedgehog poo – the morning after the night before!

Many people get excited about the first signs of Spring – daffodils raising their sunny heads and delicate snowdrops swaying in the breeze…. But for me, poo is the most exciting sign of Spring….

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, unless you plan to spend endless hours camped out by your patio doors or invest in a wildlife camera, you are more likely to see hedgehog excrement than the creature that left it.

Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation any time from March onwards and the sign of fresh black droppings on the lawn is a wonderful sign that my spiky friends have emerged safely from their deep sleep. The ‘poo calendar’ reminds me that it is time to leave out fresh water and food every day to help my prickly guests.

Top tip: If you want to know if you have a hedgehog visitor, go on a poo hunt around your garden!

Healthy hedgehog droppings are black or dark brown in colour, solid and usually oval or tapered. They can be up to 5cm long. Stools also provide a vital insight into the hedgehog diet. Hedgehog poo will often ‘glisten’ due to being packed with the remains of invertebrates, such as beetle wings and other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t just eat slugs. Beetles are their favourite foods and eating too many slugs can actually be bad for them as they are an intermediate host for lungworm. This horrid parasite can cause weight loss, breathing problems and ultimately death.

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Top tip: Help your hedgehogs to have lovely healthy shiny black poo by packing your garden with native plants and log piles to attract beetles. There more plants the better!

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Flowers in my wildlife garden

Hedgehog poo is also a vital indicator of health in other ways. Green slimy poo can be a sign that a hedgehog is poorly and in need of rescue, so keep a close eye on your hedgehogs if you see any dodgy poo around your feeding stations.

Hedgehog rescuers like myself also love looking at poo under the microscope. Parasites can be identified under the microscope that can then be treated, with the most common being lungworm (from slugs) and roundworm (from earthworms). Bacterial infections can also be identified. Studying poo is one of my favourite passtimes…

Looking at hedgehog poo through the microscope

Studying poo under the microscope

Roundworm in hedgehog poo under microsope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Roundworm eggs under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm in hedgehog poo under microscope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

So, poo glorious poo, my favourite sign of Spring!

I’d love to know when you spot the first hedgehog poo in your garden….

My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded. To support my rescue work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

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Hedgehog with metabolic bone disease

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Meet Benjamin. He is very poorly.

Benjamin was admitted to my rescue at only 330g. He has been surviving by eating bird seed over the Winter.

Benjamin has metabolic bone disease. Basically, his bones are very thin due to calcium deficiency. This is why he has problems walking. He will be in a lot of pain – it is like a human who has rickets or osteoporosis.

He was fed on a mix of sunflower hearts, mealworms and hedgehog biscuits but he has been seen picking out his favourite bits and leaving the hedgehog biscuits. This means that he will not have got enough calcium in his diet. Mealworms actively strip bones of calcium and sunflower hearts also have a calcium/phosphorus ratio that is too high.

There is little natural food around at this time of year and so his diet will not have been enriched by natural foods, such as the exoskeletons of beetles, that hedgehogs eat in the summer.

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The wild hedgehog diet. They will get calcium from the exoskeletons of beetles

Benjamin is receiving calcium injections and a high calcium diet. He has to be handled very carefully because his bones are so brittle, they can break easily. The thinnest bone is on his front right leg and this is the one that he struggles most to walk on.

It will be a long road to recovery for Benjamin – for the nutrients to build up in his bones. He will also require extensive hydrotherapy to build the strength in his bones and muscles.

As well as metabolic bone disease, he also has a high burden of internal parasites – fluke and roundworm which he also needs to fight but his immunity will be low due to his poor nutrition.

To avoid problems like this, please feed wild hedgehogs only cat/kitten biscuits, meaty cat or dog food (not gravy or fish flavours) or specialist hedgehog food. This diet will contain all the nutrients they need to supplement wild food.

Benjamin’s problems were diagnosed by a vet following an x-ray. It is vital not to self-diagnose or give hedgehogs supplements without a professional diagnosis. Giving too much vitamin D or calcium can cause many problems in wild hedgehogs that do not have metabolic bone disease.

I will keep you posted on his progress.

You can support my hedgehog rescue work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

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Amputee hedgehog

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Meet Rupert. He arrived with me a couple of months ago as a small hoglet. He was only 300g. When I inspected him I could smell that something wasn’t right. Wildlife rescuers go a lot by smell – you get to know the smell of infection and poo that is not normal. I often know something is wrong before I see it. On closer inspection I could see that Rupert was missing half of his rear back leg and it was infected.

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Gorgeous Rupert has such a lovely nature despite the challenges posed by his stump leg

I’ll never know what caused Rupert to lose his leg but it is possible that it was a fox or dog attack. I have been caring for him for several months to get him fit and healthy. As well as a stump leg, he was also full of internal parasites, like many Autumn juvenile hedgehogs.

Despite intensive treatment, Rupert’s stump did not heal fully (although the infection cleared) and it opened up whenever he tried to walk any distance. It was impossible for him to return to the wild in this state. The stump would get infected and cause pain and suffering.

Once he got to a good weight and parasite free, I took him for an amputation to remove the remaining stump.

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The stump has never fully healed and opens up when he walks any distance

Rupert is now on bed rest whilst he recovers from the operation and will return in two weeks to have the stitches removed.

What next for Rupert? Well, assuming there are no complications, the next stage will be the difficult bit. There are mixed views about returning 3 legged hedgehogs to the wild. Some say they can survive okay. They can certainly still move fast with 3 legs. Others say that they cannot groom properly and will be more susceptible to things like ticks. So…. next for me will be to find my personal resolution for the dilemma of whether to release him fully back to the wild or to an enclosed garden where he will be safe but will not be able to contribute towards maintaining the hedgehog population.

What would you do?

My work is entirely self-funded and I have to pay for operations like amputations as well as antibiotics and pain relief post operation. I will also have to pay again for him to have the stitches removed. I believe it is worth it to give him a second chance of life. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

I’ll share more news about Rupert as he hopefully recovers….

Update May 2017

Rupert’s wound got infected not long after his operation. After a course of antibiotics, he was eventually well enough to return to nature. Due to the amount of intensive care during his rehabilitation, I decided to release him to an enclosed garden. He is now safe in a half acre garden where he can be monitored.

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Rupert on his release day

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Strimmed hedgehog

Hedgehog with strimmer injury
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The sound of people people using a strimmer sets my teeth on edge. I hate them! They do so much damage to wildlife including hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

This is the story of Holly and her journey to recovery from a terrible strimmer wound. She was found at the end of July with her head sliced open, underneath a Holly bush. You can see from the pictures where the strimmer blade has cut deep into her head.

Holly is lucky – a few mm closer and the blade would have entered her skull.

When Holly was found, it was Summer and flies had laid eggs in the wound and hatched into maggots. These had to be painstakingly removed one by one and then the wound washed out with antimicrobial wound treatment and saline.

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You can see where the blade has cut across Holly’s head

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Flies had laid eggs in the open wound, which had hatched into maggots

Holly was put on a course of antibiotics and pain relief. The wound was cleaned daily to stop infection and a special wound gel was added to aid healing.

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Holly’s wound after around 10 days of treatment. It has scabbed over but needs cleaning daily to prevent infection.

Eventually, the wound healed and new spines started to grow through where the wound was.

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New spines starting to grow though – around a month after treatment started

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Holly fit and well and ready to go back to the wild.

Holly is incredibly lucky. Sadly, injuries like Holly’s are far from uncommon. Many hedgehogs are not so fortunate and strimmer and mowing injuries are a major cause of suffering and death. It also took me 6 weeks of intensive care to nurse her back to health. To help prevent injuries and suffering please:

  • Check all areas of long grass carefully before mowing or strimming. Hedgehogs nest in long grass.
  • Ideally keep areas of grass long for wildlife and don’t strim at all.
  • Encourage everyone you know to check before they mow – a simple check can save hedgehogs as well as frogs, toads and other wildlife that loves to nest or forage in long grass.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England and have nursed hundreds of hedgehogs back to health. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

My blog is full of tips and advice on helping wild hedgehogs – please take a look around my other blog posts and see what you can do to help our spiky friends.

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