Yvonne Cox, co-founder of Hedgehog Rescue writes:
About Hedgehog Rescue
N.B. Contact details for the local volunteer-led Hedgehog Rescue service may be be found at the end of this article.
Hedgehog Rescue was started in July 1999 after I had completed my National Diploma in Animal Care at Filton College and Bristol Zoo. I had worked at Secret World as a work placement and felt that humans do so much damage to the planet and the wildlife we share it with that I would like to put something back, to address the balance a little.
I also happened to see a notice in the local supermarket asking if people saw a small hedgehog to contact ….so I did, the person on the other end of the line was Val Robinson. Val was a community project co-ordinator at the Ridge at the time so between us we set up Hedgehog Rescue.
This involved contacting or being contacted by like minded people and from this we had a database of carers and volunteers. Each carer rescues within their own homes and each takes on the amount of hedgehogs that they have time & space for, all of us have a different level of commitments and we generally fund most of what we do ourselves.
Our aims are:
To treat sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs and return them to the wild as soon as they are physically & mentally fit. To reduce suffering by offering pain relief, medication, warmth, food etc. or to have the hedgehog euthanized if it is beyond help.
We also provide advisory help for other carers, so new carers can contact more established carers for help and advice. This is invaluable to all of us to share and gain knowledge for the overall welfare of the hedgehogs in our care.
We provide an educational talk that can be booked to all age groups in the hope that through these talks we help the public have a wider understanding of these endearing creatures and help to stop the suffering and decline in numbers we are now seeing. The money raised from these talks help to pay for medicines, cages, food and other relevant equipment.
The ways we fund Hedgehog Rescue are through:
- Sales of wildlife gifts and toys which are available at the adult talks, shows/fetes and via the internet.
- The educational talks
- Donations from the public
- Adoption schemes
Why do hedgehogs need rescuing?
Sadly most of what we see is thoughtlessness, hedgehogs caught up in discarded rubbish, limbs severed by garden machinery, head traumas through road traffic accidents, along with this they are usually suffering with hypothermia, dehydration, starvation, shock & stress.
We also see disturbed nests (these often follow a bank holiday where garden projects/renovations take place). The family dog often cause a nuisance to hedgehogs trying to dig them out or barking. Sometimes we have to move a family of hedgehogs because dog owners can’t control their pets. This can lead the mother hedgehog to abandon or eat her babies, but we would rather try relocating than seeing the dog injure the hedgehog/s.
Hedgehogs often drown in ponds not because they can’t swim, but because the pond is steep and slippery, if a simple ramp was put into the pond or the pond was made with a shallow end the hedgehog would be able to get out.
So what do carers do?
Often the first thing a carer will do is give the hedgehog warmth, peace and quiet. This will reduce stress and shock and as the hedgehog becomes warm he/she will feel more relaxed allowing for a better examination. Depending on what the carer then finds decides the action to be taken. Sometimes it is just tlc, warmth, food, water & a clean environment that is required but often it much more;
- Trips to the vet
- Administering medication
- Bathing infected wounds or skin infections
- Removing fly eggs, maggots, ticks
- Syringe feeding hedgehogs that are too sick to feed themselves or too young
In between all of this we have other jobs to fit in:
- We answer the phone to the public who may just have a general query i.e what should I feed the hedgehog in the garden? Where should I site my hedgehog box? (Please make non urgent calls between office hours).
- Or a call that needs urgent attention. Do remember if you see a hedgehog out in the day it is generally in trouble, put it in a deep sided box and phone for advice, if you have got it wrong you can always let it go again, but if it runs away whilst you are on the phone it’s too late to rescue it.
- Go to collect a sick hedgehog from a member of the public or from a vet.
- Attend a talk or other function
- Check out release sites
- Release hedgehogs
- Wash the hedgehog towels
- Look after the children, go shopping, clean the house, go to work etc.
Maybe after reading this you think you have what it takes to become a carer, there are hedgehog books you can borrow from the library, leaflets from the British Hedgehog Preservation Societyor lots of internet sites & forums, so get yourself as well informed as possible and join us.
As you can tell from the information humans have much to answer for in the demise of the hedgehog, not through cruelty but just not being aware of their actions.
I sincerely hope that this article helps to inform the public of some simple steps or procedures they can make to reduce the deaths and suffering of the nations favourite garden animal.
Co-Founder of Hedgehog Rescue
Carer, Advisor, Speaker & Fundraiser
19 The Leaze, Yate, S. Glos. BS37 5XJ
Tel: 01454 327715 Mob: 07971 663009
Website: Hedgehog Rescue
Photos in the above article are courtesy of Ian McGuire of Wild Owl.