Over the weekend I had a little visitor in my garden… a hedgehog! It was around 4 o’clock on Sunday when I found it sniffing around an apple tree. Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures and if they are out during the day this often indicates they are unwell or young. It seemed quite happy and full of energy. It didn’t appear to be ill or injured but to be safe we popped the hedgehog in a box with some paper and water and called the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). They informed me we had done the right thing and would send someone out. Depending on the condition of the hedgehog a carer will have to feed it and release it again or look after through winter until the weather improves to ensure its survival which is a serious commitment.
Young hedgehogs are born in the middle of summer (June and July) and must build a food store to sustain them through their winter hibernation. Often hedgehogs born late in the year will not survive the winter. Late litters are not uncommon, especially if the first litter has been lost. Meaty cat and dog food are safe to feed to hedgehogs, as stated on the BHPS website (https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/found-a-hedgehog/). The hedgehogs have the best chance of survival over winter if they weigh over 600 grams.
If you find a hedgehog sun-bathing it is a good idea to take it inside quickly. Young and unwell hedgehogs are susceptible to hypothermia. Wrapping a hot-water bottle in towel and placing it in the bottom of a box is also an easy way to warm the hedgehog up. You should be able to hold the wrapped bottle in your hand comfortably, ensuring it is not too hot for the hedgehog. It is important to contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. You can call the SSPCA 03000 999 999 who will give you further information and will put you in touch with a local rehabilitation officer. You can also contact the BHPS on 01584 890801 who will do the same.
Younger hedgehogs are more vulnerable to predators because they have less spines and weaker rolling-up muscles. This makes being out during the day even more treacherous for young hedgehogs out during the day. Adults have over 5000 spines which make for a great defence against predators.
Hedgehogs tend to hibernate in leaves, grass, under tree roots and compost heaps in order to survive the winter. They may be out during this time, going their deepest sleep in December/January. Placing a hedgehog house in a quiet corner of your garden will give them a safe place to stay over winter.
There are a number of things you can do to help and make your garden a more hedgehog friendly place: although they can swim they can struggle to climb out of smooth sides, fixing a piece of wire mesh to the side of ponds will help hedgehogs escape. Similarly, they can get trapped in cattle grids so it’s a good idea to check if there is any kind of ramp; if there isn’t then piece of wood with some wire mesh will give them a ladder to climb out. As many of you will know, it is important to use insecticides and pesticides sparingly for the negative implications on a carnivore which includes hedgehogs: they can cause illness and death.
As we approach bonfire night please remember and check the bonfire for hedgehogs and other wildlife or move your pile before you light it. Piles of logs are perfect hiding spots for different species so please be wary. Lets make sure we all enjoy our 5th of November safely, without harm to wildlife.
Visitor Centre Assistant
Loch of the Lowes
Our last ticketed event of the season is Stargazing with Robert Law on Sunday 19th November. Booking is essential 01350 727 337.