Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Hedgehogs in June by British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Just under two weeks old - 05/06/17
This is the time of year when we expect most of the first litters of hoglets to be born.  They are going to be very vulnerable.  If anything happens to mum in the first 7-8 weeks then these hoglets are unlikely to survive without help.  They do not come out of the nest to start foraging with mum until they are 4 weeks old.  So any out of the nest under this age are likely to be abandoned and they are coming out in desperation calling for their mother. 

Should you find a dead adult in your neighbourhood, and it is safe to do so, try to determine whether it is a male or female.  They are very similar to dogs and bitches so are easy to sex if they have not been too badly damaged.  The males do not contribute to the rearing of the hoglets so only if it is a female could there be a risk of any hoglets being orphaned.

If you have a nest in your garden and are concerned the mum may have been killed listen for high pitched squeaks and perhaps place a small screwed up piece of paper in the entrance to the nest, this will be pushed aside as any hedgehog exits the nest.  It is best not to disturb the nest unless you are certain the mum will not be returning.  If you are wrong and the nest is occupied and you have pulled it apart the mother may abandon her babies, or even kill them.

If you accidently disturb a nest try to restore it quickly and without too much fuss.  Check with the screwed up piece of paper to see whether mum is returning, they all react differently, some move the babies over several days, a few have been known to kill them whilst other just abandon them.  If the nest is in a place where it cannot be left catch the mother before the babies as she will be the most mobile.  Place her in high sided box with some of the bedding from the nest and then slip her babies in with her.  Contact the BHPS to find a local contact who can advise and if necessary take in the family.  Do not release them somewhere yourself as mum is very likely to abandon them, given the amount of disturbance she has endured.

With any hedgehog in trouble the sooner it is rescued the more chance there is that it will survive.  Hoglets in trouble will be out in the day (or perhaps without mum at night), squeaking, lying in the open (perhaps several huddled together), flies buzzing around them and even large birds taking an interest with them.

If you are concerned about your local visiting hedgehog, need advice or find an orphaned, sick or injured hedgehog contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator you can contact.  Contact them on 01584 890801 or for general advice visit their web site.   

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Hedgehog Heros

There are some vets who simply don't treat wildlife. There are some who would give a check over, find a major injury and would put to sleep. There are others who would Xray but upon seeing the injury in the Xray below would put to sleep. There are others who will offer to remove the leg but will expect to be compensated for their expertise. I understand this, they're a business. Then there are vets who go above and beyond. Lucky for this little hog (now known as Patricia) was taken to Cheshunt Medivets who as you can see are willing to do what ever it takes.

What follows are some amazing photographs of Patricia undergoing a long and tricky operation which was carried out by the brilliant Lindsay and Patricia.

Patricia is still in the care of Cheshunt Medivet. I've been told she's doing well and have been promised to be kept up-to-date with her progress. So fingers crossed she'll make a full recovery.

Please note: I've been given permission to share these photographs. The copyright remains with Cheshunt Medivets - so please respect their copyright and do not copy from this blog and use for your own purposes  However please feel free to share the link to this blog, so everyone can see just how fab the staff at Cheshunt Medivets are. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

You Learn Something New...

Although I've been caring for hedgehogs for almost 25 years I'm always learning new things and so are the wonderful vets that provide their expertise. Yesterday was one such day. A hedgehog had been found in a garden, wandering around during the day screaming. Now if you ever hear a hedgehog scream it's not something you can quickly forget. Yes, hedgehogs do make noises but you know there is something seriously wrong when you hear this scream.

Thankfully the lady who found him contacted me and immediately took to a local vet. The hedgehog was then taken to Helen Pringle (A120, Little Hadham Medivet). On first examination all that could be found were two small bite wounds. The issue with bite wounds is you never know what damage they may have done inside, so Helen decided to X-ray. Sadly within a very short period of time the hedgehogs condition deteriorated rapidly, so it was decided the kindest action would be to euthanise.

Now in typical Helen fashion she decided to do an autopsy. It was discovered the hedgehog had a very large internal abscess and a lot of his muscle had died (photographs were taken but they are too graphic to put up). Helen then decided to check the X-rays again and this time also check them against the X-rays of a healthy hedgehog.

So here's what a healthy hedgehog looks like inside.

Side view of a healthy hedgehog

Top view of a healthy hedgehog

As Helen looked at the X-rays side by side she noticed a small difference, but one that will make a big difference toin helping her come to a more accurate diagnosis.

Very, very unwell hedgehog 

What is that small difference? 

Well you have to look really closely to see that there is a line running between the spine and the skin, this is the muscle that helps a hedgehog roll up. On the healthy hedgehog you can see this clearly and constantly around the entire body of hedgehog. However on the very, very unwell hedgehog you can see the line which then disappears (becomes fuzzy). Where it disappears was exactly where the abscess and the dead muscle was (see the close-up below). 

The muscle can clearly be seen just above the red line
then is becomes fuzzy and disappears  

Now Helen is aware of this indicator she can look out for it and can use it to help fathom out what is happening inside. It will also help us decide when it's best to fight and when it is best to do the kindest, but hardest thing.

A call to hedgehog carers:
Please do share this blog post with your vet. It would be great to have Helen's work shared, so the hedgehogs we all care for have a better chance of survival. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Hedgehogs in May by Kay Bullen - BHPS

Sadly not all have had a good winter - this is Percy
who is very underweight
Most of the hedgehogs out and about now will hopefully be in good condition and will have replaced any weight losses from their hibernation.

So the next step in the hedgehog calendar is the breeding season. Courtship is a noisy affair with lots of huffing and puffing and circling around (the male circles the female). Once completed the pair will part company and perhaps never meet again. After a pregnancy of around 32 days 4-5 hoglet will be born in a nursery nest.

It is very important, especially at this time of year, that hedgehog nests are not disturbed.  Disturbance may cause the females to abandon or even kill their hoglets. Nursery nests can be almost anywhere, under an old shed, under clumps of garden plants, even under old rugs or polythene used as a weed suppressor. So if you know you have a hedgehog that is a regular visitors then it is likely to be a female rather than a nomadic male. In which case do take care and perhaps watch at night to see where she is coming from so you have a rough idea of where the nest may be.

Female hedgehogs are often like clockwork, they appear from roughly the same direction at around the same time each night. She may miss a few nights after giving birth preferring to stay with her hoglets night and day.

Sometimes females are seen in the early morning gathering bedding, this could well be a female about to give birth, so again note where she is heading so you know the location of her nest. Perhaps have a word with a neighbour if it appears the nest may be next door. This depends on the neighbour – they are not all wildlife friendly so use your judgement. This is one of the few times when healthy hedgehogs are seen in the day and when they do not need rescuing. They will be busy and moving with purpose - so enjoy the opportunity to observe, whilst not intruding.

If you need advice or find a sick or injured hedgehog contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact. Contact them on 01584 890801 or for general advice visit their website 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

May Update

After 2 hours cleaning
Well, firstly I'll start with the news that for the first time in at least six months HQ was a hog free zone for three whole days. Yes three days! So I took the chance and gave the shed a real deep clean, much to the annoyance of the spiders who had taken up residence over the winter.

I received this update from one of our fosterers (Elke) about our three legged hedgehog Poitkey (an African three-footed pot - named by Helen Pringle our fab vet at the A120 Medivet).

"Every evening between 9.15 and 9.20 pm Poitkey comes out from under the shed and walks straight to his feeding station, where he munches away at the cat food we have put out for him. He is eating with devotion and even switching the dining room light on, does not stop him from eating. All we generally can see is his pointy nose rummaging for the best morsels (chicken flavour is the best!) and sometimes I think he is even laughing at the cat who is looking on enviously. It takes  him about 5-7 minutes to eat about ½ of the food and he always leaves some for later. Once he has made an hedgehog-appropriate mess in the box and wiped off his feet on the newspaper at the exit, he is off back into the direction of the shed, either for a nap or perhaps even to go further afield?

Because he left us late last year in the autumn and he is walking with surprising agility, we first thought that a different hedgehog that had found his/her way into our garden. We tried to see how many legs it had at the April weigh-in, but he did not want to cooperate and had rolled himself into a protective, but grumpy prickly ball with only his nose sticking out. However he was a healthy 772g

We then went for the David Attenborough approach to sit behind dark windows [the hide] to see him coming to the feeding station. After various observations by two diligent observers, it was then confirmed that there was a left leg missing. So we concluded that it was Poitkey as there can’t be many of those where we live.

As we are not nocturnal we then have to go to bed and never see him return from his adventures, but every morning all the food has disappeared, so we conclude that his back under the shed dreaming happily. We feel envious that he seems to have such a good life, but the hostas and other plants, usually victims of various pests including slugs and snails, show not one slug nibble, so he repays his board and lodging with his scary presence and keen appetite.


As you can see poor Percy had a waist - not good for a hog
This poor chap came to us a few weeks ago via the Bishop's Stortford Veterinary Hospital.  Although almost 600 grams and no outward signs of illness or injury he was extremely thin. As you can see from the photograph he has a waist  not something a hog should have. He'd obviously had a very difficult winter (like many of the hedgehogs we are hearing about). He has been putting on a small amount of weight but he's still not quite right. So yesterday (17th May 2016) he was taken to see Helen who gave him a lungworm injection. He has another two to go and we find that by the second one they really do start to pick up. So once he's a little better he'll be going out to one of our short term carers.

Look at all that lovely body fat and those healthy bones
Bones came in to us late last year. He was thin and had an elastic band around his throat (if you ever see one of these or a hair band etc. on the ground please pick up, break and put into a bin). Thankfully it hadn't cut into his skin but it had been on there for quite some time. He was X-rayed and it was discovered he had very low bone density, probably he was not eating very well because it just so uncomfortable to do so. Although we tried to keep him awake he decided he was going to hibernate, so he spent a lovely winter snoozing with our longest serving volunteers Di and Rob. I'm glad to say that after a second X-ray yesterday (it was a very busy hoggie day) he was given the all clear and he has been returned to the wild. 

Our latest resident was found out and about on the 17th May. She has been treated for fleas (no they don't all have fleas I promise you) and she is going to be observed over the next week. If all seems well she is going to stay with Di and Rob for a while and once she reaches 600 grams she'll be released into their garden. We'll then keep our fingers crossed she comes across the lovely Bones or one of the many other males who visit the garden and makes a new friend

Last but not least please remember it's baby season now so take care whilst gardening and if you don't already at least do so put out some clean water for them. However a little food is also always welcome. For advice on what to feed them just click on the 'feeding' button along the top.