Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hedgehogs in November - by BHPS

Hedgehogs will still be building up their weights for hibernation.  When will they actually hibernate?  The best answer to this question is - when they are ready.  Some may even be in hibernation now, others not until next month.  November seems to be the time when many will decide to hibernate.

I'm sure you'll remember from previous year’s publicity to take care when piling up leaves and garden waste ready for a bonfire – be it for Bonfire Night or just a general burn.  It's always best to move the pile on the day it is to be burnt, unless you have a special bonfire cage or bin that hedgehogs cannot access.

If you still have any small hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden you could catch them and check their weights.  Mark each one with a spot of nail varnish or quick drying paint on a few of their prickles (different hedgehogs can be marked in different places).  Then 4-5 nights later catch again and weigh – it must be putting on weight, if not it will need to be rescued.  Small hedgehogs will need help to get up to a hibernation weight.  However the help can range from just continuing to feed and monitor weights in your garden to being taken indoors and cared for. 

At the time of writing this I don’t know whether we're going to have an early cold winter or a mild one so it is difficult to give advice now on which hedgehogs need to be taken into care.  Obviously those out in the day are in trouble and need help.  For any other hedgehogs the best advice is to call a local hedgehog rehabilitator, they know the local conditions, but please, if possible, weigh the hedgehog before contacting a rescue centre as the weight helps them give the best advice.

It is not just the cold that is a problem for hedgehogs at this time of year but also the wet.  They need a dry place to make their nests and dry bedding with which to make the nest.  Providing dry bedding eg leaves – perhaps in a compost bag – will help them make a cosy nest.  Also protecting their food with a feeding station means they can feed in the dry.

If you need advice or find a sick or injured hedgehog contact us or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who can give general advice (01584 890801).   For information about helping hedgehogs at this time of year visit the BHPS web site and go to the Autumn Juvenile leaflet.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Hedgehogs In October - by BHPS

Hedgehogs are trying to build up their weight for hibernation. They usually hibernate because the cold weather means there is less natural food around. Some may wake during hibernation, sometimes it may only be to change position or it may be to forage for food.

The best way to check whether a nest box is being used is to place a small screwed up piece of paper in the entrance during the day. When the hedgehog emerges the paper will be pushed out and you will know something has left the nest box.

You can help them to put on weight by either giving them a complete hedgehog food like Spike's Dinner or they can have mashed up, meat based dog or cat food mixed with a little cereal (Weetabix, bran or wholemeal bread) to give it some bulk. They can also have meat based cat biscuits, as these are good for the teeth. They will need a dish of water too, especially if dry biscuits are given.

When feeding hedgehogs you could make a feeding station - eg use either a
plastic mushroom box or child’s toy box or similar and cut a 13cm x 13cm (5”x5”)
hole in one of the short sides. Place this over the food, like a tunnel, and the hedgehog can get through the hole to the food but it keeps the cats out. A brick on top should stop the box being pushed aside. Another brick or large stone placed 13cm (5”) from the entrance should stop a cat lying down and hooking the food out with its paw! Another suggestion is to use a paving slab on some bricks (placed on their sides), leave a 5" gap between 2 of the bricks for an entrance. Always make sure there is a little food left in the mornings - if not, you are not feeding them enough.

When feeding in the winter a lot of food could be wasted. It may be best to offer dry food and provide plenty of water. As a trial, before winter sets in, provide one of the dishes of dry food with a saucer placed over it to protect the food. See whether your hedgehogs realise that by pushing the saucer off they will get at the food. This can be useful in the winter to protect/preserve the food and perhaps keep the water from freezing. By protecting the food in this way you should stop smaller creatures eg mice from getting at the uneaten food.

If you find a sick or injured hedgehog contact the BritishHedgehog Preservation Society they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator you can contact.  Their phone number is 01584 890801. For information about helping hedgehogs at this time of year visit the BHPS website.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Hedgehogs in August - by BHPS

Those hoglets born at the start of the hedgehog season will already be independent. Some of you may have had the unforgettable experience of seeing a mother hedgehog trundle across the lawn followed by 3 or 4 miniature replicas.

Once they are 8 weeks old they will tend to disperse and mum may even try for another litter. Although these juveniles have had some experience of foraging, if the weather is very dry, they will struggle to find food. Putting out a dish of hedgehog food or meaty cat or dog food and a shallow bowl of water at this time of year is a good way to encourage one of this year’s juvenile to settle in your garden. 

If you have an uninhabited hedgehog box, now is a good time to clear out any old bedding and replace it with new. To check the box is empty place a small piece of screwed up paper in the entrance late one afternoon. If a hedgehog is sleeping there it will push the paper aside as it leaves the nest. Repeat for a few days to be absolutely sure nothing is using the box before opening it up. If there is a resident, do not open the box or attempt to clean it. To attract hedgehogs to a vacant nest box initially you could leave a trail of biscuits in and around the box. Once it is inhabited leave the food further away as they may encourage other visitors into the box and your original visitor may be displaced. Using dry hedgehog or cat biscuits means there will be no smell from decaying food and they can be left out for some time before they become inedible. Slugs may also be less likely to be attracted to them. This cuts down on waste and cost. Do remember to supply extra water as dry food will make them thirsty.

The numbers of some parasitic worms can increase at this time of year and some of the smaller hedgehogs may end up with very heavy worm burdens. Do keep an eye open for any hedgehogs about in the day that seem to be in trouble. Back in June and July quite a few hedgehogs may have been seen around at dawn and dusk because there are less daylight hours for them to forage in. Those hedgehogs will have been moving about with a purpose i.e. searching for food. Ones that are poorly will be listless (or even static), wobbly or both. Hedgehogs that appear to be asleep in the open are in trouble and need your help immediately.

If you find an abandoned hoglet or a sick or injured hedgehog either contact us (if you live in the area we cover) or 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 follow the link above. For more general information about hedgehogs and how to help them visit the BHPS website

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hedgehogs in July

Feeding station, but they don't have to be this 'posh' 

This time of year can sometimes be very difficult for the hedgehogs especially if it is a hot month. 

The females that already have a family will have a cosy nest, but in hot weather and with 4-5 wriggling hoglets the nest can get very hot for her.  Sometimes she may even use another nest in the day and sleep apart from her growing family. 

In the hot weather the ground becomes harder and the moisture loving worms and other natural food will become more difficult to find.  Added to this her growing family will start to come out with her when she is foraging, so there are even more mouths to feed. 

Providing a dish of water and making a feeding station that cats cannot get into can be a great help for mothers and their growing family.  There are suggestions for feeding stations on the BHPS’s website but using a paving slab resting on some bricks (place the bricks on their sides) will protect the food from the weather, cats and even larger stronger visitors.  Leave a small gap (5” or 13cm square) between 2 of the bricks, so the hedgehogs can come and go, and place the food well back from that gap, so sneaky cats’ paws cannot reach in.  In really hot weather the food can go off and flies can be attracted to it so perhaps use some hedgehog biscuits or dried mealworms rather than tinned food.  However dry food will make them thirsty so an extra dish of water is essential. 

Also make sure your ponds are topped up so any animal that comes to drink from it can easily reach the water and will not topple in.  Hedgehogs are good swimmers but if the level of the water is low it may not be able to get out.  This also applies to ponds with overhangs and slippery sides.  A small section of plastic coated wire netting just going down the side of the pond can act as a scrambling net so the hedgehogs can climb out. 

If you find an abandoned hoglet or a sick or injured hedgehog contact us (details on our website) or the BritishHedgehog Preservation Society they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact (their telephone number is 01584 890801).

Monday, 22 June 2015

Birchanger Woods Helping Support Our Hedgehogs

A few years ago I was contacted by Pat the warden from the Birchanger Woods Trust. He and the other volunteers wanted to repopulate the woods with hedgehogs. Sadly they like many places have seen a once healthy hedgehog population crash. So they were offering the woods as a release site. Also even though they are a trust and totally run by volunteers and are self-funding they were also happy to donate money and time to achieve this. They have worked extremely hard and spent quite a lot of money to achieve something wonderful. We now have:

  • A second shed for fattening hand-reared hoglets
  • Two soft release runs 
  • A purpose built escape proof area for a disabled hog
  • Willing volunteers to help care for a disable hog and to assist in soft releases
Today I visited the woods and wanted to share what they've achieved with you in this post. 

Firstly we'd like to thank the family of Peter Gardner, who donated money to the trust in his memory and agreed to allow that money to be used towards the hedgehog shed. 

A front view of the shed with one of the small soft release runs. These have already been used to release 3 hogs into the woods. These we will continue to use for hoglets that have been hand-reared or hedgehogs who can be released but not to the area they were rescued from. A small door allows the resident to wander between the outside run and an inside sleeping and feeding area.     

Part of the fully escape proof area that will be the new home to a hedgehog that cannot be released back into the wild, typically this is because they have been left disabled. As you can see it has been left to become 'wild.' In the middle is a large log pile that hides a waterproof outside home. 

The area behind the log house and to the right of the shed. As you can see the vegetation is ideal for hogs to grub around in and under whilst they look for those juicy bugs they love. 

The door between the inside feeding/bed area into the escape proof area and as you can see even a little path has been provided.  

Last but not least any hogs that are released into the woods have this natural jewel to explore and make their home. 

As I've mentioned we've already used the soft release runs and for the first time in a long time Pat has seen hedgehog droppings in the woods. This is obviously wonderful news and something we can build on. Now all we need is some hedgehogs to release. 

If you'd like to visit Birchanger Woods please follow this link to download their brochure. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

Hedgehogs in June

This really is the start of the hoglet season, many females will either be pregnant or have suckling youngsters. We even received a call yesterday (4th June) from a lady who needed advice about a sow who was having babies in her garden.

If you see a dead hedgehog, and it is safe to do so, have a look and a listen to check for any hoglets.  Over the next few days or even a week it is worth returning to the area to check for any orphans.  The hoglets make a distress call like a baby bird but it is very loud and at ground level.  If you have a placid dog let them join in the search on a lead and if you find one hoglet don’t rest on your laurels but search for more as there can be 4 – 5 in a litter.  Sometimes abandoned hoglets will be attacked by some of the larger birds so if you see birds, in the locality, getting excited and chattering see what has caught their interest.  Some years ago we had two small hoglets that were saved just in the nick of time, but not before a corvid had given both a very nasty peck. Cats are very inquisitive, so they may also be attracted to the hoglets, but are more likely just to observe, unless the hoglets are very small or perhaps injured.

If you have a hedgehog visitor that doesn't stay around it is probably a male.  At this time of year the males are more nomadic in their search for mates.  Females, however, have a small home patch.  This will be large enough to support her and her current family.  She will not be able to travel far as her hoglets will not leave the nest until they are around 4 weeks old.  At this age they will be able to follow her on her nightly forages.  When about 8 weeks old they will start to disperse. 

If you are lucky enough to have a female nesting in your garden don't be tempted to look into the nest as it may contain hoglets.  If a female is disturbed she may abandon her hoglets or in some cases they have been known to kill their young.  Be patient and perhaps you will be lucky enough to see a little line of hoglets following mum one evening.

If you find a hoglet or a sick or injured hedgehog either contact us (details on our website) or 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.   For more general information about hedgehogs and how to help them visit the BHPS website

P.S. Also please remember if you're cutting grass, digging out shrubs please check the area before you do anything just in case there is a nest or a hog hidden away sleeping. We've already had one strimmer victim this year, help us make it the last.