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.