Hedgehog rescue

Posted: Friday 7 December 2012
by Kate Bradbury

A friend of mine recently found a juvenile hedgehog. In addition to dicing with death in the road, ‘Killie’ the hedgehog faced another danger: winter.

A curled-up hedgehog

A friend of mine recently found a juvenile hedgehog. It was curled in a ball in the middle of the road, with cars whizzing past. Had my friend not been in the right place at the right time, this young hoglet would almost certainly have met a sticky end.

In addition to dicing with death in the middle of the road in rush hour, ‘Killie’ the hedgehog faced another danger: winter. He was far too small to hibernate (which is probably why he was still out when most hedgehogs have already entered hibernation), so my friend fashioned a box using a piece of foam he had in his rucksack, filled it with leaves and took the hoglet home to live with him for a few months. Killie weighed just 310g.

Often called autumn orphans, or autumn juveniles, small hedgehogs found after October are usually from a second litter and could have been born as late as September. While hoglets from the first litter (born in summer) have plenty of time to fatten up for hibernation, those in the second litter only have a few weeks, just when the beetles, caterpillars and slugs that hedgehogs rely on for food are themselves settling down to hibernate.

Despite being nocturnal, autumn orphans are likely to be seen out during the day as they try to find food to gain weight. They are mainly encountered in October and November, but you may occasionally come across one in December and even further into winter or early spring as these tiny hedgehogs struggle to survive.

If you spot one out now - during the day or night - it’s almost certainly in trouble and will need help. Pick the hedgehog up using an old towel or a pair of thick gardening gloves. Keep it warm by placing it on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, in a high-sided box lined with newspaper, and then place another towel over the hedgehog to make it feel secure. Offer your orphan some water and meat-based dog or cat food (not bread and milk, as this can make them ill). If the hedgehog doesn’t take the food or is injured, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) for advice.

Deciding whether to take a hedgehog in over winter can be problematic - some hedgehogs can die from the stress of being in captivity, while others may perish if left outside. If you’re in any doubt at all, contact the BHPS or seek help from your local hedgehog carer.

Killie is doing well. He’s been to the vet and has settled into his new home - a box with his very own hot water bottle. Fingers crossed he’ll make it through winter to spring, and my friend can release him back into the wild - hopefully a good distance from the road where he risked life and limb.

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Talkback: Hedgehog rescue
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flowering rose 09/12/2012 at 19:29

I glad you were able to rescue the hedgehog,so many are run over and thier habitate is under threat.I have not seen any around my area for awhile where once they were common.

Kate Bradbury 11/12/2012 at 10:54

Thanks for your comment flowering rose. It was one lucky hedgehog!

marianne wallbridge 23/12/2012 at 15:04

Hi so glad you rescued the little hedgehog that is such good news when so many get knocked down on the roads. I always carry and thick pair of gloves and newspaper in my car to rescue any I see. Once armed with the gloves I can just roll then easily on to the newspaper and place them in the back of the car to take tnem home or if larger ones to let them go in a place away from traffic. I love hedgehogs