Posted: Thursday 14 February 2013
by Kate Bradbury
I recently visited the home of Sue Kidger, a hedgehog carer from Twickenham. As far as I’m aware she’s the only hedgehog carer in the south London area.
I recently visited the home of Sue Kidger, a hedgehog carer from Twickenham. As far as I’m aware she’s the only hedgehog carer in the south London area. Sue’s transformed the top floor of her house into a rehabilitation centre-cum-hog hospital, which has 20 cages full of sick, injured and underweight hedgehogs. There were around 30 on the day I visited.
Despite visiting during the day, there was a lot of snuffling and snorting from the supposedly nocturnal hogs. Among the 30 was Roland, who once starred in an issue of Gardeners’ World Magazine. He’s a permanent resident at Sue’s because he can’t roll into a ball to protect himself from predators, due to a strimmer injury. He spends most of his time hiding in a fleece hat and is very cute, but a little on the heavy side. Sue intends to put him on a strict exercise regime this spring.
There were two hedgehogs that ran around their cage, and four underweight siblings who had been brought to Sue in December, having been found wondering around looking for food. Rather than hibernating, they’re spending winter fattening up and will be set free in a few weeks. Sadly, many of Sue’s hedgehogs – including a tiny one called Sheba – have been attacked by foxes.
Unlike badgers, which are known predators of hedgehogs, fox attacks are relatively new. It’s thought that foxes don’t tend to eat hogs, but instead pick them up in their mouths and puncture their skin with their teeth. The initial attack doesn’t kill the hogs, but (please don’t read on if you’re eating) the smell of blood attracts flies, which lay eggs in the wound. Foxes can also grab hold of a hedgehog’s back leg and break it; many hogs in Sue’s care have had their legs amputated as a result of such an attack.
When I met Sheba, she was sleeping under a blanket before being taken to the vet (she had only been brought in the night before). She had a puncture wound around her ear and was bleeding from her nose. She was the smallest hedgehog I had ever seen, presumably an autumn orphan who had been attacked while looking for food when she should have been hibernating. Sadly, a few days after my visit, I learned that Sheba didn't pull through.
It’s not clear whether foxes are contributing to the decline of hedgehogs, numbers of which have fallen by 25 per cent in the last 10 years alone. But if you have hedgehogs in your area, then it can really help them to make holes under your fence so they can travel between gardens. Put a large log or pile of rocks in your pond so they can exit safely if they fall in, and check areas of long grass before strimming. If you find a hedgehog out during the day (especially if it’s small or injured) then please take it in, keep it warm and call your local hedgehog carer. You could save its life.
15/02/2013 at 11:15
Please supply details of a Hedgehog Hospital in the Gedling, Nottingham area for futhre reference
15/02/2013 at 12:05
RSPCA will tell you, Jacqueline.
15/02/2013 at 17:22
I haven't seen Hedgehog in my garden for such a long time. We have recently had a garage put up with a new side gate and my husband has left a gap at the bottom of the gate for the hogs to pass through (I hope).
16/02/2013 at 15:57
hi there kate,
im very lucky as i have numerous hogs in my garden,
have you heard from ;;happy marion''?
See more comments...
19/02/2013 at 15:53
I would like to make my back garden more of a wildlife garden - is there anything I can add to it for hedgehogs? Where do they hibernate, for example?