Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Hedgehogs in May

Hedgehog Awareness Week runs from 3rd to 9th May this year, the British HedgehogPreservation Society is asking people to do one extra thing to help hedgehogs during the week.  That could be making a 13cm (5”) square gap as a hedgehog highway in the bottom of your boundary wall or fence, offering suitable food and water, building a log pile for natural food and shelter or creating a display of BHPS posters and leaflets in a local library, garden centre, etc.

Towards the end of this month, following a noisy courtship, the new season’s hoglets will be born.  In some colder regions this may not be until June and in warm areas it could be early-mid May.

Mum can have 4-5 hoglets although up to 8 viable hoglets have been recorded in a litter.  Of these 4-5 hoglets only 3-4 are likely to survive to independence ie 8 weeks of age.  It is suggested that only 1 in 5 will survive to its first birthday – this is probably due to the high mortality of the late born hoglets.  Of course if something happens to mum then the whole litter will perish unless found in time.  Once they reach the 1 year milestone then they can live for perhaps 5-6 years.

The mothers and their young face all sorts of hazards.  Nest disturbance, by people and pets, especially when garden sheds are taken down, is a big problem.  Then there are all the hazards mum has to avoid in her home patch.  This can include slippery sided ponds, uncovered drains, netting, litter, poisons, grass cutting especially with strimmers and bonfires.  On top of all this is the problem with crossing the roads.  It is amazing that they survive at all. 

If something has happened to mum the hoglets may leave the nest to try to find her, even if their eyes are still tightly shut they will still do this.  They will be out in the day and will make a high pitched squeak, like a bird but at ground level.  Often flies are attracted to them and they may even be attacked by large birds.  They become cold and extra wobbly and will not survive without intervention.   Remember they do not come in ones so look for more.  Bring them indoors.  Put them in a high sided box.  Fill a hot water bottle with warm water (keep replacing the water as it cools) and cover the bottle with a towel.  Place the hoglets on this and then place another towel over them to keep them snug.  It is better not to try to feed them when they are cold.  Then call for help. 

Hand rearing them can be a long, complicated and difficult process, they need bottle feeding and any problems caused by their abandonment need addressing, so it is better to pass them on to an experienced carer or at the very least seek advice until they can be passed on.

To make your garden safer visit the BHPS web site and look at the Gardening with Hedgehogs leaflet.  This mentions many of the dangers and how to help minimise them.  What better reward can there be for making a garden safer than to see mum with her line of miniature hedgehogs walking across your garden.

If you find a hoglet or a sick or injured hedgehog contact us: Herts Hogline (remember we are very small and only cover an area in a 15 mile radius of Stansted Airport) or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who can give general advice and perhaps details of another local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact.  You can contact them on 01584 890801.  For more general information about hedgehogs and how to help them, or about Hedgehog Awareness Week, visit the BHPS web site.