This is the time of year when hedgehogs are beginning to emerge from their winter hibernation.
They will be extremely weak and slow as they now try to build up their fat reserves in preparation for the breeding season ahead.
What can we do to help? The first thing which comes to mind is putting out food and water nightly. As they’re omnivores, they will eat almost anything, but do like meat-based cat or dog food (either tinned or small dry biscuits), mealworms, crushed peanuts, grated cheese or even sweet biscuits, but never fish.
It is preferable to place the food under an upturned storage box to prevent the local cats helping themselves and also keep the food dry. We can take extra care when driving, especially during the hours of darkness. Far too many get killed in spring due to being underweight and desperate for nourishment.
We can take care when working in the garden. That bundle of leaves could well be a hedgehog nest with either a sleeping or newly-awakened hedgehog in the middle. A compost heap makes a lovely warm bed for the winter, so please check before going in with a fork.
Before you strim, please check the area carefully – it only takes a few extra minutes, but could save an animal from the most horrific injuries.
If you have dogs which are likely to attack a hedgehog, please keep them on a lead for garden runs, especially after dark, for both of their sakes.
We have, within the last few days, received two hedgehogs needing our help following encounters with family dogs. One had puncture wounds and, in spite of pain relief and antibiotics, didn’t recover from the trauma and died last night.
The second hedgehog was suffering very badly from hypothermia, after spending a very cold night out in the open, covered in wet mud following an incident with family dogs.
Once discovered the following morning, the hedgehog was immediately brought to us and spent several hours in an incubator, the priority being to deal with the hypothermia first, followed by a warm bath to remove the mud. She’s now recovered sufficiently from the trauma and we’re hoping for a good outcome.
These wonderful animals really do have a very difficult time out there and to add to their problems the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have highlighted yet another. Defra has approved the use of A24 traps in England and, although intended to trap vermin, will not discriminate and will pose a further threat to hedgehogs, in spite of their protected status.
If you would like to help our prickly friends please go to http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/a24-rat-stoat-hedgehog-trap/ and sign the petition.