Hedgehogs need our help to ensure their survival now more than ever, as numbers in the UK have dropped from 30 million in the 1950s, to fewer than one million today*. We have put together this handy list of top tips so that you can get to know the ways in which you can do your bit to help save our spiky friends:

Cultivate a wild corner in your garden to make your hedgehog feel at home. Hedgehogs love to hide and wild corners also provide a natural food source.

  1. Avoid using slug pellets and other strong pesticides if possible. These are extremely harmful to hedgehogs.
  2. Leave a ramp or slope out of your pond so hogs can climb out
  3. Avoid handling baby hogs unless orphaned, as the mother will abandon them. If you do have to handle a sick or injured hedgehog, ensure you are wearing protective gloves i.e. gardening gloves or thick plastic ones
  4. Hogs seen in daylight are usually hungry, thirsty or ill. When in doubt, contact your local hedgehog hospital
  5. Leave food and water out in shallow dishes each evening at dusk
  6. If you have a fully fenced garden, ensure that you create a ‘hedgehog highway’ by cutting a small hole in the bottom of your fence so that hedgehogs can come and go as they please.

*sourced from gracethehedgehog.co.uk: https://www.gracethehedgehog.co.uk/about-hedgehogs/197-general-facts

What is an autumn juvenile?

Autumn juveniles are second littler hogs. They are born later in the year and therefore have a shorter time to get up to hibernation weight. An autumn juvenile hedgehog is one which is old enough to be away from its mother, yet too small to hibernate for the winter. The autumn juvenile season usually begins in September and ends in November. Being an autumn juvenile can cause problems for a hedgehog, as it will not have enough time to build up the necessary amount of fat in order to hibernate for the winter due to long, cold nights and lack of food availability.

How can I tell if an autumn juvenile needs help?

Yearlings will need to get their weight to 600g or more in order to give themselves the best chances of survival. It is highly unlikely that a hedgehog will survive if it weighs 450g or less.

How can I help autumn juveniles?

If you would like to do all that you can to help our spiky friends, a good way to start is by providing a good food source for them. It is advised that food should be left out for hedgehogs all year round nowadays, as some hogs will be seen well into the winter season and have been sighted even past Christmas. Through the winter months, it might be a good idea to provide Spike’s Crunchy Dry Food, always ensuring that there is clean, fresh water available for our friends.

If you spot a hedgehog out in the day, it could be a tell-tale sign that the hog is poorly and needs medical attention. If you see a hedgehog which appears to be in need of assistance, take it inside, place in a high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper and ensure that the hog has heat by placing a well-wrapped hot water bottle inside the box. If you are placing a hot water bottle in the box, make sure that the hedgehog has enough room to move away from the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. It is vital to keep this hot water bottle warm, as letting it go cold will do more harm than good. Ensure that you check the temperature of the hot water bottle very frequently and change the water if necessary. Some autumn juveniles may need over-wintering and the best place for this is at a hedgehog rescue.

Once you have taken all of the advised steps stated above, you can contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 who will further assist you on next steps.  If you think that the hedgehog needs urgent or professional medical attention, you can take it to your local veterinary practice.

With reference to:

‘Autumn juveniles’: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/leaflets/L15-Autumn-Juveniles.pdf

‘Autumn juvenile hedgehog care’: https://www.arkwildlife.co.uk/Wildlife/Post/179/Autumn_Juvenile_Hedgehog_Care.html

 

How can I tell if a hedgehog is sick?

A hedgehog seen out in the day is uncommon. Seeing one out in daylight could be a key indicator that the hedgehog is sick and in need of your help, especially if it is during winter time when most hedgehogs should be hibernating. Sick hedgehogs could be thin, dehydrated, possibly poisoned or have breathing problems. Injured hedgehogs may be seen with open wounds, fractures, bites or burns.

Image credit: Bill Fairs

If you suspect a hedgehog is sick, in the first instance, you should visually examine it in order to gage an understanding as to whether or not it may need medical attention. Things you can look out for are:

  1. Does its skin spring back when you pull up a couple of spines? If the skin appears to stay in place, the hedgehog could be dehydrated. Ensure the hedgehog has access to plenty of water if you suspect dehydration.
  2. Does the hedgehog look thin? It could be malnourished and will need a nutritious food source in order to build up its weight.
  3. Does the hedgehog have a funny smell? It could have an infection somewhere on its body, meaning it will more than likely need professional medical attention.
  4. Is the hedgehog having trouble breathing/coughing? This could be a sign of lungworm and the hog will need urgent medical attention.

What should I do if I find a sick or injured hedgehog?

If you are concerned about a hedgehog which you have come across, you should think carefully about deciding what to do next. You should not take a hedgehog too far away from where you originally found it unless it is severely injured, in which case you should take it to the vet or a local hedgehog rescue centre in a sturdy, high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper. If you find a hedgehog alive and in a dangerous place, for example on a main road, you should move it to a safe location nearby to where you found it. Ensure that you wear thick gloves at all times when handling a hedgehog to avoid being pricked.

If you are caring for a sick hedgehog, it is important that they have a good heat source from, for example, a heat lamp or well-wrapped hot water bottle (to avoid burning the hedgehog). The hedgehog will also need to be kept clean, meaning its ‘bedding’ (i.e. the towel, sheet or ripped up newspaper) will need to be changed daily.

Sick or injured hedgehogs are susceptible to hypothermia. You can look out for symptoms such as the hedgehog staggering around or ‘sunbathing’ (spreading themselves out on the floor in an attempt to quickly get some heat into their bodies). If you suspect that a hedgehog has hypothermia, again, take it inside placed in a high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper and ensure that the hog has heat by placing a well-wrapped hot water bottle inside the box. If you are placing a hot water bottle in the box, make sure that the hedgehog has enough room to move away from the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. It is vital to keep this hot water bottle warm, as letting it go cold will do more harm than good. Ensure that you check the temperature of the hot water bottle frequently and change the water if necessary.  

Once you have taken all of the advised steps stated above, you can contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 who will further assist you on next steps.  If you think that the hedgehog needs urgent or professional medical attention, you can take it to your local veterinary practice.

With reference to:

‘Care and Treatment of Sick and Injured Hedgehogs by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society’: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/leaflets/L8-Care-and-Treatment.pdf

‘Sick or injured hedgehog? What to do if you find a hedgehog that looks unwell’: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/sick-or-injured-hedgehog/

What is lungworm?

Lungworm occurs when there is an infestation of the lungs with parasitic worms. Slugs are carriers of lungworm and as a hedgehog’s natural diet contains slugs, this is where part of the problem lies. A hedgehog can become very ill due to the amount of slugs it consumes within its diet.

How is lungworm diagnosed?

Some tell-tale signs of lungworm which you can look out for in hedgehogs are wheezing, coughing, gurgling, snuffling, respiratory distress and loss of weight and appetite in hedgehogs.
Diagnosis of lungworm can be achieved by microscopic examination of hedgehog faeces to look for Crenosoma larvae or Capillaria eggs, with help from a medical professional.

Hedgehogs which appear in your garden are wild and there is no known control for lungworm in free-living wild hedgehogs at this moment in time. This being said, you can do your bit to help with trying to prevent it.

How can I reduce the risk of lungworm?

If you feed wild hedgehogs in your garden, make sure that you are consistently and thoroughly cleaning feeding sites to prevent accumulation of faeces. If you rotate the hedgehog feeding site,
you will also be helping to reduce accumulation of faeces.

If you are handling a hedgehog, always make sure that you are wearing thick gardening or rubber
gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

You can also reduce the amount of slugs that our spiky friends consume by offering an alternative
food source. We suggest providing daily hedgehog food and to also build a wild corner or log pile
which will encourage insects and bugs to thrive in your garden. Both of these methods will make our
hogs extremely happy.

With reference to:

Lungworm in hedgehogs

Care and Treatment of Sick and Injured Hedgehogs by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Lungworm kills hedgehogs