Hedgehog Awareness Week occurs during the first week of May each year. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) helps raise awareness through campaigns, advocacy and educational projects so that practical steps can be taken to reverse the decline of hedgehogs in the wild. The BHPS also funds research to gain further insights into these much-loved creatures. Through Hedgehog Awareness Week, the BHPS aim to draw attention to the work they do and encourage the British public to get involved. But what can you do to help this endangered species? Read on to find out more…

 

How can I help hedgehogs?

 

There are a number of things you can do to help hedgehogs thrive in your local area, starting in your garden:

 

  • Make sure that any piles of leaves or logs are left undisturbed. They can make an effective hedgehog nest and will also double up as a great habitat to attract a rich feast of earwigs, centipedes and woodlice.

 

  • Cover any drains or deep holes that hedgehogs could fall into. If you have a pond or swimming pool, make sure there is an easy way out. Although hedgehogs can swim, they sometimes need a helping hand. Try placing half submerged rocks near the water’s edge, to help them should they get stuck.

 

  • When spring arrives and gardening begins, be sure to check grassy areas before using a lawn mower or strimmer. This will prevent any potential accidents with hedgehogs.

 

  • Avoid using pesticides or poisons that hedgehogs may accidently ingest, whether that be directly or when eating food sources such as beetles, worms and caterpillars.

 

  •  Although you might find it hard if your garden is your pride and joy, try to leave the gardening as long as possible to allow wildlife to thrive in a more natural habitat.

 

  • Tidy up any litter that may have been left or blown into your garden to avoid any hedgehogs getting trapped.

 

What should you do if you find a hedgehog in your garden?

 

There are a few things to consider if you spot a hedgehog before deciding if any action is needed. If the hedgehog is out at dusk or late evening, this is perfectly normal behaviour and the hedgehog can be left well alone. Leave out a shallow dish of fresh water and some scrummy Spike’s Hedgehog Food to help them with the energy they need to raise their new hoglets or to build up their fat stores ready for hibernation.

 

If you spot a hedgehog out in winter or in the middle of the day, then it could be that the hedgehog is unwell. In the winter months, hedgehogs traditionally hibernate due to the lack of food available in colder temperatures. However, this is no longer always the case with many hedgehogs coming out of hibernation in winter in search of food. Some hedgehogs, in southerly parts of the country, might not hibernate at all, so seeing a hedgehog out in the winter is not always a reflection of them being unwell. It can be hard to tell if there is something wrong so if in doubt, seek advice from your local hedgehog rescue. 

 

When should I help a hedgehog?

 

If you spot a hedgehog in your garden in the winter months or in the middle of the day, check to see if their eyes are open. If they are open then the hedgehog is not in immediate danger but you can continue to monitor from a distance, just to be on the safe side.

 

If you find one on a road, laying with their eyes closed, or if they look like they might weigh less than 300 grams, they likely need some help.

 

Other signs that a hedgehog might be in distress and need your help are:

 

  • Appears to be lethargic – hedgehogs don’t sunbathe. They prefer dark, damp areas so if you happen to see one out in the sun and they’re not moving, it is likely there is something wrong.
  • Flies – if a hedgehog has a swarm of flies surrounding them, they urgently need some help. 
  • Wobbly – while out and about, if you spot a hedgehog that seems wobbly when they walk, then the hedgehog is unwell and needs help from a hedgehog rescue.
  • Obviously injured – no matter what the injury is, make sure you speak with a hedgehog expert who can offer support with next steps.
  • Trapped – have they been caught in netting, a pond or in a drain? If so, the hedgehog is going to need a helping hand.
  • Hoglets – if you see hoglets out in the day, without an adult and/or they are squawking, they will need intervention from a hedgehog rescue or the RSPCA.

 

If you spot a hedgehog that fits one of the above criteria, contact the RSPCA or your local hedgehog rescue, who will be able to offer further assistance. For more help or advice about spotting the signs of a hedgehog in distress, take a look at The British Hedgehog Preservation Society website for more information.

Do you have regular hedgehog visitors in your back garden? Why not add your sightings to our hedgehog map and take part in the Spike’s Great British Hedgehog Survey.

 

This month’s Hedgehog Hero is 78-year-old Irene Cannon, who was nominated by many for her commitment to helping hedgehogs. Irene has been working alone over the past year as she had to isolate due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here she tells us about her passion for hedgehogs and her fundraising efforts:

 

When did you first start looking after hedgehogs?

My involvement with hedgehogs started about 20 years ago when I found a hedgehog out during the day in the autumn months. Looking after the hedgehog made me realise I needed to know much more about their needs in order for me to continue to help them. To build my knowledge and experience I went on the First Aid, Care & Rehabilitation of Hedgehogs Course at Vale Wildlife in Gloucestershire and another in Yorkshire.

 

After I completed the courses, I realised that helping hedgehogs was a true passion and so that is when I decided to create Furness Hedgehog Rescue.

 

What is it about caring for hedgehogs that you love?

 

I love hedgehogs. They ask for so little; just food and water and somewhere to sleep. 

They are the most gentle little creatures – although I have had a few bites over the years!

 

What can we do to help hedgehogs off the extinction list?

 

Everyone should put a fresh bowl of water out every night whether you have a garden or not. Dehydration is a terrible thing.

 

For those that have gardens, it would help hedgehogs immensely if you create a hedgehog highway by simply having a 5″ gap in your fence or wall. If you have a pond, make sure there is an escape route for hedgehogs to get out, as many of them fatally drown in ponds every year.

 

Do you do any fundraising?

 

I do lots of fundraising. I sell hedgehog related items, most of which are donated by friends of the rescue. This year has been difficult because of Covid but on dry days I have been putting a small table outside my house to sell some of our hedgehog items. The support has been amazing.

 

Why do you think so many people nominated you to be a Hedgehog Hero?

 

I think a lot of people have nominated me because I run the only rescue in the area and I live in a small town where most people know me. Over the years I have saved countless hedgehogs and sometimes have over 100 overwintering or in need of care.

 

 What does it mean to you to be named the Spike’s Hedgehog Hero for May?

 

I think it is a great honour to be named May’s Hedgehog Hero with people recognising what I do and appreciating all the effort I put in on a daily basis.

 

Congratulations to Irene for being named this month’s Hedgehog Hero and for continuing your efforts throughout a difficult year!

 

 

 

Can you remember the last time you saw a hedgehog? For many of us, the last memory of seeing a spiky friend dates back to childhood. That’s not to say that they aren’t still visiting you though, it might be that you’re just not seeing the signs that they’ve been in your garden. If you’re not sure what you should be looking for, here are some top tips for tracking your hedgehog visitors.

  1. Check for hedgehog tracks

As hedgehogs come out at night it can be tricky to spot them or to even know they’ve been. One of the first things to look out for is footprints. The average hedgehog weighs just one kilogram, so footprints are only visible if the ground is soft or wet. Check for footprints in muddy parts of your lawn or in flower beds. 

A hedgehog footprint is usually around 2.5cm long and 2.8cm wide. They have five toes on both their front and back feet but only four toes show up in their tracks. A hedgehogs front footprints look like little handprints while their back footprints are longer and slimmer.

If you think you can see hedgehog footprints but aren’t 100% sure, you can build a hedgehog tunnel or house and put a sheet of white paper down. This will allow you to see if any tracks or marks are left on the piece of paper by a neighbourhood hedgehog.

  1. Look out for droppings

Finding droppings in your garden is a sure-fire way of knowing that you’ve had some spiky visitors. Not to get too graphic here but just so you know what to look for, hedgehog droppings are dark in colour due to their diet and tend to be found as singular droppings. They can range in size from 15mm to 50mm and look similar to a cat poo but are round on top rather than pointy.

  1. Your garden has been disturbed

As many of you will know, hedgehogs love to settle in large piles of leaves, logs or compost heaps – anywhere that is dark and damp! Your garden visitors will have left a trail as they move around so look for areas of your garden where small tunnels have been forged.

If you suspect a hedgehog has set up home in your garden, try leaving a few large leaves over the entrance of the tunnel or a log pile before dusk and check the following morning to see if the leaves have moved.

  1. Listen for noises

Hedgehogs are known for making quite loud noises and they are capable of making a range of sounds from quiet snuffling, to hissing and even loud screaming, which can sometimes be mistaken for human noises. Listen out at night for snuffling or shuffling sounds in your garden, particularly in spring (as this is when hedgehogs come out of hibernation and begin to look for food or mating partners). During mating season, male hedgehogs can get quite loud as they fight over female hogs.

  1. Set up a hedgehog feeding station

If you’re still not certain whether you’ve had any hedgehog visits, it is worth setting up a hedgehog feeding station. Purchase a specialist hedgehog food such as Spike’s Hedgehog Food and leave a bowl of food and a bowl of water in a hedgehog house (you can buy one or make your own). The hedgehog house will prevent other animals from eating the food so you know for certain that you’ve had hedgehogs visitors. You could even set up a camera close to the feeding station so that you can catch a glimpse of them eating the delicious hedgehog food.

Once you know that you’ve had a spiky visitor, make sure you head to our sighting map to enter your sighting.

 

Irene Thomson set up Lowton Hedgehog Rescue nine years ago and now cares for up to 45 spiky creatures in her shed at any one time. After many nominations by those that know her, Irene has been named as our Spike’s Hedgehog Hero for April!

How did you first become involved in helping hedgehogs?

I started the rescue centre over 9 years ago after finding a hog that needed help. After taking it to a rescue, I then became involved in the vital work needed to save this species, as they are in serious decline in this country. By setting up my own rescue and attending numerous wildlife courses with Vale Wildlife Hospital and the RSPCA, I have been able to save hundreds of hedgehogs. 

Tell us more about Lowton Hedgehog Rescue?

The rescue is run from a purpose-built and kitted out shed in the garden. In total, the rescue can accommodate 45 hedgehogs at any one time and the busiest seasons are summer and autumn.

I think there are more electrical sockets in the shed than there are in my house! The sockets are needed because of the various pieces of equipment necessary for caring for sick and injured hedgehogs, i.e. incubators, zoo zones with 24/7 heat mats underneath them, examination lighting, microscopes, nebulisers, a fridge for certain medications and a microwave. Not to mention the heater for the winter months and a fan for the hot summer months!  

Outside hutches are insulated as well, plus I have a specially built rehabilitation pen in the garden used for monitoring disabled hogs i.e. amputees, eyesight issues and daytime activity. This is also used for situations where a mum and her hoglets have been disturbed or are in danger and once in the pen the family is safe with the youngsters learning to forage with mum. Hogs do not stay in this pen together as they are primarily solitary animals and can’t be mixed, it is purely used for specific cases before deciding the best situation for their eventual release, i.e. an enclosed garden for some of them.

I also have two small incubators inside my home which are specifically for orphaned hoglets who need two hourly feeds, or for critical cases that need close monitoring in the evening. 

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you and what you do?

The year 2020 saw a necessary change in the volunteering system due to the Covid pandemic. Previously, I had volunteers who came each morning to help with the daily task of cleaning out and refreshing all bedding and feeding needs. Now, I only have help three times a week from trusted volunteers who can work without my supervision. The rescue certainly can not function without the wonderful help of these people! 

What is it about caring for hedgehogs that you love?

My passion grows with each successful release of a healthy hedgehog, and also the knowledge that members of the public are now doing far more to help them survive fills me with joy. Many people now have hedgehog boxes in their gardens for the hogs to nest in and also provide food and water. It’s great that we can continue to spread the word about helping hedgehogs through the Lowton Hedgehog Rescue Group on Facebook and through our fundraising efforts.

What can people do to help hedgehogs?

The key thing is to allow hedgehogs to have access to your garden as they need to visit at least 10 gardens a night to find enough natural food. A simple gap or hole in fencing/gates (known as a hedgehog highway) will facilitate this.

Why do you think so many people nominated you to be a Hedgehog Hero?

I was delighted and also humbled by the number of people who nominated me to be a Hedgehog Hero and I know lots of folk follow the stories of the hedgehogs that come through the rescue and join with me on the hogs’ journey to recovery, but also give me moral support when there are the occasions of sadness because not all can be saved.

My rescue work is done voluntarily from my home and I fund the costs mainly by myself. I regularly need a little help to keep up with the daily costs and that’s where my helpers and fosterers come in!  Nominating me as a Hedgehog Hero is also a form of support which I really do appreciate. 

What does it mean to you to be named the Spike’s Hedgehog Hero for April?

I have a fabulous support network of volunteers/fosterers and wouldn’t be able to help such a large number of hogs each year without them. It is a privilege to be nominated as the Spikes ‘Hedgehog Hero’ because I think everyone can play a part in the conservation of a species that is in fast decline in this country. 

Congratulations to Irene for being named our Hedgehog Hero for April, you are an inspiration and a true Hedgehog Hero!

 

 

Our Hedgehog Hero for March is six year old Charlie! Charlie has been helping raise money for his local hedgehog rescue since the age of 4, with the help of mum, Lucy. Lucy tells us more about Charlie’s fundraising and his love for hedgehogs:

 

You must be really proud of Charlie being so enthusiastic about helping hedgehogs from such a young age, can you tell us how he first got involved with Help for Hogs? 

 

Charlie loves all animals so when our local hedgehog rescue, Help for Hogs, advertised for volunteers in early 2018, I contacted Sue at the rescue and asked if I could volunteer with Charlie. Sue and Clive have been running Help for Hogs since 2015 and they were keen to have Charlie participate. However with him being only four at the time, he couldn’t get involved in the standard day-to-day volunteer work. Knowing he was eager to be involved, Sue suggested Charlie help clean the outside water sources and check and replenish the feeding stations. It was from there his love for hedgehogs grew.

 

Can you tell us about Charlie’s fundraising efforts?

 

Charlie often asks Sue and Clive questions about the hogs. He’s inquisitive about the world around him and likes to find out how and why things happen. He quickly became very knowledgeable about the work carried out at Help for Hogs and became particularly interested in the spring when the baby hogs started to appear at the rescue. 

 

The rescue centres have Brinsea TLC Incubators but these are quite expensive for a small self-funded rescue. Charlie decided he wanted to help buy one. Our wonderful friend, Claire James at The Pedlars Tray in Hereford, helped Charlie come up with the idea of selling hedgehog pencils made with pine cones to raise money. Charlie began to sell the pencils in our village and at The Pedlars Tray. 

 

With the hedgehog pencils being such a success Charlie took his efforts to the Shobdon Food and Flying Festival and managed to raise £133! Charlie also attended and sold pencils at an event at The Children’s Bookshelf book shop in Hereford, where Author Rosie Wellesley read her books about Isaac the Hedgehog.

 

 

At Halloween in 2019, Charlie made limited edition pencils and sold them at Madley Environmental Study Centre. Then at Christmas, he made some festive limited-edition pencils and sold them at some of our local shops. 

 

Through all of his efforts, Charlie was able to purchase a small Brinsea Incubator that can be set up in a vehicle and taken out on rescues, giving the hogs the best chance to recover. He was also able to purchase a much larger Brinsea Incubator which provides a warm, clean, quiet, safe and controlled environment. This gives orphaned babies and sick hogs the best chance to recover and thrive. 

 

Where does he get his enthusiasm for helping others?

Charlie is a very caring child who loves nature and the world around him and that’s what drives his passion for hedgehogs and animals in general.

 

What does Charlie love about hedgehogs? 

Charlie thinks hedgehogs are very cute. He loves the way they move around and the sounds they make. Their spikes remind him of dinosaurs- like a stegosaurus!

 

What advice do you have to those wanting to get involved in helping hedgehogs? 

Rescues are always in need of volunteers at the centres or with fundraising. Hedgehogs were placed on the red list for British Mammals in July 2020 meaning they are now classified as vulnerable to extinction. Help for hedgehogs is needed now more than ever. Everyone can give a helping hand by putting holes in their fences, creating feeding stations and having awareness of foods that can cause hedgehogs issues (such as sunflower seeds, peanuts and oats, which can give hogs metabolic bone disease). Hedgehog houses and wildlife-friendly planting can also help hedgehogs thrive in our gardens as well as removal of any hazards. 

 

Following your local rescue or the BHPS on social media is beneficial if you want to raise awareness and provide support. Volunteering is massively rewarding and a great way of boosting your mental health!

 

What does Charlie have in the pipeline to help hedgehogs? 

Charlie is currently fundraising for a new microscope that will help identify nasties such as lungworm, roundworm and fluke. The hedgehogs can then receive the necessary treatment before they are released back into the wild. When we went into the first lockdown in 2020 and all of the shows and events were cancelled, Charlie began to sell rainbow-coloured hedgehog pencils outside of our home, with £1 from every pencil going to the NHS. The pencils are now on sale at Bartestree Stores in Hereford. 

  

What does Charlie see himself doing when he is older? 

Charlie wants to be a doctor, a vet, a palaeontologist or a biologist when he is older. He also has a passion for art and would love to be an artist. If he could, he would become all of the above!

 

Well done Charlie for all of your hard work, we’re proud to have you as our Spike’s Hedgehog Hero for March! 

 

With the weather warming up and the sun appearing more and more, it means spring is here and the hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation! Remember, our spiky friends will be low on energy from their long sleep and will need lots of food and water to help them re-energise. Be sure to greet your local hedgehogs with tasty and nutritious treats like our Spike’s Hedgehog Food.

What time of year do hedgehogs come out?

Hedgehogs typically start to come out of hibernation from late March onwards, as the temperatures get warmer and the seasons change. This is the time of year they are most hungry and need lots of nutritious food and fresh water to replenish their energy stores. It’s worth remembering that hedgehogs can lose up to a third of their body weight by the time they come out of hibernation!

When hedgehogs first come out of hibernation, this is the best time to start feeding them, as natural food sources may still be scarce due to the slowly rising temperatures.

At this time of year, you might be tempted to get out into the garden and start tidying things up ready for the summer months. Remember not to be too tidy; even though hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation, they will still only come out at night time and may be snoozing in your hedges or in a pile of leaves during the day. 

As you start tending to your gardens you might think about putting slug pellets down. Slugs are a part of a hedgehogs diet and any chemicals used in slug pellets will also affect hedgehogs that eat these slugs. Instead, try protecting your plants with non chemical methods, so the slugs can still live in your garden without causing damage and continue to be sustenance for hedgehogs.

 

What months are hedgehogs active?

Once out of hibernation, hedgehogs remain active through spring and summer and start to think about hibernation again in late autumn, typically at the end of November. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, sleeping through the day and venturing out at dusk to find food or to meet potential mating partners.

 As we move into April, all hedgehogs will now be active and will be searching for nesting sites and mates. It’s important to keep leaving out food and water as they need to have replenished their fat stores ready for the mating season and they also need energy to search for a suitable nesting place. 

 May is the official mating season for hedgehogs with females giving birth to their little hoglets in June. In July, hoglets will start emerging from their nests on the lookout for food and will slowly become more and more independent from their mothers. Hoglets are usually fully self-reliant by August.

 As autumn comes back around, some female hedgehogs may have had their second litter of hoglets, although later litters might struggle to gain the weight needed for hibernation. Juveniles weighing under 300g may not yet have been weaned or could have been orphaned if found on their own. If you happen to find one contact your local specialised hedgehog rescue, who will be able to provide the specialist care needed to support juveniles in time for winter. Nesting for hedgehogs begins in October and they will be eating plenty of food ready for hibernation again in November!

Keeping some fresh, clean water and some yummy Spike’s Hedgehog Food available throughout the year will support your garden visitors each season and help keep them off the list of threatened species.

 What temperature do hedgehogs come out of hibernation?

 Hedgehogs do prefer the weather to be warmer so will emerge when temperatures reach around five-degree Celsius, which tends to be in the month of March. However, it may be as late as April until all of our spiky friends are active again.

 Although the majority of hedgehogs hibernate at some point during the year (some may not start hibernating until around christmas time) if the temperature stays relatively warm (above 5 degrees) then some hogs have been known to not hibernate at all. This has been documented in the South of England where temperatures remain warmer than the North throughout the year.

Another one of the key reasons hedgehogs may not hibernate is the abundance of food being provided by all of you hedgehog heroes! This has enabled many hedgehogs to get nice and fat, meaning they can survive the winter without the need to protect fat stores by hibernating. No matter the time of year, if you see any hedgehogs out and about in the day time, make sure to contact your nearest Hedgehog Rescue and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

 Do you have spiky friends in your garden? Make sure you share your pictures with us on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Sometimes, in order to do your bit to make a difference in the world, you need to get creative. That is exactly what Victoria Harwood did and we are delighted to name her as our Hedgehog Hero for February 2021! Victoria (AKA the ‘Hedgehog Lady’), wrote and illustrated the children’s book Bush-Hog Tails and donates all the profits to wildlife charities. We talked to her about her creative process and what actually goes into bringing a children’s book to life!

How did you first become interested in hedgehogs?

I’ve always been a huge animal lover but my real interest in hedgehogs came with writing my first book. I was lucky enough to meet quite a few hedgehogs and learn all about them. It wasn’t long before I found out about their worrying decline and I sought to raise as much awareness about them as I possibly could.

What inspired Bush-Hog Tails?

I had always dreamed of writing a book, ever since primary school. When my boys had grown up I decided to pursue my dream and combine my love for animals, storytelling and drawing into the biggest hobby I’ve ever had! I emailed The Snowman illustrator, Raymond Briggs, who kindly offered a little advice about illustrating books. With the help and support of my amazing family, I was able to make my dream of writing and illustrating a children’s book a reality! I wanted to help as many animals as I could whilst also putting a smile on people’s faces. We have a little wooden hedgehog (who is quite old now) that we named Bushy, long before Bush-Hog Tails was devised. I kept making up mini stories about him and one day the idea of Bush-Hog Tails just came to me.

Have you always been interested in writing/illustration?

I’ve always loved writing and drawing. I wrote my first story about a witch when I was 7 and my teacher was so impressed that I ended up winning an award for my class! When I had my children I’d write short stories for them and draw their favourite characters from Mr Men, Pokemon and Disney. I also painted their favourite characters on their bedroom walls. 

How long did it take you to complete the book?

My first book took me two years because it was something quite new. Since then I have written another two books in the Bush-Hog series, each of which took me about a year. My fiancé, Simon, scans all of my illustrations, removes any unwanted smudges (as I use charcoal to draw) and then converts the stories to PDF so they can be sent to the printers. Part of my process is also researching wildlife rescue centres that we can support and donate to. All the profits of my work goes to wildlife charities.

What advice would you give those looking to write a children’s book?

Be patient with yourself! If you are determined enough then you can do it. When I write, I will often make quite a few changes before I’m happy with the final manuscript. I don’t like repeating words so I try to think of different ways that I can describe something. I also try to add humour as well as facts to make the stories fun and educational. You should always work somewhere where you aren’t likely to be distracted as disruptions can cause you to lose your flow and impact your concentration levels. Most importantly- don’t give up! If it’s something that you really want to do it might take a few attempts but it can be done. 

What charities do you donate the profits to?

So far we have helped large animal charities, as well as smaller independent establishments, including my personal favourites: Lincolnshire Wildlife Park and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary. We have also donated copies of my book to an English teaching school in Kuwait, Rainbows Hospice and several establishments that look after poorly children. We even donated some copies to Blackpool Zoo to help with their conservation funds!

How does it feel being known as the ‘hedgehog lady’?

It’s pretty cool! It makes me smile quite a lot!

Have you got any ideas for any future works?

Oh yes! I have a huge imagination and I’m always thinking of new things to write about. I am actually working on another book which isn’t hedgehog related. It still needs a bit of work but once it has been completed and processed into book format, all profits will be donated to wildlife charities, just like my previous books. 

What advice would you give those looking to help hedgehogs?

Research as much as you can so that you can provide the correct care. Remember that hedgehogs can’t drink milk- they are lactose intolerant so a fresh bowl of water and some Spike’s food in a shallow dish is the best thing you can provide for them. They can also eat meaty cat food but it’s worth noting that if you leave out cat food you might also attract cats! You can also create a hedgehog highway where you make a hedgehog sized hole in your fence or gate, which allows the hedgehogs to wander freely. Just make sure you check with your neighbours before cutting any holes!

 

Victoria Harwood has raised almost £3,000 for wildlife charities through her work, despite also working full-time in a specialised Dementia unit. She gave up chocolate for a whole month last year to raise money for Lincolnshire Wildlife Park and despite the pandemic, she is still doing everything she can to make a difference. Thank you Victoria, we salute you! 

At Spike’s we are constantly amazed at the great lengths our followers will go to in order to make a difference. Caring for hedgehogs is no mean feat and takes time, energy and patience. Luckily there’s people like Ann and Chris in the world and we are happy to name them our Hedgehog Heroes for January! 

We sat talked to the pair to find out more about how their journey began and what a typical day looks like running Poppy’s Crêche.

Hi Ann & Chris! Tell us first, how did you both become interested in hedgehogs?

Ann: I first fell in love with hedgehogs when my daughter came across some abandoned babies. I wanted to do everything I could to help and loved the idea of setting up a rescue. I did lots of research and gained qualifications so that I knew exactly how to care for hedgehogs and how to administer medication to the poorly ones. Hedgehogs can be tricky to look after and I needed to become a complete expert before setting out on my journey with Poppy’s Creche. 

What do you think is the best thing about hedgehogs?

Ann: Hedgehogs are demure and beautiful creatures and are a big part of our English heritage. They don’t ask for much from us humans and know how to take care of themselves. All they need from us is to protect the remaining wilderness so they can roam safely. 

What can we do to promote hedgehog welfare?

Ann: Start small, with your back garden! Make sure you leave a wild patch and provide a hedgehog highway if you can. It’s also worth leaving out food and water in case a passing hedgehog needs a bit of sustenance. Most importantly, spread the word about what you’re doing and try to get friends and family on board!

How did you first get involved with Poppy’s Creche?

Ann & Chris: We founded the charity as we wanted to do our bit to help. We have been rescuing and rehabilitating hundreds of hedgehogs and hoglets over the years, then releasing them back into the Suffolk wilds. 

Ann: I’ve become a specialist in raising hoglets, which isn’t easy when you have to feed them every two hours 24/7!

What does a typical day look like for you both?

Ann & Chris: Our day starts at 9am. We begin by cleaning out every in-patient’s home and supply meds to those hogs that need them. We also receive new patients throughout the day, all the while answering and returning any calls we might receive. We do a final check of all the hedgehogs before bedtime, ensuring they are all safe and sound. The patients that are in incubators often need a special bit of attention.

Ann: Hoglet season is our busiest time so I often have to take cat naps throughout the day as I’m up all night- strong coffee and the odd gin help with this. When we aren’t in lockdown, we have an amazing team of volunteers: Liz, David, Tori, Mandy, Patti, Shirley, Annette and student Deanna. 

Do you do any hedgehog fundraising?

Ann & Chris: Poppy’s Creche is entirely self-funded and is named after a very special albino hedgehog. We have some lovely donors who help out via our Amazon wishlist page and we also receive donations from Golden Giving. We are lucky to have been supported over the years by some wonderful wildlife friendly companies and small businesses that care about hedgehogs. You can also donate to our easyfundraising page here or purchase items under Amazon smile- simply select Poppy’s creche as your chosen charity and we’ll automatically receive a donation!  

Do you have any other plans for hedgehog welfare on the horizon?

Ann & Chris: We want to continue to provide the best possible care for hedgehogs that find their way to our rescue. We know how important it is to research and listen to the experts on how to care for hedgehogs properly so we will no doubt keep up to date on any new developments. Most of all, we aim to continue to spread the word on how people in the UK can do their bit for these national treasures.

What does the future look like for hedgehogs?

Ann: I do have concerns about the future of hedgehogs and I can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone to do their bit. If we can all champion hedgehog welfare and create a safe place for them in our gardens, they might have a fighting chance and reduce the need for them to arrive at the rescue. Ultimately, my wish is for my own grandchildren to enjoy seeing hedgehogs years from now! 

Hedgehog hero Catherine Jones

Not all heroes wear capes; some are just normal people, doing their bit to give the nation’s hoggies a helping hand. There are many people in the Spike’s community that go above and beyond to keep hedgehogs safe and they certainly deserve a bit of recognition for all of their hard work. We’re delighted to announce that Catherine Jones, of Rugby, has been named our Hedgehog Hero for December. Read on to find out all about her journey as a hedgehog foster carer. 

How did you first become interested in hedgehogs?

Last summer, I noticed my (very sweet and friendly) Labradoodle, Daisy, sniffing at something in the grass. As I got closer, I realised it was a hedgehog! I hadn’t seen one before and quickly googled what I should do. I left out some dog biscuits and some wet food (it was all we had) and left the hog alone. Our hedgehog kept returning and it was so exciting for me and my daughter, Violet. I started researching hedgehogs, how they live and what we can do to help them- it was at this time I realised just how vulnerable they are and I felt that I had to do something more to help rather than just feeding our new spiky friend. 

What do you think is the best thing about hedgehogs?

I LOVE their fluffy underskirts!  When you think of a hedgehog, you think of a prickly creature but they have this adorable fluff on the underside of their body. When you have the honour of seeing them up close, you realise just how beautiful and unique they are. 

What can we all do to promote hedgehog welfare?

There are so many things you can do! You can promote hedgehog highways between gardens, encourage people to leave out food and water and educate others on how vulnerable hedgehogs really are. Can you imagine if hedgehogs became extinct? How awful to think that they might and that we could have done more to save them. I think education and engagement are the most helpful things we can do, and I try to do what I can via Social Media.

How did you start your journey as a hedgehog foster carer?

I contacted Warwickshire Hedgehog Rescue online originally to see if we could act as an enclosed garden for hedgehogs following soft release. I was put in touch with a lovely lady called Lynda who runs the rescue where I live (in Rugby) and she suggested I become a foster carer instead. We have a couple of sheds in our garden and some spare guinea pig cages – Lynda came to have a look round and approved us as foster carers, and away we went!

What does a typical day look like for a foster carer?

First thing in the morning, I take a look in the shed (affectionately nicknamed ‘Hedgehog Towers’) to check everything is okay, i.e. the hogs have enough food and water. They are usually asleep at this time so I leave them in peace. At 18:00, I go in and clean out the cages, change the newspaper (that lines the cages), check their bedding isn’t too dirty and wash out their food and water bowls. I then gently and quietly lift them from their nests and weigh them to make sure that they are gaining weight at a steady rate (weight loss can be indicative of something sinister). This is when I get a little glimpse of their little wet noses- my favourite part! Sometimes my partner, Phil, helps me out- he’s the one taking the photos and videos for my Instagram, Cookies House Hedgehog Foster Care.

Do you do any fundraising to raise money for hedgehogs?

Not yet, but I run an online cross-stitch shop and am planning to design some hedgehog patterns to sell and donate 100% of the profits to our precious hedgehogs, so watch this space!

Do you have any other plans for hedgehog welfare on the horizon?

I’d love to get involved with educating and engaging others about hedgehogs and what we can all do to help them- maybe at schools. I try and do my bit by encouraging friends and family to support our local hedgehogs, but I need a bigger audience!

What do you think the future looks like for hedgehogs?

Quite frankly, it looks very bleak if we continue to destroy their habitats by building over them, trimming back the hedgerows and by continuing to pump their food (slugs, snails) full of poison. We also all need to be a lot more careful when driving, as hedgehogs are known for crossing busy roads. When so much in our lives is out of control, people need to realise how much of a difference they can make to the future of hedgehogs with small actions like leaving a small dish of water in their garden. Hedgehogs have a very tricky time of it all, but we can make a difference. There are so many people out there who dedicate their time to the protection of these animals, I hope our actions are not in vain.

 

Congratulations Catherine on being named our second Hedgehog Hero on behalf of the entire team here at Spike’s! If you’d like to find out more about Catherine’s journey and what it takes to be a hedgehog foster carer, you can follow her on Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/cookieshousehedgehogfostercare/ 

Here at Spike’s, we love learning more about hedgehogs and what they get up to. When it comes to hedgehog hibernation, there are a few things you might not know. Read on for the truth about hedgehog hibernation, so you know what to expect from the cute neighbourhood critters this winter.

Why do hedgehogs hibernate?

During spring and summer, hedgehogs survive on a diet of a range of insects, which are usually abundant when the weather is warm. When the colder months come around, it becomes harder and harder for hedgehogs to find food, so many of them hibernate to preserve energy until sustenance is more readily available. They can sleep for months at a time, as long as they have sufficient fat stores.

What happens when a hedgehog hibernates?

You might think the hoggies are just having a nice sleep, but internally, there is a lot more going on. When a hedgehog hibernates, they enter a state or dormancy or torpor and their body temperature drops to match their surroundings. This slows their bodily functions down whilst preserving energy.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hibernation season is typically regarded to be the period of time between November and March. However, this is highly dependent on weather conditions and the individual hedgehog, so it’s important not to assume that all hedgehogs are fast asleep by November. If the weather is mild, hedgehogs tend to stay awake for longer so it’s still worth leaving out food and water for them.

Do all hedgehogs hibernate?

Simply, no. Not all hedgehogs hibernate. If a hedgehog is particularly well fed, it doesn’t need to preserve energy to survive the winter. Obviously, hedgehogs are wild animals and each individual hedgehog has a different set of circumstances; some don’t hibernate at all, some sleep for a couple of weeks and some sleep for months. This is also dependent on the weather as sudden drops or increases in temperature may rouse a hibernating hedgehog.

Should I still leave food out for hedgehogs during hibernation season?

As we’ve already discovered, not all hedgehogs hibernate and those that don’t may have become accustomed to tasty Spike’s hedgehog food! Even the ones that do hibernate may wake up from time to time so it’s crucial that they have readily available food on hand.

What should I do if a hedgehog is sleeping in an inconvenient place?

You shouldn’t ever try to move or rouse a sleeping hedgehog, even if the place they’ve built their nest in is inconvenient for you. If the hedgehog has built their nest in an unsafe place then call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and they will give you guidance on what to do next.

What should I do if I wake a sleeping hedgehog?

If you happen to stumble upon a hibernating hedgehog this winter and accidentally rouse them from their slumber, it’s important to cover them back up with dry leaves and leave some food and water for them. Hedgehogs depend on fat stores to survive the winter so if they wake up, it’s important to have easily available nourishment to fuel them in case they decide to find another place to hibernate. Building a nest is hard work after all!

How do I encourage hedgehogs to hibernate in my garden?

Hedgehogs like to hibernate snuggled up under log piles or under piles of dry leaves. You can make your garden more hibernation friendly by letting things get a tad on the messy side. Letting your garden get a bit wild will help make conditions ideal for all different kinds of wildlife, not just hedgehogs. Remember though, if you’re trying to encourage more hedgehog visitors, always be careful if you do decide to do a bit of gardening. You never know who might be tucked up in the greenery!