14, April, 2021
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!