Probably the most easily recognisable of Britain’s wild mammals, hedgehog numbers are unfortunately in decline. Despite this, the hedgehog is still the most common mammal admitted to Vale Wildlife and it is also the species that seems to suffer from just about every infection going!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures and if you find one out in the daytime it usually indicates a problem**. In these cases dehydration is a big risk and can quickly kill an animal so it is important to get advice from your nearest wildlife centre as soon as possible. Before doing this, put the hedgehog into a high-sided box with a towel in the bottom and some meaty cat or dog food and water. It is likely that the hedgehog will disappear if you leave it in the garden while you make your phone call. **There are exceptions to this e.g. depending on the time of year a female may be out collecting nesting material, in which case she would be behaving purposefully. If a hedgehog appears lethargic, is lying out in the open (hedgehogs do not ‘sunbathe) or seems very wobbly/unsteady when walking, it needs immediate attention.
Every autumn hedgehogs seem to suffer from a massive increase in lungworm problems. Most of the hedgehogs coming in at this time of year have a heavy burden and need treatment. Our treatment regime is working brilliantly, but people need to look out for underweight juveniles out in the day.
Hedgehogs go into hibernation when the weather is very cold although they do wake and forage for food if we have milder spells. Climate change is having a massive impact on wildlife and our much milder winters mean that hedgehogs often do not hibernate at all but just have short periods where they will go into a deeper sleep, waking again when the temperatures go up again.
In order to survive the winter, hedgehogs need to have enough fat reserves to survive. If they have not reached over 500gms by the end of October, they may need to be taken in to care – please contact your nearest wildlife rescue or hedgehog carer for advice.
The best food to give to a hedgehog is a good quality, meaty cat or dog food and cat complete biscuits. Fresh water should always be available.
The old ‘bread and milk’ advice is now known to be extremely harmful to hedgehogs. Cows milk can even be fatal to them as they cannot digest the high lactose (a natural sugar) content found in it.
We treat between over 1,500 hedgehogs every year at Vale and we often have 250+ in care throughout the winter, each one costing over £5 per week for food alone.