Animal charity says that around double the usual number of hedgehogs are being brought in to be nurtured back to health
Some arrived when they were little bigger than a human thumb after becoming separated from their families, while others turned up bigger and beefier, but in desperate need of antibiotics for prickly little coughs. One creature had to be rushed in after a close encounter with a bonfire.
The animal charity the RSPCA is reporting a bumper year for hedgehog rescues with around double the usual number being brought in to be nurtured back to health before being released again into the wild.
“Nobody is sure why we have so many,” said Carol Noble, wildlife care assistant at the RSPCA’s West Hatch centre in Somerset as she carefully removed one of her charges from its bed of shredded newspaper for its daily weigh-in. “But they are certainly keeping us busy.”
Four rooms at the centre near Taunton are full of crates containing 60 snoozing, snuffling – and sometimes snapping – hogs.
A few hardier beasts are to be found in a pen outside as they acclimatise to the wind and rain before their re-release into the wild. Usually at this time of year there would be around 30 Mrs – and Mr – Tiggy-Winkles.
Noble said it might be that the reasonably mild and dry early autumn meant that hedgehogs produced extra litters. More hedgehogs mean by the law of averages that more little ones get lost. It might also simply be that interest in television programmes such as BBC Two’s Autumnwatch and awareness campaigns by organisations like the British Hedgehog Preservation Society mean that people are more tuned in to the animals. The glut of hedgehogs at West Hatch is generally being taken as a sign that it’s been a good year for the beloved mammal rather than a terrible one.
The smallest of the hedgehogs – or hoglets – need to be fed on the same sort of milk substitute that tiny kittens are given and have to be hand-fed every few hours. As they grow they are provided with little tubs full of wriggling mealworm, a powder made up of mashed-up beetles and other insects and cat and puppy food (meat, not fish).
Each hedgehog has its own detailed medical notes. The idea is to nurse them back to health and get them up to a good weight before they are released back into the wild, usually as close as possible to where they were found.
Often people who brought them in ask if they can be returned to them so they can set them free again.
The hedgehogs residing at West Hatch come from as far away as Cornwall, Hampshire, Bristol and south Wales. The hog who (just) survived a brush with a bonfire came all the way from north Devon.
Noble said he was accidentally thrown on the bonfire in a pile of leaves.
“They heard his screams and a young man dived in a grabbed him.” The rescuer suffered burns to his hands as well as singed hair and eyebrows.
The hog still has to be slathered in a cream that prevents infection around burns. “He was unlucky or lucky, depending on how you look at it,” said Noble. “But he’s doing well, he’s on the mend.”
Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/25/rspca-report-sharp-spike-number-of-hedgehog-rescues
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