Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hedgehog Rescue

Hedgehog rescue. Photo: Les Roberts

The return of ‘beast from the east’ reminds me that we also had some very cold weather in early December last year. On one particularly frosty Friday night we opened our front door to check no shoes had been left out under the porch. To our astonishment a small hedgehog was, quite literally, sitting on our front step and, we felt, looking rather sorry for itself.

Given the temperature, conditions and the time of year we realised this youngster was in trouble. A thick cardboard box was quickly found and we lined it with scrunched up newspaper, something which we hoped would retain the animal’s own heat and create some warmth. Into the box also went a plastic tub filled with water but we didn’t think we had any suitable food – we needed advice.

Given the hour it was not surprising that we could not contact the Hedgehog Rescue numbers we phoned but we did get through to RSPCA HQ. They asked us to weigh our guest which we did using kitchen scales and plastic container. Unfortunately, this showed that the little creature was underweight and would not survive hibernation even if it could induce that state. We were advised to go to our nearest supermarket and buy cat food, perfectly acceptable to hedgehogs apparently. We were also told to keep the animal warm overnight and find a rescue centre next day.

Finding an accommodating centre proved difficult. Not because the volunteers who ran them were unwilling, they were simply unable because of the numbers of such young, underweight or injured hedgehogs they were already housing – a winter long commitment. Thankfully a Wirral veterinary practice did offer to add our now very perky and endearing guest to those they were currently caring for. Why such numbers of these delightful creatures fail to reach the optimum weight and size to hibernate is worrying and sad. We presume it is down to changing land use and shrinking natural habitat. Gardens may be the salvation, especially if they offer ‘wilder’ areas, however small and are devoid of slug pellets. Well done the long-term rescuers who are giving their own time and money to help maintain the population of such charming animals.

Les Roberts

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