Many people get excited about the first signs of Spring – daffodils raising their sunny heads and delicate snowdrops swaying in the breeze…. But for me, poo is the most exciting sign of Spring….
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, unless you plan to spend endless hours camped out by your patio doors or invest in a wildlife camera, you are more likely to see hedgehog excrement than the creature that left it.
Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation any time from March onwards and the sign of fresh black droppings on the lawn is a wonderful sign that my spiky friends have emerged safely from their deep sleep. The ‘poo calendar’ reminds me that it is time to leave out fresh water and food every day to help my prickly guests.
Top tip: If you want to know if you have a hedgehog visitor, go on a poo hunt around your garden!
Healthy hedgehog droppings are black or dark brown in colour, solid and usually oval or tapered. They can be up to 5cm long. Stools also provide a vital insight into the hedgehog diet. Hedgehog poo will often ‘glisten’ due to being packed with the remains of invertebrates, such as beetle wings and other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t just eat slugs. Beetles are their favourite foods and eating too many slugs can actually be bad for them as they are an intermediate host for lungworm. This horrid parasite can cause weight loss, breathing problems and ultimately death.
Top tip: Help your hedgehogs to have lovely healthy shiny black poo by packing your garden with native plants and log piles to attract beetles. There more plants the better!
Hedgehog poo is also a vital indicator of health in other ways. Green slimy poo can be a sign that a hedgehog is poorly and in need of rescue, so keep a close eye on your hedgehogs if you see any dodgy poo around your feeding stations. It is vital to keep the feeding stations clean (just like you would with bird feeders).
Hedgehog rescuers like myself also love looking at poo under the microscope. Parasites can be identified under the microscope that can then be treated, with the most common being lungworm (from slugs) and roundworm (from earthworms). Bacterial infections can also be identified. Studying poo is one of my favourite pastimes…
If you’re still not sure if the poo is from a hedgehog or a different visitor, please also check out my guide to other common wildlife poo…. You can also take a look and see whether any hedgehogs have been sighted and mapped near to you on the Big Hedgehog Map.
If you’d like to find out more about hedgehog poo and what it means – why not come along to one of my hedgehog talks and wildlife night garden safaris in York and ask me all your questions about poo! We’ll also look at some in the garden.
I don’t put detailed information on my page about the treatments I use but I follow the Vale Wildlife protocols for treating hedgehogs. If you are a hedgehog rehabilitator and would like any advice, please get in touch here. If you are caring for a hedgehog, you can also send off poo samples for testing via the information found here.
I make handmade silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital. You can visit my shop here.