Hedgehogs are waking up hungry and thirsty – water for wildlife

Wild hedgehog drinking from a water bowl
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The first wild hedgehog has woken up from hibernation in my garden and he’s really thirsty.

Look how much he drinks!

I leave out a shallow bowl of water all year round. You’d be amazed how much a small hedgehog needs to drink. Providing water helps to prevent them venturing into dangerous places like ponds. In Summer, water is even more vital when they can easily die from dehydration.

I’m getting reports of hedgehogs waking up from hibernation all around the country. This hedgehog has emerged the same week as the first from last year. I’m in York and you will see from the video that the night time temperature is 7 degrees.

Now is the perfect time to be thinking about leaving food and water out for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Also to be thinking about how to make your garden wildlife friendly.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it.

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Orphaned baby hedgehog hoglets

Hedgehog hoglets
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I’ve seen an increase of 600% in the number of orphaned hedgehogs admitted this year compared with last.

Find out why in my article with the Big Issue North http://bigissuenorth.com/news/2017/08/show-some-spine/

Hand feeding a hedgehog baby

Hand feeding a hedgehog baby

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

 

Hedgehog courtship behaviour

Wild hedgehogs courting
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It is that wonderful time of year when hedgehogs are courting. You’ll hear them before you see them – they make a really loud ‘huffing’ snorting sound that can keep your neighbours awake at night! Courting generally happens between April and September but, milder weather means that litters are now sometimes being born even in Winter.

David Attenborough sums it all up perfectly

Hedgehogs normally have four to five babies. They stay in the nest for around 4 weeks and then will accompany mum on foraging trips for around a fortnight, before leaving to go off on in their own directions.

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A female hedgehog with her baby on my patio

It is very important to avoid disturbing a hedgehog nest because mum may kill or eat her babies. Avoid garden maintenance, such as removing sheds or outbuildings, during the nesting season. If you do disturb a nest accidentally, cover it straight back up. Do not touch the babies. Check from a distance to see if mum returns. If she does not and you hear ‘peeping’ (like a baby bird noise) from the nest, the babies are in need of rescue. Seek advice from a hedgehog rescue urgently. Do not touch the babies with your bare hands and you need to keep them warm.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com. You can also follow my hedgehog rescue stories at www.facebook.com/littlesilverhedgehog

Hedgehog with foot and limb injuries

Hedgehog with foot injuries
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Meet Legolas. He looks gorgeous and bright eyed but this was not the case when he arrived into my hedgehog rescue.

Sadly, I am seeing an increasing number of hedgehogs coming into rescue with foot and leg injuries. If only hedgehogs could talk and then I would know for sure what had caused them. I do know that they face many dangers out there in the wild. They can get attacked by foxes or dogs. They can get their feet trapped in things including the log edging that is popular for use around borders. Road traffic accidents can cause broken legs and also getting caught in rat traps.

 

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Legolas arrived with both feet badly swollen and infected. He also had a large wound on his left hand side. He smelt strongly of infection.

Legolas injured feet on arrival

On arrival, I washed his wounds with antibacterial agent (Hibiscrub) mixed with saline solution. Legolas was then treated over many weeks with antibiotics, pain relief (with added anti-infammatory ingredient) and daily topical would treatments.

Legolas with feet almost healed

It took months but you will see above that his feet eventually started to fully heal. He lost a few nails during the treatment but most eventually regrew. On release, he was only missing one nail – where the nail bed had been destroyed.

Legolas was lucky and he managed to keep his legs. Others are not so lucky. This is Rupert. He arrived with half a rear leg missing and just a stump left behind. He could not be left like this. The stump would drag on the ground and keep opening up the wound. He would be at risk of constant pain and infection. The only option for Rupert was amputation of the remainder of the stump.

Stump leg

I have also recently admitted this hedgehog with a swollen front leg. Unfortunately hedgehogs cannot survive with an amputated front leg. It is also virtually impossible for a vet to pin these kind of leg breaks due to the way the hedgehog curls and particularly if the fracture is not fresh. The first thing required for any hedgehog with a swollen limb like this is an x-ray. It is vital to know whether the leg is broken and infected or just infected. Luckily for this hedgehog, there is no break. I am treating him with pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with an antibiotic that is good for wounds.

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Hedgehog with swollen and infected front leg and foot – around 4 times normal size. He has been x-rayed to make sure it is not broken.

It is hard to prevent these injuries but you can do your bit by keeping your dog under control in areas where there are hedgehogs and not letting them out at night. Take a close look at your garden and check for potential hazards, such as gaps between log roll edging or holes that a hedgehog could fall into and get injured.

If you do spot a limping hedgehog, seek urgent help. Fresh injuries are easier to treat before they become infected.

Leg injuries are also amongst the most expensive things for a hedgehog rescue to treat. They require many weeks of drugs and wound treatment. Amputations also have to be paid for, along with antibiotics to prevent infection. You can find out more about my work here and can also support my work here.

I also make handmade silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital. You can visit my online jewellery shop here.

Please join me in wishing Legolas a safe return to the wild.

Thank you for reading!

Ethical gifts for wildlife lovers

Ethical handmade Christmas gifts
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I originally wrote this post for Christmas but all these items make fabulous gifts for wildlife lovers all year round!

Please think about buying handmade and ethical this Christmas. You not only get a lovely gift but charities also benefit. There are lots of charities that sell products to raise funds for their work. My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded and I make jewellery to raise funds. I make all of the jewellery from recycled silver.

Here are some other ideas to help you shop ethically this Christmas, all of which support wildlife; from adopting a hedgehog through to being a wildlife rehabilitator for the day. I’ve also included some gifts that don’t give to charity but will help wildlife in other ways. Why not give a hog a home?

Happy shopping and thanks for buying gifts that give back!

If you have any other suggestions for great ethical gifts for wildlife and nature lovers, please get in touch!

British Wildlife Gifts – proceeds support wildlife conservation and rescue charities

Be a wildlife rehabilitator for the day – gift

Adopt a hedgehog – Wildlife Trusts

Sponsor an animal in rehabilitation – Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary

Creature Candy – 10% of proceeds support wildlife rescue

People’s Trust for Endangered Species – Christmas gifts

Adopt a Bee

Give a hedgehog a home

Little Silver Hedgehog – raising funds for hedgehog rescue

Seedball – gorgeous tins of seeds for growing a wildlife meadow and bee/butterfly friendly borders

Provide a beautiful mosaic drinking bowl in your garden for visiting hedgehogs and other wildlife – I love these wildlife inspired designs and they are the perfect height for wildlife.

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Little Silver Hedgehog Jewellery

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Some of the hedgehogs that I have rehabilitated and released

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self funded. You can also support my work here.

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Build a hedgehog feeding station

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Want to feed hedgehogs but not your neighbourhood cats? A hedgehog feeding station may well be the answer. It also helps to keep the food and the hedgehog dry when it is raining. Hedgehogs aren’t keen on rain!

There are lots of options for feeding stations. You can buy a ready made one, I use a wooden hedgehog house (see header pic) or you can also build your own very cheaply from a plastic box. Please remember that a feeding station should only be used for food – don’t mix dinner with bed and breakfast. Use a separate hedgehog box to provide a house.

You will need:

  • A plastic storage box with a lid. A minimum of 12″ wide by 18″ (but can be bigger)
  • A stanley knife or strong scissors to cut the hole
  • Measuring tape to measure the size of the hole
  • Strong tape to cover the cut edges of the hole
  • A brick
  • Small but heavy ceramic bowls for food

Building the box

  • Decide whether you want to have the box with the lid on or whether you want to turn the box upside down with the lid underneath.
  • Carefully cut out a hole around 4.5″ square.
  • Tape up the edges of the hole – they may be jagged
  • Line the box with newspaper
  • Put the food at the far end of the box
  • Place a brick on top to help prevent the lid being taken off by a fox/cat
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Feeding station lined with newspaper. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

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Place a brick on top of the box. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

Check the box daily and change the newspaper when it gets dirty. Wash the food bowls regularly to keep them clean.

You can also decrease the risk of cats getting into the feeding station by placing the entrance up against a fence or wall with only a hedgehog sized gap behind it….

If you want to check that your visitor is, in fact, a hedgehog, you can place a non-toxic ink pad at the entrance followed by a white paper lining. You should then be able to spot hedgehog footprints made by the ink….

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Hedgehog footprints. Pic courtesy http://www.hedgehogstreet.org

For suggestions of what food to put in your feeding station please read my blog.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. I make silver jewellery to raise funds to support my work. My work is entirely self-funded. You can also make a donation to support my work here.

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How to sex a hedgehog – how to tell if a hedgehog is male or female

male wild hedgehog
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Is my visiting hedgehog a girl or a boy? I’m often asked this question. The challenge of working it out often leads to many just being called ‘Spike’, which I guess works for either…..

There are a few ways you can tell what sex your hedgehog is. The first does depend on the hedgehog being cooperative and uncurling for you. You could also pop it into a see-through box so that you can take a sneaky look from underneath.

A male hedgehog has a large ‘belly-button’ about halfway up its tummy. This isn’t really a belly button but is actually his penile sheath. You can see this clearly in the pic below.

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Alex with his manhood proudly on display

You can tell a female hedgehog because her vulva is directly above her anus. You can see this in the pic below. Although it looks as if she has a protruding part, you will see that there is no gap between it and her anus. If she were a boy, she would have a ‘belly button’ like Alex a couple of cm up in the area of belly that you can see exposed and a gap between that and the anus.

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Female hedgehog

Another way of identifying the sex of your visiting hedgehogs is to observe their behavior. If you aren’t able to catch your visiting hedgehogs physically ‘in the act’ (which makes it very clear which is which!), you are more likely to see hedgehog courtship behaviour. You will certainly hear it! The male will chase and circle the female. The female will be the one being circled around and making the ‘huffing’ sound. This brilliant film featuring David Attenborough shows you everything you need to know and more!

 

Many people wonder if male and female hedgehogs can be identified by their size. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there are so many other factors influencing the size of a hedgehog including age, nutrition and whether females are pregnant. Like humans, some hedgehogs will naturally be smaller or larger than others and some will eat more or less than others!

Good luck and do let me know how you get on!

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. You can read more about my work here and also how to support it here.

I also make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise vital funds for the hospital. You can visit my online jewellery shop here.