Working with Lush to help save our wild hedgehogs

Help save our wild hedgehogs by Little Silver Hedgehog
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All wildlife rescues are entirely self funded, especially small ones, and it can be difficult to balance fundraising with the demands of running a rescue.

I was lucky enough to work with Lush recently to run a Charity Pot Party. Charity Pot is a Lush hand and body lotion (really yummy!) that is sold year round with the proceeds supporting a range of grassroots environmental, human rights and animal charities. The local Lush stores also run ‘Charity Pot Parties’ enabling local grassroots organisations to raise funds and awareness over a day or weekend.

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I love the Lush ethos of being against animal testing and also reducing or recycling plastic packaging. Lush customers are a great audience to raise awareness of the plight of our prickly pals.

43245704_1830850000286025_3198672779117330432_nRunning a hedgehog rescue is a vital job but, without the help of the wider public, rescues alone cannot halt the decline of our wild hedgehogs. To do this we need to raise awareness of their plight and how people can take simple steps in their own gardens and neighbourhoods to help our hedgehogs.

Lush was a fantastic platform to achieve this, with staff, along with myself, talking to each customer about how they can help hedgehogs.

Lush run Charity Pot Parties year round. If you’d like to find out more about what the process involves please contact me. Lush also offer other fundraising opportunities, including grants for animal organisations.

A huge thank you to the team at Lush, York, for all their support and to everyone we spoke to over the Hedgehog Awareness Weekend.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. You can find out more about my work here.

I also make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife. You can visit my online jewellery shop here.

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

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Hibernation weights – when to rescue Autumn Juveniles

Wild hedgehog in hedgehog box
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What weight do hedgehogs need to be to survive hibernation? When should you start to worry about the weight of your visiting Autumn hedgehogs and consider whether they need to be over-wintered by a rescue?

Wild hedgehog in hedgehog box

I welcome the recently revised joint advice on this subject. There has been much confusion and conflicting views on this topic over the years with the result that many hedgehogs may have been ‘rescued’ that didn’t need to be, whereas others may have perished unnecessarily.

It is important to remember that pictures of hedgehogs in hedgehog rescues may look cute but captivity is extremely stressful for any wild animal. It should never be undertaken without full consideration. Captivity can cause as many problems as it seeks to resolve. Internal parasites tend to increase in captivity due to stress. Problems like ringworm can be caused or exacerbated by the stress of captivity. Without proper hygiene, bacterial infections can rapidly spread between captive hedgehogs. It is important to consider all these factors when considering whether a hedgehog needs rescue.

You can read the new advice here. Based on this, hedgehogs weighing less than 450g found between mid October and February are likely to be in need of rescue even if only being seen as night. Hedgehogs under this weight are unlikely to have built up enough fat reserves to survive hibernation. Hedgehogs may have a better chance of surviving hibernation at 600g+. To weigh a hedgehog, you will need to wear thick gloves. Place the hedgehog in a container on the scales to stop it wriggling.

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Weighing a hedgehog is easier if it is in a container on the scales

Any hedgehog found out in the day (particularly in Winter outside of the summer nesting period), however, is also likely to be in need of rescue regardless of weight and advice should be sought urgently.

Blind wild hedgehog

Being out in the day is not normal behaviour for nocturnal hedgehogs and you should seek advice from a hedgehog rescue if you find a hedgehog out in the day of any size

You can give hedgehogs the best chance of getting to a suitable weight for hibernation by providing supplementary food and water well into the Winter period.

Wild hedgehogs in garden

Due to the fact that internal parasites can rapidly multiply in captivity, I would not advise over-wintering a hedgehog without the advice and support of a nearby hedgehog rescue. I have had many a call about an over-wintered hedgehog that has suddenly gone downhill and has been beyond saving, after having been cared for by a well meaning person but with no specialist knowledge. They can seem to be doing okay but, once the parasites multiply, they can go downhill extremely rapidly. This is a terrible situation for the hedgehog, the carer and the hedgehog rescue that has to try and fix the hedgehog.

If you have successfully over-wintered a hedgehog, you may also find this advice about releasing them back to the wild useful.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. You can read more about me here and also how to support my work.

I also make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife and you can visit my online shop here.

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

 

How to tell if a hedgehog is too thin or too fat – the importance of a rounded bottom

Round hedgehog
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How can you tell if a hedgehog is a healthy weight? Thin underweight hedgehogs are likely to be sick and will need specialist treatment.

Hedgehogs being kept in captivity (because they have been sick or were too small to survive hibernation) can also get too fat. For optimum health and survival chances, it is important that hedgehogs are neither too thin or too fat.

Hedgehogs ideally need to be over 650g to have a good chance of surviving hibernation but, like in people, the right weight depends on their size and will vary between individual hedgehogs.

Firstly, whatever its weight, any hedgehog found out in the day is likely to be poorly. This is unusual behaviour for a nocturnal animal and is usually a warning that something is wrong. Always seek advice from a hedgehog rescue.

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You can see that this hedgehog is underweight for his size. His rear end is tapered and a ‘v-shape’.

You can tell if a hedgehog is too thin by holding it on its back (wearing thick gloves) and looking at its rear end. A hedgehog that is underweight for its size will have a tapered ‘v-shaped’ rear end like in the picture above. It may also appear ‘baggy’. A healthy hedgehog should have a nice firm rounded end like in the picture below. A thin hedgehog is likely to be struggling with internal parasites.

You can read more about the importance of the size/weight ratio here.

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Healthy hedgehog with a nice round rear end.

Being too fat can also cause problems. If a hedgehog gets so fat that it cannot curl up fully into a ball, it will be vulnerable to predation and other problems. Sadly, it is not unknown for hedgehogs that have been kept in captivity for Winter to end up being too fat. Fed on a high fat diet (especially meaty dog or cat food), if the carer does not carefully monitor the hedgehog’s weight, it can end up so obese that it cannot fully curl up into a ball. You can read about an obese wild hedgehog here.

It is much easier to prevent this happening than to put the hedgehog on a diet. It can take many weeks for the hedgehog to lose the weight and they will get stressed being kept in captivity for so long. This in itself can cause more problems. Ringworm, for example, is often triggered by stress, along with the bacterial infection Coccidiosis.

If a hedgehog in captivity is getting so fat that it can no longer fully curl, its food needs to be restricted until it starts losing weight.

This is also where the size/weight ratio is important. For some hedgehogs, 900g may be too fat. For others, they could be well over 1kg and still the right size for their weight. Being able to curl fully into a ball is critical.

The picture below is of a wild hedgehog from my garden. This weight would be too heavy for some hedgehogs but you can see that he can still fully curl into a tight ball.

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Wild hedgehog that I named ‘Whopper’. Despite being heavy at over 1.3kg, he can still fully curl into a tight ball.

The importance of making sure the hedgehog is a healthy weight means you should always seek guidance from an expert wildlife rescue if you are considering looking after a hedgehog. A thin, underweight hedgehog is likely to be very sick and in need of urgent specialist treatment. They can rapidly go downhill without the right treatments.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it. I also make silver jewellery to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital and you can visit my shop here.

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

Handmade silver nature jewellery by little silver hedgehog

Why you shouldn’t feed hedgehogs mealworms

Wild hedgehogs in garden
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Like many people, I used to feed dried mealworms to my visiting garden hedgehogs. I used to feed them in moderation but I had no idea quite how bad they were for the health of my spiky friends.

I knew that mealworms were to hedgehogs what sweets are to children. If given the choice, they would live on nothing but this junk food. They are highly addictive and hedgehogs will soon choose to consume nothing else.

What I didn’t know though was that mealworms, and also foods like peanuts and sunflower hearts, actively strip bones of calcium. This is the likely cause of increasing numbers of hedgehogs coming into hedgehog rescues with metabolic bone disease, including Benjamin who was cared for here last year.

Wild hedgehogs in garden

Feed hedgehogs any brand of cat or kitten biscuit

Please read the article to find out the full reasons why you shouldn’t feed these foods. A good quality kitten or cat biscuit, water and some meaty cat or dog food is all you need to keep your prickly visitors healthy. There are lots of myths surrounding feeding cat and dog food. They can eat any flavour, including fish and gravy. In my experience they just tend to prefer the chicken or beef flavours but there is absolutely no reason why you can’t feed them other flavours and gravy varieties. If you want to read more about these myths, here is a great article by a leading wildlife hospital..

Hedgehog drinking from water bowl

Water is the most important thing to provide but supplementary food also helps

You can also help by making your garden insect friendly to ensure there are plenty of beetles and caterpillars – their favourite natural foods. There is plenty of calcium in the exoskeletons of beetles.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. You can find out more about me and my hedgehog hospital here. Like all wildlife rescues, my work is entirely self-funded and you can find out how to support my work here.

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

Silver wildlife jewellery

Silver wildlife jewellery

How to create a hedgehog highway to link your gardens

Hedgehog hole to link gardens
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Making a hedgehog hole to link your garden with others is one of the most important things you can do to help hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs need access to a large number of gardens and other habitats to find sufficient food and mates. They roam up to 2km a night between gardens, parkland and allotments. Habitat loss and people fencing in gardens and other green spaces may be a major contributor towards their declining numbers.

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A hedgehog hole in my garden

Make a 13cm (5 inch) square hole in or under any fences. This will provide hedgehogs with access but should keep any neighbouring dogs out. Remember to create a hole on all sides of your garden.

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Hedgehog highway sign. Pic: PTES

I love these hedgehog highway signs from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. If you move house, it hopefully means that future residents will understand why the hole was created and keep it open.

You can also purchase special gravel boards that have hedgehog holes already built in from a number of fencing suppliers including from Jacksons Fencing.

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Hedgehog friendly gravel board. Pic: Jacksons Fencing

When you’ve made your hedgehog holes, please map them on the Big Hedgehog Map to help build a picture of hedgehog habitats across the country.

Don’t delay – do it today! Then, when you’ve done it, ask your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to do the same….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. Like all wildlife rescues, my work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Hedgehog wound and abscess treatment

Hoglet with facial injury
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Octavia is being treated for a nasty facial wound that has sadly become infected. I’m sorry for the graphic nature of these pictures but this is the kind of reality that wildlife rescues face on a daily basis.

I wish hedgehogs could talk and that I knew the cause of the wound. This one is possibly a strimmer or bite wound. Sadly, the wound has got infected and the skin underneath is dying (necrotic). She has an abscess in the neck area on the same side that you can’t see in this picture.

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Octavia when she arrived and prior to any treatment

Upon arrival, hedgehogs are checked to assess the nature of their wounds. They will also go through a range of other checks to assess their size, weight, general health and whether they have internal or external parasites.

Some hedgehogs will immediately be taken to a vet for treatment if the wound is very severe. Many will require x-ray to ascertain the extent of any damage and infection. With any wound, it is possible that an impact may have caused bones to break. Abscesses can also track deep into the bone. Many of these things are beyond the skills of a hedgehog rescue, who must always work closely with a vet. You can read more about abscesses here.

Depending on the nature of the wound, it may also require draining. This is done by a vet using a syringe/scalpel to draw out the infected pus. The hedgehog is usually ‘gassed down’ for this procedure.

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Octavia after 5 days of treatment

I clean wounds using a mix of hibiscrub (an antibacterial fluid used in surgery) in a warm saline solution. This softens the scabs and aids their removal. It also cleans and sterilises the wound. Hedgehogs are obviously wild creatures and wounds may have picked up all kinds of dirt and debris.

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Some of the wound treatments I use

The treatment for wounds like this takes a long time. This wound is being cleaned regularly to soften the scabs and to keep it sterile. I alternate the application of various different topical treatments to the area beneath the scabs. In this case, I am alternating between a wound gel and veterinary grade manuka honey. These help to clear the infection and to promote healing.

Depending on the nature of the injury, pain relief may also be required as well as antibiotics. Octavia is receiving a special antibiotic that is very good at treating open wounds and abscesses. She will receive this for at least 7 days.

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

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

I am a member of many wild hedgehog rehabilitation forums and I also follow the Vale Wildlife Hospital protocols for treating hedgehogs. I don’t put detailed information on my pages about the treatments I use but, if you are a hedgehog rehabilitator and would like to know more or would like any help please contact me.

 

Day in the life of a hedgehog rescue

Hand feeding a hedgehog baby
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I’ve started to write this blog about 100 times and failed. That tells you quite a bit about a day in the life of a hedgehog rescue! Well, no two days are the same but let me give you a secret glimpse into a day here.

6.00am – Get up and go and check all the patients to see who has survived the night. Collect up food bowls, empty uneaten food and soak them in sterilising liquid. Check on the wild hedgehogs in the garden and top up their food bowls.

Washing up in my hedgehog rescue

There is always piles of washing to be done

6.15am – Grab a quick breakfast on the go

6.30am Weight checks for all hedgehogs. Check list of who needs which medicines. Give all treatments. Some hedgehogs may require 3 or more different medications. Hand feed hoglets. Update all medical records. Clean all cages and replace newspaper and blankets. Put fleece blankets on to wash. Sanitise all hospital surfaces. Clean and sweep the floor.

Towels drying in my hedgehog hospital

Fleece blankets are quick drying. I do at least one wash a day.

7.30am Respond to messages received asking for advice about hedgehogs.

8.00am Try and fit in a couple of hours of freelance work. I used to have a full time job but it was impossible to fit it around the hedgehogs.

10am. Check up on sick patients and administer fluids under the skin/syringe feeds for the sickest. Hand feed any baby hoglets.

Hand feeding a hedgehog baby

Hand feeding a hedgehog baby

10.30am Receive two calls about poorly hedgehogs. Make arrangements for admission.

11am Check on stocks of food and medicine. Order any items that are running low.

12 noon Admit two hedgehogs. Checks done to identify injuries and illnesses. Fluids given and hedgehogs placed into intensive care.

1pm. Try to fit in some more freelance work in between following up leads about potential release sites for hedgehogs. Check out the locations on google earth and schedule in visits to go and check them.

2.30pm Undertake final health check for a hedgehog that is ready for release. Poo sample tested under the microscope. Test a line up of poo samples for my hedgehogs and those out with foster carers. Mark the hedgehog ready for release. Pack up a bag of food for the finders to use over the first few days. Hand feed hoglets.

Studying poo under the microscope

Studying poo under the microscope

3.30pm. Another call asking for advice about a nest of hedgehogs that has been disturbed. Offer advice for the nest to be monitored.

4pm. Check messages asking for advice about poorly hedgehogs. Make some jewellery (which I make to raise funds for the rescue). Update hedgehog admission records and tidy up the shelves in the hospital to put away items of food that have kindly been donated.

5pm. Clean out any hoglets. They make such a mess that they need cleaning at least twice a day. Check on any patients in intensive care. Undertake food rounds to top up food in all cages. Hand feed hoglets.

6.30pm Finder arrives to pick up a hedgehog for release.

7pm Manage to grab some dinner but it is interrupted by a call about a sick hedgehog.

8.30pm. Admit a hedgehog covered in fly strike and ticks. Spend the rest of the evening removing fly strike, giving fluids and intensive care. Hand feed hoglets.

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Ticks removed from a new admission

9.00pm. The hedgehogs have pulled up the lining of one of the cages. Ask my lovely husband to undertake some maintenance whilst I look after the new admission.

10.30pm. Final hedgehog checks.

Try and get some sleep and do it all again the next day!

I run a small hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self funded. You can read more about me here and also how to support my work here.

Like all wildlife rescues, my hospital is entirely self funded. I make handmade silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise vital funds for the hospital. You can visit my online shop here.

The recognised hedgehog course for hedgehog rescues and vets is run by Vale Wildlife Hospital. You can find out more about their work and the one day course here.