What is a pre-release?

This is a term to describe the release of a rehabilitated animal into a controlled outside environment.

Fred-hog

Fred-hog in pre-release 25 June 2010

For the purposes of hedgehogs we rehabilitate this comprises of a 3 ft x 3 ft or a 3 ft x 4 ft pen kept on my patio, a hedgehog house, lots of hay and bedding, and food and water on tap 24 hours a day.

It allows the animal to acclimatize to the outside world again, to get used to the sights, smells and sounds of nature (and man !) which it may have missed since being indoors for rehabilitation. It also enables a watchful eye to be kept on the hog to ensure no complications develop in this controlled environment.

After a period of time of between a week and three weeks (usually dictated by when the hog starts climbing the walls of the pen to get out – then you know they’re ready), the pen is either removed or lifted up slightly so that the hog can explore the world outside of the pen. The hog will then decide whether he or she wants to make a run for it and return to the wood, or whether they’d like to stay around for a bit.

The provision of food is continued in the pen area, so that the hog can return if they get hungry (research shows that, despite an initial weight loss after release from rehab, hogs quickly regain their foraging skills and put weight on). They can, if they choose, stay in the house too – this is kept available for as long as they need it. Some don’t ever use it again, some pop by from time to time.

If you’d like to create your own pre-release site and have a spare £100 or so knocking around please read this article – we’d love to have a network of suitable pre-release sites in and around Nottingham, rather than releasing all our rehabilitated hogs back to Snape Wood.

Other hedgehog rescues in Nottinghamshire will also benefit from more people setting up pre-release sites – the more there are, the faster rehabilitated hedgehogs can be returned to the wild.

Comments

  1. pat brown says:

    Hi

    We are a group of 30 allotment holders who are very keen to offer a large rehoming safe place with no close roads for our little friends.We are in Mansfield Notts so not too far away from Nottingham. We are prepared to accommodate our guests with all their individual needs. We have plenty of safe undistrurbed hide away places for nest building.We do see the odd hedgehog but not sure if they are living there or passing through.
    We would love to be able to assist these little creatures to breed and remain safe.We need some one to advise and provide hedgehogs

    Regards Pat Brown

  2. clayts says:

    Hi Pat

    It’s almost impossible to ‘create’ a new community of hedgehogs where there is not one already as there will be reasons why they don’t already use the allotments as a base – I’m afraid it’ll be because of the things we as humans do…

    No reputable hedgehog rescue would ever ‘donate’ a bunch of hedgehogs to artificially create a new community without carrying out some detailed checking of the site first . If the allotments are surrounded by roads then you could be creating an ‘island’ of hedgehogs, which is part of the reason why hedgehog populations are crashing, because their populations are becoming increasingly fragmented, which could well lead to long-term genetic problems caused by in-breeding.

    I’m afraid, unless you get the agreement of every allotment holder, allotments can be perilous places for hedgehogs. This year the BHPS is focussing a lot of energy on providing advice to gardeners, because a large proportion of hedgehog admissions to wildlife rescues and hog sanctuaries are as a consequence of gardening-related incidents.

    These are the sorts of things you as an entire groupof allotment holders would need to consider if you want to attract hogs in :

    (1) no metaldehyde slug pellets must be used by anyone (metaldehyde is passed onto hogs and birds which eat slugs and snails and, sadly, can prove fatal)
    (2) all netting needs to be kept a least 6 inches off the ground
    (3) care must be taken before strimming or mowing grass to check there are no dozing hedgehogs
    (4) compost heaps need to be carefully checked before sticking a fork in – they make good nests
    (5) bonfires need to be created on the day they are to be burned – they also make great nests for hogs
    (6) keep black bin liners off the ground – hogs will crawl into them
    (7) if shed doors are kept open at night, hogs will wander in, and then if they cannot get out they can become trapped, poisoned by weedkillers, etc etc
    (8) if any allotment holders have ponds these need to have escape routes
    (9) if any allotment holder has a dog, they may need to consider asking their pet to wear a soft muzzle

    Hedgehogs cannot be forced to stay in any given area, but they most certainly can be encouraged to visit, and the fact you have one or two visitors does indicate they are in the vicinity. Males will roam up to 4 km per night, whilst females tend not to roam so far. In an ideal world, hogs would have at least 15 back gardens per night to roam around in before returning home to their nest.

    Ways to encourage hogs in would include nice log piles, hedgehog houses, lots of dishes of cold water at ground level, availability of food (meat based cat or dog food, kitten biscuits, dried mealworms, proprietary hedgehog foot) and, perhaps most crucially, wild scrubby areas with lots of bramble, and natural boundaries (they are called ‘hedge’ hogs for a reason after all…). Another key way to attract them is not to use insecticides or pesticides, so that their natural prey (beetles, caterpillars, earthworms) is available

    And if the reason for wanting to attract hogs in is to get them to eat all your slugs and snails, be prepared to be disappointed. Hogs prefer not to eat slugs, and indeed analysis of their diet suggests only 5% of their diet is made up of these in a normal year. Slugs and snails carry lungworm and roundworm parasites which account for a lot of hedgehog deaths, particularly during 2012 when we had the wettest summer on record, and they were just about the only wild prey available for hogs to eat.

    There’s more advice available on the BHPS website , particularly these leaflets:

    Here, here and here