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