Hedgehogs are past masters at getting themselves into all sorts of scrapes, most of which can be completely avoided by humans being a bit more tolerant and friendly to their wildlife.
Serious accidents are capable of not only killing a mother, but can also deprive an entire litter of their mother’s milk, thus resulting in another load of unnecessary deaths. With hedgehog populations crashing, every prickly life is sacred !
So, what do you do when you find a hedgehog in distress ?
The most common situations when humans and hogs meet are when humans
- discover or disturb a nest
- see a hedgehog during daylight hours
- find a hedgehog trapped in fencing, netting, litter, a pond or drain hole
- your dog discovering a hedgehog, picking it up with its mouth and then dropping it
- finding babies or small hogs out in the open, day or night
In all cases, please read this page, as blundering in without knowing what you are dealing with can often cause more harm than good.
Discovering or disturbing a nest
Hedgehogs have their nests in all sorts of peculiar places, partly because their natural habitat of woodland and hedgerow continues to be mercilessly hacked down by us humans.
This means they increasingly come into urban areas to seek somewhere to live. There are three types of nest you may come into contact with :
- maternal nests (April to September) pregnant female or mother and babies – where possible these nests should never be disturbed or moved. Doing so could result in the mother abandoning the babies, or even killing them (and eating them). If you uncover a nest during renovation work in your home or garden please if possible please stop what you are doing for three or four weeks to give mum a chance to raise her kids. Please do not disturb the nest again, touch the hogs, or watch over them – they need complete quiet and privacy. If you really, absolutely must get the nest moved please call Clayts or a wildlife rescue centre : it is important that the whole nest is moved in one go wherever possible to give mother and babies the best chance, preferably with the hogs still in situ, and this can be a delicate operation !
- summer nests it’s not quite so critical if you disturb a hog in one of these, as they tend to nest-hop a lot during summer months. Of course, it’s better to assume all nests discovered in the summer are maternal nests and treat as above
- hibernaculums are the winter nests hogs use to hibernate – they are usually very well built, but could be indoors, under sheds, in compost heaps, even in newly built but unlit bonfires. The key here is to leave well alone – it can be dangerous for hogs to be woken from hibernation early. If you want to help your dozing hedgehog, please leave a shallow bowl of water and some dry cat biscuits out – hogs do stir occasionally for food, so these treats will be very welcome
Hedgehogs out during daylight hours
Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal animals – they emerge just after sunset and should have scuttled back to their hidey holes before dawn.
Unfortunately, some hedgehogs, for a variety of reasons, do emerge in daylight hours. The most common reason is a hedgehog in distress – it is either very ill, very hungry, disorientated, blind, orphaned or a combination of all five. In all instances, the hedgehog needs rescuing.
There are occasions when (soon-to-be) mothers will come out during the day, but they will be notable because they will be collecting nesting material and will be shuttling to and fro carrying twigs, leaves etc in their mouths – these need not be disturbed, as they are just going about their business.
If there was an award for ‘animal most likely to get trapped’ the hedgehog would win it hands down. These prickly furballs contrive to get themselves into all sorts of pickles, the most notable being :
- falling down uncovered manholes or drainage pipes
- getting caught in pea/bean/sports netting
- getting trapped in chainlink fencing
- getting their heads stuck in litter such as yoghurt pots, bottles, cans, 4-pack holders
- falling into ponds and being unable to scramble out
A lot of care needs to be taken when rescuing a trapped hedgehog – do not attempt to do it yourself as you may cause more harm than good.
The rule of thumb is never try to extricate an animal from entangled netting, fencing or litter at the scene – it is far better to cut an area around the hedgehog and do the tricky operation of extricating the wire, mesh or litter in much more sterile surroundings (and possibly under anaesthetic).
Dogs and hogs
Whilst it may be funny to watch your dog get the shock of his life when getting a mouthful of hedgehog, it’s actually not very funny at all for the hedgehog. Dogs carry hamrful bacteria on their teeth which, if the teeth even slightly puncture the hedgehog’s skin, will lead to an infection which will spread fast and kill the hog within days.
If your dog does find a hog, please pick up the hog and bring him inside and ring for assistance. The hog will need an immediate antibiotic injection.
Please train your dog not to pick up hogs – not only will you save them from a mouthful of hurt, you’ll also save much distress for the hedgehogs (and their rehabilitators !).
If you have found a hedgehog in distress please visit this page