Hedgehogs in trouble

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

Hedgehog nests - do not disturb !

Hedgehog nests - do not disturb !

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.

If you see a hedgehog in the day it usually needs help

If you see a hedgehog in the day it usually needs help

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.

Trapped hedgehogs

If there's litter around, a hedgehog will blunder in to  investigate

If there's litter around, a hedgehog will blunder in to investigate

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

Dog bites can be fatal for hedgehogs

Dog bites can be fatal for hedgehogs

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


  1. John Wright says:

    Last Saturday (07/04/12)I noticed a hedgehog on my lawn at about 15.00
    At first I thought it was dead but eventually saw it move. It uuncurled itself and was quite defenseless. It eventually tried to walk and struggled. Going round in circles. There are a lot of cats in my area which was my main concern. I put it in a cardboard box and brought it inside the house. I covered it with a towel because it was shaking. I put a tray of water in the box but it didn’t go near it.

    I phoned the RSPCA who just advised me to call a local vet. After trying local numbers I gave up after just getting through to answer machines.Being a weekend didn’t help.

    I work away and was due to travel the following Sunday. i kept the hedgehog in the box, bent cut away one side put it outside at the side of the lawn and covered it with roof felt. The following day it had staggered out and was on the grass and the neighbours cat was preparing to pounce on it. I ended up putting the hedgehog in a space between two 5ft fences at the bottom of the garden full of wild growth. I had no choice I had a train to catch. I hope it survives but doubt it very much. Even if the cats don’t get at it,there was something seriously wrong with it.

    1. clayts says:

      Cats will rarely, if ever, cause hedgehogs a problem, even injured ones. Cats are, by their nature, very curious, but my two moggies run a mile when a hedgehog they think they have ‘cornered’ suddenly moves. If it was going round in circles, chances are the hedgehog was blind or seriously injured (head injury). In cases like that, and if you are in Nottingham, your best bet if you cannot get hold of anyone (and typically, we weren’t around this weekend) is to call the Nottingham AARU as they will always come out and sort out someone to care for it, or take it to an emergency vet. If you get back from your journey and the hog is still there and alive please call someone – in situations like this, time is of the essence as hogs deterioriate very quickly. Sadly, however, going by your symptoms and the fact the hog was trembling, it may be too late. RSPCA are correct in saying it needed going to a vet – the PDSA run a clinic in Dunkirk which you can take casualties too. Most vets should administer first aid to wildlife up to the size of a rabbit for free in an emergency, and usually have local contacts who can provide the stricken animal with specialist care.

  2. F Schindler says:

    Our back door is usually open for the dog and cat. lately we keep finding hedgehogs in the house. They are rolled in a ball and seem fine. The dog doesn’t seem to have brought them in, since she takes no notice of them at all. One very large hedgehog was even in her basket which she looked mildly put out about. We’ve had five inside the house so far but we don’t know how they’re getting in since there is quite a long set of steps up to our back door.

    In each case, we have carefully wrapped them in a thick cloth and taken them back out to the garden and put them in the hedge.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not the dog bringing them in because the only time I’ve seen her react to a hedgehog is when she wouldn’t walk past one at the bottom of the steps one evening.

    Any ideas?

  3. clayts says:

    If you’re finding hogs rolled in a ball then I’m sorry to say that it is most likely be your dog bringing them in, as hogs will only curl up as a defence mechanism.

    If they had found their own way in under their own steam and you found them then you would actually see them curl up in front of you, not already curled.

    We’d recommend muzzling your dog when he goes out in the garden and you have visiting hedgehogs – dog bites, even small scratches, can prove fatal to hedgehogs if not treated immediately with antibiotics. You may also want to check your dog’s mouth for injuries too.

    If the hogs are curling up in front of you when you discover them then it’s not unreasonable to suggest that they are indeed finding their own way in – they are remarkably good climbers. At this time of year they are seeking out suitable hibernation sites, and our nice warm homes are ideal ! I’ve seen one trying to get into Snuffle Lodge through the cat flap before now – believe me, they are very resourceful and when they want something enough, a few steps won’t stop them !

    You could maybe consider providing some decent hedgehog houses for them, or making some wild alternatives (log piles, don’t tidy up rough areas) and certainly put food out for them – they need as much food as they can get before they hibernate, which is from any time now until March next year.

    You don’t say how big these hogs are – if another one gets in may I ask that you weigh it on some kitchen scales and report back. October is a tricky month, particularly for late litter juveniles, who are in a race against time to reach a perfect weight, 600g or above, to hibernate

    1. F Schindler says:

      Thanks very much.

      It’s all quite odd, since we have been in this house for 16 years, and have had our dog for 6 years, yet this is the first year I’ve seen hedgehogs. Something must be attracting them.

      I’ll do my best to make sure they are safe and cared for including not letting the dog out unsupervised. I’ll leave food out for them at night when all are animals are in for the night.

  4. Fiona Schindler says:

    Hi. I wrote earlier about the hedgehogs coming into our house. We’ve had another one in and it doesn’t seem to be the dog who’s bringing them in. No injuries to her mouth at all (and they’re not small hedgehogs)and still seems rather put out at them being in the house. Anyway, we had another intruder tonight, which curled up when my son approached it. We put it on the kitchen scales and it weighted at a fraction under half a kilo.

    After the weigh in, we put it back at the bottom of the steps in the garden with a nice bowl of cat food and some milk. It started un-curling itself so seemed ok.

    So that’s the story of hedgehog interloper number 6! I’m very grateful to them because they are keeping our slug population (normally a big problem) under control. Go tiggywinkles!

  5. clayts says:

    Very peculiar that they are finding their way in to your house, but certainly not unheard of.

    Just one thing to pick up on – please don’t feed hedgehogs milk, as they are lactose intolerant – this can cause them to suffer bad diarrhoea, and then they get dehydrated and can fall very ill as a consequence. Good old water is fine, and lots of it !

    Do keep putting the food out – dried mealworms also go down very well and are a hedgehog crowd pleaser !

  6. Natasha Brown says:

    Was on my garden today 7/4/2013 and found a hedgehog nesting under my birch tree. Not disturbed it or anything. I have now realised though that cats have been paying a lot of attention to that area and I just assumed it was a popular area for scenting. I am going to set a outdoor camera up so I can keep an eye out for night time activity. If anybody has any other advise etc… It would be very much appreciated :D Thankyou :D

  7. gloria muir says:

    Natasha Brown
    How wonderful now the fun starts I love my Hogles and spend hours watching them 1st you can put a plastic storage box in the garden with a 4″ square hole in the bottom side put a dish of meaty cat food in jelly and or dried meaty cat food some crumbled digestive biscuits lid on brick on top …..local top cat cant get it watch the hogles visit dont forget fresh water for all your garden friends “NO” slug pellets, weed killers,low hanging nets ,bird feeder cages,”YES” covered holes ,ramps in ponds, lots of dead leaves straw etc. you will soon have them visiting THE FUN STARTS HERE ENJOY xxxx

  8. Lou says:

    Recently moving to a new area i have often noticed a relatively large hedgehog of a night time wondering around my garden, in and out from under my shed (where i think it lives) and also behind the shed, only i haven’t seen him now for about 3 nights, yesterday i did see a small hedgehog keep slightly coming out and then going back in under the shed (this was during daylight, which is why ive checked this site) only today on entering the shed there is an awful smell inside it that was not there before, and also a fair few flies hanging around by the gap where the hedgehogs go in and out from, could this mean anything has happened to the larger hedgehog maybe?

  9. clayts says:

    Oh dear, that doesn’t sound too good, sorry to say. I suspect the larger hog is (or more likely was) a maternal female, and the little one was probably a hoglet (underneath sheds is a popular haunt for nests) – there may be more than one hoglet. By now, the litter should have made themselves known, and most likely will have left the area (or sadly died as well). They can be reasonably independent at 4 weeks but tend to stay with mum until about 8 weeks. You will need to see if you can retrieve the body, otherwise you may start attracting unwanted visitors such as rats. Sorry we weren’t around to help – we were closed for most of June and July due to building works, so could not take any new admissions in due to the noise and disruption