Any hedgehog out in the daytime is likely to be in trouble and should be picked up and safely contained in a cat basket or stout, high-sided box. Do this even before you phone for advice, otherwise it’s very likely, when you return to pick the animal up, that it will have disappeared. Phone the Helpline 01892 543213 for advice and assistance.

The hedgehog is probably the nation’s favourite mammal, but they are now in serious decline.

Hedgehogs have always lived in close proximity to humans and are far more common in villages and towns than they are in the countryside. In consequence, they are very vulnerable to being killed and injured man-made accidents.

One of the most common remarks we hear at Folly Wildlife Rescue is "we used to see a lot of hedgehogs in our garden, but not anymore". Sadly, this seems to be increasingly the case. Former strongholds are now completely devoid of hedgehogs and remaining populations elsewhere are often small, isolated pockets that are extremely vulnerable to further depletions.

In a typical year we admit some 500 hedgehogs to the centre, the majority of which have been injured in some way: entanglement in discarded garden or games netting, injury by garden machinery, poisoning by pesticides and herbicides, road traffic accidents, burning in bonfires, being stuck down drains, falling into steep-sided ponds and pools or attack by domestic dogs, are just a few of the more common examples.

Adult Female Badger Hit By A Car

One of the many young hoggies through our doors. This one was found wandering around outside in broad daylight (a sure sign of something being wrong) and has the snuffles, poor little thing. This little one was given five-star care in a warm cosy incubator.

More significantly, hedgehog habitats are now under increasing threat: new housing developments, the modern trend of fencing gardens with closeboard fences, the increasing use of chemical pesticides and over-tidy gardens, are all contributing to their decline.

But a more sinister development now seems to be at work. In recent years, many centres working with hedgehogs have reported the admission of large numbers of small animals,that, having been born very late in the season (sometimes in October) have not had sufficient time to accumulate the fat reserves needed for hibernation. Once the cold weather arrives, they quickly succumb and are often found wandering around in the daytime, searching for food; most by this time are in very poor condition.

Ideally, a hedgehog should weigh 500-600gms at the start of winter, but many of these late-born animals (often termed 'autumn juveniles') are under 200gms. This could well be a direct result of climate change, which combined with the poor, wet summers we have been experiencing, could now be affecting the hedgehog's breeding pattern.

Reports in recent years by the Mammal Society and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society suggest that unless something is done soon, the hedgehog, it could be heading for extinction in the UK within 20 years.

Ideally, a hedgehog should weigh 500-600gms at the start of winter, but many of these late-born animals (often termed 'autumn juveniles') are under 200gms. This could well be a direct result of climate change, which combined with the poor, wet summers we have been experiencing, could now be affecting the hedgehog's breeding pattern.

Reports in recent years by the Mammal Society and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society suggest that unless something is done soon, the hedgehog, it could be heading for extinction in the UK within 20 years.

As well as the injuries hedgehogs suffer at the hand of man, they are also susceptible to a number of ailments and illnesses. Chief amongst these is lungworm (which is often seen in the young autumn juvenile animals mentioned above) but if caught in time, it can be treated, as can two other common diseases, ringworm and sarcoptic mange.

All hedgehogs admitted to Folly Wildlife Rescue are given reference numbers so that after treatment they can be returned to where they came from.

Hedgehog with mange

An adult hedgehog being treated for mange. His spikes are beginning to grow back and as well as medication he also has regular oily baths to ease his flaky skin.

Remember, any hedgehog out in the day is likely to be in trouble and needs checking. If you come across a small hedgehog in the autumn/winter, even at night, it’s worth popping it on the scales to check its weight and phoning that through to us.

Call the Helpline 01892 543213 for advice.

If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs in your garden and want to do your bit to help them, the following points are worth considering:

  • Avoid putting in fencing of the closeboard type or erecting garden walls that may restrict your local hedgehog population’s ability to freely roam. Hedgehogs will cover up to half a km every night in their search for food, so if you already have a fence or wall in place, try cutting a small hole, 15cm square at the base to allow them to pass freely between gardens.

  • Keep part of your garden ‘wild’. It will encourage the invertebrates that hedgehogs feed on to thrive, as will a log pile, always a favourite haunt for creepy-crawlies.

  • Avoid garden chemicals. Pesticides of course kill all invertebrates, the ‘good’ ones as well as the ones perceived by gardeners as the ‘bad’ and the chemicals in them may well have an unknown long-term effect on the environment.

  • Avoid using slug pellets. If you do have to use them, make sure you target just specific areas and put the pellets in a narrow-necked jar that will let the slugs in but keep hedgehogs (and blackbirds) out. Pick up any dead slugs and dispose of them safely. Old-fashioned beer-traps that you can make up yourself will catch lots of slugs, but it is also worth remembering that even slugs play an important part in the natural order and that we shouldn’t really be looking to kill everything just because we consider it a problem: live and let live!

  • If you’re painting a shed or fence, try and use an environmentally friendly wood preserver; hedgehogs are often attracted by these paints and will lick and then ‘self-anoint’ themselves (ingesting a fair amount of the stuff as they do so), so a safe product is much better all round.

  • We see a lot of hedgehogs entangled in netting. Keep garden (and sports netting) well clear of the ground and make regular checks of it as other animals, such as grass snakes and birds can get trapped as well.

  • Check that all your drain covers are intact; hedgehogs seem to be drawn to drains and will fall down them if the grids are broken. If you have a pond with steep sides, make sure there is an escape ramp at one end. Hedgehogs are good swimmers but will drown if they can’t get out.

  • In hot, dry weather, hedgehogs will appreciate a dish of fresh water and maybe a little food (the non-fish varieties of cat food are best). You can buy proprietary hedgehog food in pet shops, but canned or dry cat food is just as good. Don’t though be tempted to put food out every night; it isn’t necessary and if you do they won’t eat your slugs!

  • Never give hedgehogs 'bread and milk'. They will eat it but its very likely to make them ill, as the enzymes in cow's milk can interfere with their digestive system and even give them diarrhoea.

  • You often see ‘hedgehog houses’ for sale in catalogues. They tend to be very expensive and aren’t really necessary as hedgehogs are quite capable of building their own houses out of leaves and grass, so save your money and maybe use it instead to create a wildlife-friendly patch of garden

  • Bonfires can kill hedgehogs, so always check a bonfire before lighting it. If it’s been in place for some time, it’s safer to dismantle it and re-build it on fresh ground.

We are frequently contacted by well-meaning people who wish to ‘adopt’ or give a home to a disabled hedgehog, to help keep the slugs down in their gardens. In the past we did experiment with this but unfortunately it never worked.

Disabled hedgehogs need to have regular health checks and the walled and ‘hedgehog-proof’ gardens we put them in never held them for long, so we stopped many years ago.

If there are hedgehogs in the area, you can encourage them to visit you by providing a suitable hedgehog habitat (i.e. nice and wild) but if you never see them, then they have either died out or there is another reason for their absence, such as a busy road or badger sett nearby.

If you want to learn more about hedgehogs and their surroundings, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk or Hedgehog Street www.hedgehogstreet.org.

Hedgehog with mange

The photo doesn't show the full extent but this poor female was pulled from a burning fire. She was placed on pain relief, antibiotic cover and wound management. She was also enjoying tucking in to her scrambled eggs while recovering. A very lucky girl.

Previous Successful Rescues

Young Jays

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Invicta Insurance Services Ltd offer competitive insurance rates and if you take out an insurance policy with them quoting "Project Hedgehog" they will make a generous donation of £20 to Folly Wildlife Rescue.
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An adoption pack makes a great gift for a birthday or Christmas (or you can always treat yourself!) and is a very practical way to help hedgehogs in distress.
As well as illnesses and injuries the species is now seriously threatened by loss of habitat and housing developments, increased road traffic and unsympathetic farming practices

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