Frequently asked questions
Unlike pet animal rescues, we do not offer hedgehogs for "adoption". They are wild animals and must be allowed to return to the wild to live a normal life, breed and help increase the population. We normally release them back to the area they were found and they usually move-on after a few days. Any hogs that are not able to survive in the wild, but are capable of living a good quality of life in a secure area are kept by us and looked after by our carers. Hedgehogs are not territorial so do not live in one place. They are nomads and can roam up to 2 miles each night while foraging for food, and sleep wherever they happen to be. Hogs can squeeze through tiny gaps and climb well so most gardens are not hedgehog proof. This is a good thing as it means they can roam about and have a greater chance of finding a mate and adding to the population. An average garden will not have enough food for a hog to survive and although they will eat slugs and snails they can carry lungworm which can make a hedgehog very ill.
A meat based pet food is fine, the plainer the better, also a little dried hedgehog , meal worms or cat food is good as it keeps the teeth sharp and clean. However, they can be very fussy and very cheap foods are not always acceptable. If you have a problem with cats stealing the food, try offering some unsweetened museli or weetabix and a handful of raisins. Alternatively a feeding station can be used. The idea is to provide something that is high enough for the hedgehog and its food to go under, but too low for a cat to reach the food. You could try a paving slab on bricks (leave a gap between 2 of the bricks as an entrance hole) or get one of those blue plastic mushroom boxes (from supermarkets). Cut a 5" x 5" hole in one of the short sides so that when the box is upside down the hole becomes an entrance. Put the food at the far end and weigh the box down with a stone. Fresh water is the best thing to offer as a drink.
The timing of hibernation does depend on many things including the weather. When it gets very cold, they will hibernate (if they are fit and fat enough) because their natural food disappears in the cold weather. A general guide is November - March although large hedgehogs may hibernate as early as September. However, if it stays mild after November they will stay out longer, and if it warms up in February, you may see them around then! During hibernation a hedgehog will wake up several times, and if you see one it is a good idea to offer food and water, then, if there are no signs of problems, let it go on its way.
Hedgehogs under a year old need to be at least 500-600gms in order to have sufficient fat reserves to successfully hibernate. Older hedgehogs will need to be heavier than this. If they are not large enough or well enough to hibernate then they will not. Those seen out late in the year will need extra help to give them a chance to survive. This may just be in the form of extra food being put out in the garden or some, especially those seen out in the day, may need to be brought inside and over wintered. If you have any doubts or concerns always seek advice from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society or a local hedgehog rehabilitator.
Sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs are very susceptible to hypothermia. When they become cold they are lethargic and go off their food. This makes them even colder! The staggering (or wobbling and rocking) is a sign of hypothermia, and they may look like they are sunbathing as they spread themselves out in the sun in an attempt to get some heat into their bodies. When they are spotted in this state they need help quickly. They should be taken indoors on a box with a well-wrapped hot water bottle placed underneath them. The bottle must not be allowed to go cold or it will undo the good it has done. Once you have the hedgehog settled and warming up, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 for further advice or the number of your local carer.
Hedgehog fleas are host specific, which means they will not usually live on any animal other than a hedgehog. It is quite unusual for a hedgehog to be “covered in fleas” as the “old wives tale” goes. It is sometimes a sign of a very poorly creature.
When baby hedgehogs (hoglets) are about 4 weeks old they start to venture out of the nest with their mothers. At this age they look like perfect miniatures. Occasionally one of the more adventurous ones may come out of the nest in the day but will be busy searching for food and will then return to the nest – provided he is busy then there is probably nothing to worry about. However some hoglets whose mother has been killed will venture out of the nest in search of her. They will do this even when newborn. They are likely to be seen out in the day, they may be squeaking (it sounds like a bird but at ground level) and there may be flies around them – they may be single or even three or four close together. These hoglets need rescuing as soon as possible. Exceptions might be where there is a nest at the top of a slope and perhaps a hoglet has rolled down the slope and cannot return to the nest. In all cases call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society or a local hedgehog rehabilitator for advice – if they are left too long they may get maggots on them, the maggots will eat them alive so do act quickly. The hoglets should be handled using gloves (so your smell does not get on them) and placed on a covered hot water bottle and then covered with a small towel. If you do find only one do have a look for more. If your dog or cat is interested in a spot in the garden he/she may have found others. If birds like magpies are getting excited and chattering they may be attacking other hoglets.
Mothers with hoglets can be very unpredictable. Some will turn on their young and kill them; others will move them to a new nest. If the nest has only just been slightly disturbed mum may continue to live in the nest with the hoglets or she may move into a new nest, returning at night to suckle the hoglets and then over a period of several days move the hoglets to the new nest. To check whether she is returning place a small twig or leaf over the nest entrance so she will have to brush it aside as she comes and goes. This will tell you the nest is being visited. Do not keep disturbing the nest and do not search for the new one as this causes further disturbance and stress to the mother. Provide water and a dish of meat based dog or cat food nearby so she can spend more time suckling her young rather than searching for food. If it does not appear that mum is returning then the hoglets should be rescued. This is also the case if they are heard squeaking or coming out of the nest. If the garden has been "made over" and the hedgehog’s habitat destroyed than it may be that the nest and family will need to be relocated. If this is the case do catch the mother before you catch the hoglets – she is the more likely one to do a runner and not return. Place them together in a high-sided box – otherwise mum may escape – and contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for a local hedgehog rehabilitator. There are so many scenarios that it is best to contact someone for advice before you take action unless it is obvious that the nest will need to be relocated in which case catch the mother before she runs away.
Please note: we are only able to deal with emergency calls in Gloucestershire.
24 hr emergency helpline:
07870 378 207 or
01453 823 871
Evenings and weekends:
01453 886 424 or
07867 974 525