What to do first
When you spot a hedgehog out and about it can be very difficult to judge when to leave it alone and when to intervene. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and ordinarily will not be out during daylight hours. If you do see one, there is every likelihood that it is in some kind of difficulty and may require professional assistance. As with every rule there are always exceptions and if the hog that you've spotted looks very active and busy please try to observe before intervening. Don't forget that we are dealing with live, wild creatures and each case will be different. Here are some guidelines to help you to judge.
Leave alone when:
you find a hedgehog in its nest
you find young hedgehogs in their nest
you see a hedgehog weighing over 600 grams that is out and about during the day and is looking purposeful (this is unusual but there may be nothing wrong; try to observe over a few hours)
a hedgehog appears to be injured
is asleep and away from its nest
is less than 600 grams and out during the day
an orphan is alone (after surveillance)
a hedgehog has encountered a hazard such as netting, drains, ponds, plastic packaging etc.
The next step
Once you have the hedgehog (remember to use thick gloves!) put it in a high-sided cardboard box (they are great climbers) with some torn-up newspaper and an old towel (for them to hide in). Don’t use hay as this could contaminate any wounds
Put a warm hot water-bottle wrapped in a towel (or any plastic bottle filled with warm water) into the box as direct warmth will help an animal that may be suffering from shock. Remember to refill the hot water-bottle every hour
Give the hedgehog a dish of water. Never give cow’s milk - hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. A good substitute rehydration fluid is 1 dessertspoon of sugar plus 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 litre of water which has been warmed to body temperature
Offer the hedgehog meat-based (not fish-based) cat food or dog food in jelly. Failing that some raisins or grated cheese can be used in an emergency cake would do. For a young hedgehog, it may be helpful to mash the food with a little warm water.
Put the box in a safe, quiet place such as a spare room, garage or shed
Contact Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust on 01665 570911 as soon as possible.
If you are in doubt about whether to rescue a hedgehog, please contact us for advice. It’s always better to act quickly than to just ‘keep an eye’ on a hedgehog for a few days.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and shouldn't be out during daylight hours. The exception is a hedgehog moving purposefully as they do occasionally pop out to feed and then return to their nest. If a hedgehog doesn't return to its nest there may be a problem.
Hedgehogs don't sunbathe and shouldn't appear lethargic. Hedgehogs don't sleep or hibernate out in the open. If a hedgehog is in need of help this type of behaviour would allow flies to land resulting in maggots developing.
A young hedgehog lying on its own outside the nest may just have wandered off or have been rejected by its Mum. If it doesn't return to its nest it may be in danger of being attacked by birds or other animals and needs help.
A group of hoglets wandering around during daylight hours need immediate help as they will have lost their Mum and won't survive without intervention. They have no protection and could be attacked by birds or other animals.
If very young hoglets are abandoned by Mum but too young to leave the nest (they are both blind and deaf until 2 weeks of age) you may hear a loud pitched squeaking noise coming from the nest. Check that Mum really has abandoned them as usually the peeping noise is the babies trying to attract her attention. If they have been abandoned, they need to be rescued and brought to a rescue urgently.
If you have disturbed a nest and it's not possible to leave it where it is, observation is vital. The Mum may well move the babies to another area, but if this is unlikely then the Mum must be rescued first, followed by the babies and we can accommodate them all together. Having Mum around is always best, even in a captive situation.
A hedgehog dragging its leg may either have a broken leg or one with severe nerve damage. Any damaged legs require professional help and treatment as quickly as possible.
Open wounds require urgent treatment to prevent infection spreading and they would attract fly strike resulting in maggots developing if left.
A hedgehog caught in netting must be freed as quickly as possible by cutting away the netting and then brought to the Centre as it may have internal injuries which are not always obvious. Any hedgehog with an elastic band or similar constraint wrapped round its body requires urgent help. These need to be removed safely and treatment given.
A hedgehog who hasn't reached 450g/500g by mid October may need help as they're unlikely to survive winter without intervention. If they weigh more than that and are only coming out during the hours of darkness they will usually successfully hibernate and especially if being supported by supplementary feeding from us – meaty cat food, dry cat biscuits/ mealworms etc plus a bowl of water.