What to do first
When you spot a hedgehog out and about it can be very difficult to judge when to leave our spikey friends alone and when to intervene. Every case is different but this list might 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 active and out and about during the day (this is unusual but nothing may be 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.
Please note that hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and ordinarily will not be out and about 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.
The next step
- Put it in a high-sided cardboard box (they are great climbers) with torn-up newspaper and an old towel (they like to hide)
- Put the box in a safe place such as garage, shed or outhouse
- Give it a hot water-bottle wrapped in a towel (or any plastic bottle filled with warm water) as direct warmth will help an animal that is suffering from shock. Remember to refill the hot water-bottle every hour
- Offer the hedgehog meat-based (not fish-based) cat food or dog food in jelly, and water (NOT bread and milk - cows milk is dangerous for hedghogs). Failing that, meat, meal worms, sweet biscuits, raisins or cake would do.
Contact Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust on 01665 570911 as soon as possible
Caring for your hedgehog
The priorities are warmth, quiet and fluids.
- Pick the hedgehog up using gloves or something similar before placing in a box.
- Place the hedgehog in either a deep sided box (or cat carrier) which is large enough for the hedgehog to move around but is deep enough so that it can't possibly climb out of (it will try!).
- Give the hedgehog something to hide in such as a towel. Do not use hay as this could cause contamination to any wounds.
- A warm hot water bottle or plastic drinks bottle filled with warm water (covered with a towel) is vital even on the hottest day as the hedgehog will be suffering from shock as well as possible hypothermia. Please remember to fill the bottle frequently to keep it warm.
- Keep the container in a safe, quiet place e.g. spare room, porch, shed or garage.
- Give the hedgehog a dish of water – a good substitute rehydration fluid is 1 dessertspoon sugar plus 1 teaspoon salt in 1 litre of water which should be warmed to body temperature.
- NEVER give cow's milk – it causes gastroenteritis.
- A hedgehog can be given goats milk, but water is ideal.
- A dish of meat based cat/dog food (in jelly) or dried mealworms could be offered, but sometimes a hedgehog will not eat until it is warm. With a young hedgehog it is preferable to mash the food with a little warm water.
- Contact us by phone: 01665 570911 leaving a message if necessary with a contact phone number (landline please if possible).
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 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 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. Netting should be raised 30cm above ground. Vegetables can be protected by rigid, plastic coated netting which would be safer than soft netting.
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 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. Ensure Mum really has abandoned them as usually the peeping noise is the babies trying to attract her attention and, if so, 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. Mum is always best, even in a captive situation.
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.