Warmer weather means more hedgehogs are born later in the year but they may not make it through winter, adding to many woes already faced by the species, whose numbers may have halved in Britain in the past twenty years.
Rising temperatures are wreaking havoc with hedgehogs. Growing numbers of hoglets are being born later in the year—but they are unlikely to outlive the winter cold. The alarm has been raised by Taz Clarke, a volunteer at Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital, in Ousden, near Newmarket.
‘With the weird weather in the UK, there have been babies born late in the year which will not survive winter without help,’ she posted on Facebook a few days ago. ‘If you see any out during daylight hours they need help, any hedgehogs under 650g (1.4lbs) are not big enough to hibernate so need help.’
Some hoglets ‘only weigh 100g (3.5oz), there is no way they would survive the winter,’ the hospital’s founder, Sue Stubley, told the East Anglia Daily Times.
As a result, the charity has had to cope with such a massive rise in hedgehog admissions that it is running out of space, with Ms Clarke writing on Facebook that ‘only a few weeks ago, we had to stop taking in rescues, as [we] were full to bursting; we have reopened to rescues and they are coming thick and fast: four new babies arrived today.’ At the moment, they have more than 150 hedgehogs on site.
Under pressure from habitat decline and road accidents, the prickly mammals have been declining fast across the UK, which may have lost up to half of its native population in the past twenty years, according to research by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).
Charities are working hard to try and reverse the decrease but they need help and donations. In particular, they need anything from kitten and puppy food and milk to hot water bottles, large storage boxes to house the hoglets when they are unwell and even old newspapers.
But a few changes to your garden can also make a real difference to helping the species survive the colder months, according to Hedgehog Street. They recommend putting out some dog or cat food so the animals can feed well ahead of hibernation, ensuring there are some holes in your fences to help them move freely across green spaces in search of more food and installing a hedgehog house where the animals can spend winter in safety.
And if you find a hedgehog that looks unwell, whether young or old, the BHPS recommends collecting it (using garden gloves), putting it in a high-sided cardboard box with an old towel or fleece where it can hide under and, unless the hedgehog is bleeding, providing a heat source by filling a hot water bottle and wrapping it in a towel, ensuring the animal has enough room to get off the bottle should it get too warm.
They advise people to ‘make sure the bottle is always kept warm (if allowed to go cold it will chill the hedgehog and do more harm than good). Put the box somewhere quiet. Offer meaty cat or dog food and fresh water then call us as soon as possible on 01584 890 801 for further advice).’
And with Guy Fawkes’ night coming up, conservationists are cautioning people to check for hedgehogs before they light their bonfires. ‘Piles of wood and refuse are irresistible to hedgehogs looking for a safe place to hide,’ the experts at Hedgehog Street explain. To save pricklies that may have made their home in your bonfire, they suggest waiting until the last minute before building your pyre and always checking it thoroughly before setting fire to it.
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