A friend of mine has taken in many hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus
) over the years, once caring for 15 'autumn orphans' in her spare bedroom. Autumn orphans are hedgehogs that have lost their mothers and as a result may not have eaten enough and put on enough weight to survive the winter. To get through this cold season, hedgehogs should ideally be at least 600g.
Recently a young hedgehog came into her care after being found wandering in a field in daylight on a hot day. It was very thin and dehydrated. With attention this hog has put on some weight - in just 24 hours it gained 20g – the result, she suspects, of the hedgehog rehydrating.
The young hog is male and has been given the name Roo the Daylight Hog. Roo was a mere 220g when he was found and by 24 August had increased to 302g. If he carries on gaining weight at this rate, he should return to full health. His diet is currently Spike's hedgehog food, meal worm larvae and beetles, compost worms and a little wet kitten food.
Back at home, I thought the hedgehogs seen in my garden may have moved on. We no longer see the three of them together, but they do all visit the dish of food each evening, appearing at dusk. It's heartening that they're spending less time eating before going off to forage, as well as to see all of them clearly growing. Another good sign is that now the heat and very dry weather are over, their droppings have changed from being the colour of cat food to a much darker shade implying they’re finding more wild food in their travels.
One of the joys of having a family of hedgehogs living here is that we get to see and photograph behaviour we would never be privvy to if they were simply passing by. One night, the smallest hedgehog stood on its hind legs and rubbed its back against the mother and then started to climb on its sibling's back. On another occasion, we managed to capture the mother hedgehog scratching her ear. She was surprisingly agile with longer legs than I'd expected. Another close viewing, this time of a hog drinking, revealed a little pink tongue lapping the water.
If you find a hedgehog outside during the day, it may need help. Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society
for advice on 01584 890801 and the numbers of local contacts.