Hedgehog Heaven

Well, it’s been a strange, and unusually quite emotional week, seeing as all I’ve really done is go to work and come home. It all began on Monday, when I was dreading returning to work after my birthday weekend.

Why do we feel that Sunday evening dread at the thought of Monday looming on the horizon? What is so horrifying about the start of another working week? My job isn’t bad. Granted, it isn’t good, but that doesn’t mean I experience unpleasantness in the workplace. I’d just much rather spend my time doing something I enjoyed, instead of being bored to tears every day, toiling over the same, repetitive duties. 

Anyway, I digress. So I arrived at work under a grey cloud of post-weekend gloom only to be informed that it was free McDonalds for lunch day, as a thank you for excellent results the week before. That lifted my spirits somewhat, as I do enjoy free food – it tastes better.

It was after lunch that I turned to speak to my colleague and spotted the hedgehog.

My desk is next to a long window looking out onto a small patch of landscaped garden. The area in which our office is situated is surrounded by trees and bushes and we frequently spot various birds and animals on the patch of grass. Rabbits, squirrels, robins and blackbirds are a daily occurrence. Hedgehogs, however, are not. The hedgehog is a nocturnal creature, and seeing them out and about in daylight generally signals that there is something wrong with the animal. Sadly, this was the case in this instance. 

There are a few of us in the office who are huge animal lovers, and spend a lot of our day talking about our pets or animals we have seen on social media. It didn’t take long for us to launch a rescue mission, armed with an empty paper box lined with an old hoody. Outside, it was raining heavily, and the poor little mite was lay flat out on the grass, eyes closed. We quickly lifted him into the box and tucked him in. He seemed extremely lethargic, and did not struggle or attempt to curl into a ball.

Back in the office, we gave him water out of a plastic bottle lid and one girl went across to the local supermarket to buy cat food. But although the hedgehog, who we named Ezra, drank a little water, he refused to eat. Something was not right with him, so we called the nearest veterinary surgery.

After the excitement of finding him and making him comfortable, we were horrified and saddened to discover that our Ezra was untreatable. Maggots, probably ingested on something he had eaten, were consuming him from the inside out, and there was no hope for our little friend. Unfortunately, he was put to sleep. 😢

Now, I know that this is a sad story, and I apologise for potentially ruining your Saturday. But some good has come of this. First of all, poor Ezra’s suffering was brought to an end. It is unknown how long the creature was out there, confused and in pain, and if we hadn’t rescued him, it would have only got worse. Secondly, it has made us all much more aware of the hedgehogs plight. 

In the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers in the U.K. have fallen drastically, thanks to habitat loss caused by development and the reduction of bushes and hedgerows. The hedgehog population has fallen by 30%, and there are now thought to be less than a million left in the U.K. This is very sad news.

So how can we help?

1. Make you garden hedgehog friendly.

Gardens, along with hedgerows, parkland, cemeteries, and woodlands, are important hedgehog habitats, and by making your garden hedgehog friendly, you are providing an excellent place for your locals hogs to visit. As they particularly like to eat slugs, beetles, and earthworms, they are a gardener’s best friend.

Also, by covering up drains and gullies, which hedgehogs can fall into, and cutting out on harmful slug pellets, you are helping to keep your hog friends safe. 

2. Provide nesting sites.

Fallen leaves make perfect nesting material for our hogs, so once autumn is upon us, don’t clear them away. Place them in a quiet corner of your garden for hogs to rest and hibernate. Alternatively, make your own hog home (see below).

3. Create hedgehog highways.
Hedgehogs like to roam far and wide on search of food, mates and nesting sites, and you can help them out by creating holes in your fences or tunnels beneath garden boundaries to enable them to move between gardens easily.

4. Create a feeding station.

These are easy enough to make, by cutting a hole in a plastic storage box and using bricks to weigh down the lid. This should effectively stop other animals taking the food, although may potentially attract rats. In order to prevent this, try not to use grain-based foods, and remove any leftovers.

Alternatively, grow a variety of different plants to attract more of the hedgehogs natural diet – creepy crawlies! 

5. What to do if you find a sick or injured hedgehog.

As I mentioned earlier, hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, and it is rare to see them out in daylight. If you find a hedgehog with its eyes closed, not moving, then it probably needs help. Please visit http://www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk/rescues.php for more information, or phone your nearest vet. 

Not all hedgehogs have to end up like poor Ezra, and by understanding more about them and their habitat, we can hopefully help to save them.


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