When I spoke to my brother the other day, he told me about something that had happened when he was on his way home. As usual, he’d parked his car at the back of the house, and stopped to chat to a neighbour on the way in. His neighbour said,
“What’s that there? Is it a hedgehog?”
Bro and neighbour investigated, and it was indeed a hedgehog, a little baby one, a hoglet, as I now know they are called. The neighbour, who has cats (sensible lady), got some cat food and they fed the little hoglet. Bro picked her up and took her (they didn’t know at the time, but found out later that she was a she) into his back garden where they had a pot that they’d left in case any little animals wanted to nest in it. They placed the little hedgehog there and left her for a while. The next day, my sister-in-law went out to check on the hoglet and found that she had curled up outside of the pot by the bamboo that was growing at the bottom of the garden. Alison said that she’d see a fly buzzing around and she had one of those gut feelings that all was not well. Worried that the little hoglet wouldn’t survive if the weather got cold, they started ringing round for advice, and a new home for the little one. To cut a long story short, they eventually came across the Hedgehog Lady of London Colney, whose Face book page is here:
(I’m having trouble with that Facebook link, I think you will need to copy and paste it into your browser.)
Bro and Ali took the little hoglet to the Hedgehog Lady who proceeded to examine the little one, now named Emily. Emily was curled tight in a little ball and it took a little while for Esther (the Hedgehog Lady) to uncurl her. It’s a good job she persevered because the fly had laid its eggs in little Emily’s skin. Ugh! Esther duly scraped the eggs out and administered other treatment to Emily. She explained to Bro and Ali that lots of these little ones have various types of worm – round worm, thread worm, all the stuff that our cats and dogs can get if we don’t flea and worm them regularly, so no real surprises.
Bro ‘phoned me to tell me about their week, and this was part of the conversation, and when we’d finished on the ‘phone, I looked up the Face book page. Emily got a mention, but Esther had asked Bro to ring her if he read it. It transpired that Emily had been very poorly and was infested with fluke as well as roundworm, and it had just been too much for her poor little body to cope with.
My previous experience of hedgehogs was limited to one night, some years back, when I was living at home with my Mum, and my dog, Gemma, was out in the back garden. It was a summer’s night, and we had a fairly big garden, but my Dad had set up a series of lights out there. All of a sudden, Gemma (who was a collie retriever cross) started alternating between yelping and barking. Mum and I looked at each other and I went out into the kitchen to turn the outside lights on and went to see what the commotion was.
And there, halfway down the garden was my darling dog trying to pick up a fully grown hedgehog! She was yelping when she got her mouth around it and barking when she didn’t. Mum had to come out with the yard broom to move the hedgehog off, whilst I held onto to Gemma.
Some facts you may not know about hedgehogs:
*They are nocturnal,
*They have thick, spiny coats and curl up into a ball if they feel threatened, so that they can protect their stomachs,
*They have about 5000 spines, each of which lasts about a year, when it drops out, and a replacement grows,
*There may be 500 fleas on a hedgehog at any one time.
The Hedgehog Lady is a non-profit making organisation (actually, I think it’s just her and her partner) so they are grateful for donations to help them with their work. Esther has taken in more than 60 hedgehogs this year, has lost four, put two to sleep, and one died under anaesthetic. She told me that in the autumn, it is far harder to save the juveniles because they are heavily burdened with worms, which they get from eating all the slugs and snails (the fact that they eat these is a really good reason to protect hedgehogs, if you needed one!). They also suffer from hypothermia if they haven’t got somewhere safe to hibernate.
Esther took a course at the Vale Wildlife Hospital in Tewkesbury so that she could administer treatment to hedgehogs she recovers. She also works closely with her local vet and the Wildlife Hospital at Trent Park in Enfield.
Esther loves what she does, but it’s hard work. She gets up at 5am every day to clean out the hedgehogs and check that they are ok, and then she goes to her full-time job. She also has a part-time job that she does a couple of times a week to help cover the costs of food, meds, vet bills etc. In the evenings, she feeds them all and administers the meds. Some of the more poorly ones have to be syringe fed. Esther would love to convert her garage into a proper treatment centre and home for the hedgehogs, but that’s a long way off. She currently has 18 hedgehogs with her, and expects them to be with her for another six months. So, you’ve got the Face book page now, it’s up to you.
If you, like me, like bright and shiny things, take a look at this:
It’s the Face book page of my friend Lynn’s soon to be daughter-in-law. I can tell you that these glasses are fabulous, Lynn has some (and so will I soon). A set of six festive glasses are only £20, gift wrapping is (a bit) extra.
© Susan Shirley 2014