OR DRU'S BRAIN - THE BIT THAT STILL WORKS! THIS PAGE IS INTENDED FOR HEDGEHOG CARERS OR THOSE THINKING OF STARTING OUT IN HEDGEHOG CARE contact me on email@example.com
If you are thinking about starting a hedgehog rescue group, the most important thing is to establish a good working relationship with your vet. A veterinary surgeon who has an interest in wildlife and especially in hedgehogs is absolutely invaluable to any hedgehog rescue organisation. We were supremely lucky for many years in that our former Chairman, Hugh Forshaw was also one of the leading UK vets in all species of wildlife, marine, land dwelling and flying....until his sudden death in 2015.
There is a lot of information available elsewhere about hedgehog rehabilitation, this is just a brief look at some of the things I have found useful or that work for me and the hedgehogs I look after. Everyone works differently and maybe hogs in different parts of the country are also different. For example, Jersey hedgehogs do not respond to Baytril - but is is widely used everywhere else....the only carer I have met who does not use it lives in France, so is this a clue to the origin of Jersey's hedgehogs?? Were they imported from France rather than from UK which we always assumed??
LET’S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING……
The first thing to establish is, “does this hog need to come into care”? People sometimes rescue a hog mistakenly but with the best of intentions….. For example if they see one in the road at night, they think it might be safer in their garden or with us…..
The first question to ask is what time of day was the hedgehog found? If it was in daylight, then more than likely there will be something wrong…… the only exceptions to this are usually, if the nest has been disturbed by gardeners or if it’s a nursing or expectant mother when their time clock can go funny! So check the sex of any hedgehog you are called to!! If you decide that it was picked up in error - make sure that the hedgehog is taken back to as near to where it was found as is sensible and safe. REMEMBER HOW SHORT THE NIGHTS ARE round the end of June/July, healthy hogs will often come out early in the evening when it's still light or stay out in the morning just to make up foraging time. This is especially true of mothers with young, if you take her into care even for a few hours, you could be endangering the babies. BE VERY WARY in summer about admitting any mature females, there must be a really good reason to take her from the wild.
The only time we take in hedgehogs that are found after dark - unless they are hurt or obviously sick/thin of course- is autumn juveniles from November to February if they are under 450g.
If you aren’t sure from the description over the phone if the hog should be brought into care, it is less stressful for it, if you can go or get someone to go and take a look at it in situ, rather than put it through the trauma of a car ride, but if you are very pushed for time, ask the finders to bring it to you for assessment. Remember people's idea of a "tennis ball" or an an "apple" when describing a hog or when they give you its length - can all be very misleading, even if they have weighed it, they can get it totally wrong too!
The first time you pick up the hog may be the only time you get to see its underside for quite a long time! So make sure you check it has 4 uninjured legs and feet, and that there are no maggots or fly eggs on its tummy and round its anus, and of course check its sex, you will need this for the records anyway! Some people use a mirror to help.
The next question to ask yourself is, is it a proper hedgehog shape? Is it symmetrical, are there any bulges round its face and head? Are all its legs OK and not swollen? Are there any wounds anywhere? Does it smell OK?? Not of rotting flesh! Hoggy smell is OK! If there is anything odd about its shape, it will need to see a vet and if you are unsure how urgent it is, better to take it sooner than later.
POPOFF / BALLOON SYNDROME
There are 2 rare conditions which you should be aware of: Popoff - when a hog’s spine coat has popped off at the back and the purse string (orbicularis) muscle is right up its back instead of down by its hind legs, this can be caused by any sort of trauma. You may be able to coax it back into place if it’s a small weak hog, otherwise the vets will do it under anaesthetic.
Balloon syndrome is very rare, the hog will be double the size it should be but not weigh heavy, it will be obvious! It will need immediate veterinary treatment to remove the air which has collected under its skin, the only case we ever had, healed himself in a few days, when the little hole sealed up again.
HOW TO ADMIT A HEDGEHOG
Admission forms/record sheets - It is vital to record the basic facts about any hedgehog in your care:
Find out from the finder, their name and phone no at the very least and where and when they found the hog, and their address if it is to be released back with them. Only keep this information for as long as you need to and only record what you need, because of GDPR. If finders do not want to release the hog in their garden we don't take any details now, if they want a progress report they can ring us.
Give it an admission number or name.
Weigh the hog and record its admission weight. Sex it and record its sex
TO UNROLL A HOG:
If the hedgehog is in a tight ball and you really cannot sex or examine it, just put it in its hutch/box/cage and try later or the next day when you clean it out. If it is half unrolled, you can either jiggle it up and down on your hands until it unrolls, or put it on the work surface and gently press on its back and roll it onto its side a bit so you can see its underside, or if you can get the hind legs, hold both of them and do a “wheelbarrow” with it so you can check its tummy and legs. If you think it is injured or has a ligature, netting or plastic round it which it will not let you remove, then take it to the vets for anaesthetic.
GETTING THE NEW PATIENT SETTLED
Put the hog in a heated hutch with some bedding - we use shredded newspaper for a nest and give it a bowl of water and some tinned/wet and dry food. Once the hog is settled in its hutch give it a label on the hutch door, with its number, sex, date admitted. Make a note of which hutch you have put it in on its record sheet and continue to note all the hutches and pens it uses, in case of an outbreak of some contagious disease e.g. ringworm, you will be able to know which hogs have used each pen or hutch.
Rule of thumb, if the hog was found out in daylight, it is going to need antibiotic cover and possibly fluid therapy. Start worming the day after admission - if this is necessary.
Hygiene: If you have long hair and especially if you are blonde/grey (now we are all getting older!) as well it makes it harder to see loose hairs which may get caught round hogs’ legs or bodies, especially if they are babies, so it is advisable to tie back and up any long hair! Also nicer if you are dealing with maggots etc! Hairs can get wrapped tightly round hogs’ legs and cut off blood supply.
Wash your hands before and after handling hogs and change gloves in between each patient or family. Keep littermates together, but do not be tempted to put unrelated hoglets together until they are big enough to go in an outside pen (400g in summer - bigger as the year goes on), as you will only risk spreading infection.
Zoonoses - Hedgehogs can carry all sorts of bacteria (Salmonella, E Coli etc) and also ringworm which can be transmitted to humans, I think there are about 14 different things which we can catch from them.
To inject under the skin, pull up a few spines with your (left if you are right handed) hand and with your (right) hand inject just under the skin, so the tip of the needle feels free and is not in the muscle at about 45 degree angle. We all wear disposable gloves now when working with hogs, this photo was taken before I did! Please ignore bare hands, bad practice!
Most hogs will fall into the following categories:
thin and dehydrated/ possibly with diarrhoea (worms)
Breathing and chest problems (worms)
Injuries/wounds / Abscesses
Hogs which have become trapped in something, netting, swimming pools, sheds, holes, drains…..
Orphans, either not yet weaned or partially or fully weaned.
Use the record sheet to note weight, what the hog has eaten and what it has passed during the preceding 24 hrs, and what medicines you are giving it. Take this sheet with the hog to any vet’s appointment so you can show the vet what you have been doing and can answer any questions!
very thin and dehydrated hog
You can tell a hog is dehydrated because it will look flat and listless and probably be very thin, when you pinch some spines and pull them away from the body, they will not “ping” back quickly but go back sluggishly. Its eyes will be sunken in - you may not even be able to find them at first. If you give rehydration fluid and it isn’t needed it will just pee it out anyway, with no harm done, better to give too much than too little!
Give 10% of body weight during a 24 hr period (or more if hog is really flat)
No 11 Hartmanns solution is for hogs dehydrated and with diarrhoea
No 1 normal saline is for flushing out wounds and using in nebuliser.
Do not put too much fluid at any one site, 5ml is about the maximum for an adult hog at one site, warm the syringes before administering. Make sure that the heat pad in the hutch is on, especially important for cold dehydrated hogs. The hog will need antibiotic cover, decide on which a/b according to symptoms:
DIARRHOEA in addition to rehydration fluid give Norodine/ Diatrim 24 0.5ml/kg and Buscopan 0.1ml if very runny and/or in pain - can be given 3 times a day if yelling a lot.
BREATHING PROBLEMS Try Engemycin 5% for snuffly hogs Engemycin 10% should be diluted 50/50 with sterile water to get a 5% solution - 10% is too strong (0.2ml per 100g b/w) or Synulox (0.1ml per 100g b/w ) for chesty hogs and Bisolvon (pinch of powder on food), Ventipulmin injectable 0.1ml/kg twice a day (seems effective now that Bisolvon injectable has gone) change after 10 days to the other drug or try Ceporex. If it makes a noise when breathing in only it's nasal congestion, if it makes a noise when breathing out and you can probably feel it rattle if you hold the hog on its back on your hand for a very short time, this will squash its lungs so not nice for the patient, then it’s a chest problem. If its sides heave when it breathes and makes noises breathing in and out, take it to your vet and possibly get it xrayed - may have abscess or tumour or some other major problem which isn‘t treatable……Dexamethazone is good for some respiratory problems. We have recently got ourselves a nebuliser it seems to be working, Bisolvon powder can still be put on food, one pinch a day if the hog is eating in addition to nebuliser treatment. I have been giving them 2 ten minute sessions a day, it seems very effective for old snotty pigs, and new arrivals with lungworm and chest infections. I am still giving them all the medicines I can at the same time! Once they come out of the box they often start eating at once - their noses must be clearer and they must be able to smell the food! Other rescues use drugs in their nebulisers, but so far I have been using saline with a tiny bit of F10 concentrated antiseptic in it 1:250 is what is recommended on the bottle, so that is only 0.1ml F10 to 25ml of saline. You can use a mask to nebulise but to save time I got a box to put the hogs in so I can get on with cleaning out its accommodation and do another few while each one is in the chamber! Here is a hog in the fog!
EXAMINING DROPPINGS FOR PARASITES Take yucky bit of poo, green or slimy and put a tiny smear on a slide, put a drop of water on it and mix a bit with the knife, then put cover slip on top and clean off excess with loo roll. Place slide on microscope and move around so you look at the whole coverslip, record what you see and treat accordingly. In practice don’t worry about the 3 different types of Capillaria (threadworm) they are all treated the same anyway, Levacide and then Ivomec Super then Ovex if very persistent. I still use Levacide but Vale are recommending Ivomec Super tor Capillaria and Advocate dog for Crenosoma now.
After Fluke damage or for liver damage or problems give Synulox, Dexamethazone and B12 for 5-10 days
If hogs aren't eating Dex and vit B12 injected together with antibiotic cover can pick them up and improve appetite along with worming treatment.
More information about internal parasites are found on the Endoparasites page.
WOUNDS AND INJURIES - ABSCESSES Give Synulox (0.1ml per 100g up to 0.5ml for 500g hogs and above) and Rimadyl/Carprofen (0.05ml for up to 200g and 0.1ml for those over 200g) and 10% b/w No 11 Hartmanns fluid if there is an open wound, hog has lost a lot of blood or looks dehydrated. See a vet as soon as possible. To clean up a wound clip spines round the wound and remove grotty scabby bits with forceps, clean round the wound with Hibiscrub on a wad of damp cotton wool (except round the nose - use saline). Flush wound with saline Aqupharm No 1- warm it up first. Flush well with needle on syringe to give greater pressure, or just with syringe. For wounds which track back under the skin, this often happens as the spine coat is only loosely connected to body, to enable hogs to roll up, so maggots and infection often go a long way back from original wound use a catheter fixed to a syringe to flush and suck out pus and fluid. Clean wound twice a day if necessary or just once as routine, until completely healed.
Raw flesh must be dressed with Intrasite gel or Aloe Vera gel, Vetericyn gel or Dermisol cream.
Once hog is eating, Antirobe (Zodon) 25mg/kg can be put on food. Clindamycin is a very good antibiotic for smelly wounds and mouth infections as it kills anaerobic bacteria.
SPINAL INJURY may be evident by a definite line across the hog’s back where the spines do not stick up but lie flat below the break. It may not be able to move its hind legs, but may not be in pain, all feeling may have gone.
PELVIC FRACTURES some pelvic fractures can be healed with cage rest, but hog will need an xray and vet examination to confirm it. Sometimes they can retain urine and not be able to defecate, so will need putting to sleep.
This hog had multiple fractures to all 4 legs and was put to sleep
MAGGOTS AND FLY EGGS Try to remove these, but if you find it is impossible take the hog to the vets at once, they can do more under anaesthetic or if it is really too bad can put it to sleep. Maggots can be picked out of a wound with forceps or tweezers, flushed from the eyes and ears, with saline in a syringe. Apply F10 spray to kill maggots. Fly eggs can be combed out with a flea comb from the fur and brushed off the spines with an old tooth brush. Make sure you check all orifices, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anus, vulva/penis sheath. Flies like to lay their eggs down the ears and round the bum/groin, and in the folds at the tops of all legs! Anywhere where it is warm and moist, blood and other bodily fluids will attract them like magnets. They do not lay their eggs on healthy hogs, so make sure you find the reason for the maggot/fly egg infestation, ie wound, diarrhoea, runny eyes, bad teeth etc.
Nose wounds: Synulox and Rimadyl/Carprofen and Fluid until it eats. Continue on this regime + Dexamethazone after 5 days if breathing still bad
Swollen face and breathing problems give Synulox and Rimadyl/Carprofen
RTA - blow to head Give Rimadyl 0.1ml and Synulox 0.1ml/ 100g b/w but NOT Dex. Wait 36-48 hrs to see if starts to eat. Get vet to check for injuries. Dex is good in cases of recent shock where the head has not been hit.
Ceporex for brain problems or central nervous damage/injury, and Dex after 10 days.
DON’T GIVE DEX IF THEY TWITCH or have fits OR ANYTHING SIMILAR -
DO NOT GIVE THE FOLLOWING DRUGS ON THE SAME DAY:
Dexadreson and Rimadyl/Carprofen
2 sorts of sulphonamide ie Tribrissen/Norodine/Septrin/Trimacare/Diatrim/Duphatrim
DRUGS WHICH MUST BE GIVEN TOGETHER:
Dexadreson should be given with antibiotic cover to prevent bacteria spreading madly.
FLEAS AND TICKS
Do not generally cause a problem to the hog unless it is really poorly and anaemic. Fleas can be killed with pyrethrum flea powder anything safe for cagebirds like Johnsons ridmite is safe for hogs. DON'T USE FRONTLINE ON HEDGEHOGS. Ticks can be left till they fall off, unless there are loads of them. If you try to pull them off and leave their mouthparts in the hog, the site can go septic, to remove them, use tweezers or a tick remover and use a twisting action.
SURFACE MITES will look like sand, put 0.4ml/kg of Ivomec spot on on the skin, may need to repeat it after 10 days, or try puppy or kitten stronghold.
MANGE MITES AND RINGWORM
same hog getting better after treatment
You can use Stronghold Puppy or kitten or Ivomec spot on for mange mites and ear mites.
Imaverol diluted 1:50 in warm water for ringworm
MANGE MITES AND/OR RINGWORM
MOST IMPORTANT - TAKE A SAMPLE OF THE CRUD,SCABS AND MUCK AND PUT IN PLASTIC BAG BEFORE YOU GIVE ANY TREATMENT SO VETS CAN IDENTIFY MITES AND DO RINGWORM CULTURE.
Ivomec spot on (Noromectin) 0.4ml/kg applied to skin works for surface mites (Caparinia) but it's worth putting it on for burrowing mites too. Also use Stronghold or Advocate (PUPPY OR KITTEN). Bath the hog to soften the scabs. Repeat bath after 5 days - may need to repeat again for 3rd time. Leave a 5 day gap between baths and Imaverol. If Ringworm is found (takes 12 days to culture) get Imaverol from vets and give 4 baths at 3 day intervals (10ml per 500ml water see packet) If you want to check if it is clear wait 10 days then get culture done again, then wait another 12 days for result. We have stopped getting cultures done now we are more familiar with ringworm symptoms, but would do it in severe cases to check if mites and ringworm are both present.
ALL THIS TIME KEEP HOG IN COVERED PEN OR IN HUTCH INSIDE ON ITS OWN, TAKE GREAT CARE WITH DIRTY BEDDING AND WEAR GLOVES ALL THE TIME WHEN DEALING WITH IT. BOTH MANGE MITES AND RINGWORM CAN BE TRANSMITTED TO HUMANS,OTHER HOGS AND PETS SO KEEP CATS AND DOGS AWAY FROM HOG UNTIL IT IS CLEAR OF BOTH.
Imaverol can also be sprayed onto patches of ringworm - diluted as per instructions on the box 1:50 with warm water. lasts for 6 weeks diluted. Vetericyn, tea tree cream 1% (don't use tea tree oil neat on hogs far too strong) and other antifungal preparations (Daktarin, Canestan etc) have also been tried for persistent cases of ringworm.
HAZARDS AND WHAT INJURIES THEY CAN CAUSE
Hedgehogs fall into or get trapped in all sorts of things, either dry or with water in them! They get trapped in sheds, garages, trenches, drains, under oil tanks, ponds, pools etc etc. So they can be emaciated and starving and dehydrated or waterlogged and cold. Check claws to see how short they are if they have been trapped somewhere hard, if they wear their claws down too far the nailbeds can become infected and will need treating with antibiotic and possibly even removal if badly infected.
RESCUED FROM WATER: If they are rescued alive from swimming pools, we give them 5 days antibiotic (Engemycin 5%) as a precaution in case the chlorine (or whatver pool chemicals are used) has damaged their lungs. They may also need antibiotic if they have fallen into untreated water - especially filthy drain water, depending on how long they have been there and how bad they are. They may have taken in a lot of water and so their weight may drop dramatically for the first few days, we keep them in care until their weight has stabilised and they seem to have fully recovered. You will probably worm it as well but see if it's necessary.
Ligatures - NETTING - hogs caught in nets can have nasty injuries, wire, string, plastic rings etc, can all get twisted round limbs or bodies - the blood supply can be cut off , so be very sure that it is all removed and even if there is no obvious sign of injury keep for observation for 48 hrs, in case of internal injury, unless it is a large female in the breeding season and she looks completely unhurt with no swelling anywhere. You may need the vets’ help with netting hogs.
Hog’s legs caught in netting: Constriction/ligatures Lasix and Dex and Synulox NOT Rimadyl and MASSAGE the legs to get circulation back. Bathe in WARM water as cold water will shut circulation down. Don’t let bracelets of scab build up, remove and massage and put Intrasite or Vetericyn Gel on them.
POISONING - you may never know for sure if the hog has been poisoned unless the finder owns up. Vitamin K can be given for rat poisoning or if the hog passes blood (0.15ml) inject into the purse string muscle. This is what slug pellet poo looks like: the hog died shortly after passing this turquoise mess....
To wash off oil or tar, use liquid paraffin and then wash well well!
Lime poisoning wash in water with a bit of vinegar and give liquid charcoal by mouth
IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE FROM THE SAME LITTER MARK THEM WITH LITTLE DAB OF NAIL VARNISH, SO YOU KNOW WHO IS WHO…. As you weigh them for the first time --- The big one can become the little one overnight!!
Only feed it solid food if it looks like a miniature adult hedgehog - if it has teeth just emerging it will be on the point of weaning, so may only need hand feeding for a few days to get it started eating soft or ground food for itself. If you can feel teeth then try it with glop if it is furry on its tummy . If it is younger than this, it will need hand feeding with Esbilac or similar milk replacer. (Royal Canin babydog/cat is recommended)
Babies often die if they are not stimulated to pass urine and faeces, if the tummy is not furry, and the hoglet lies in your hand with its back legs splayed or can be made to splay them when you tickle its genitals with a pad of damp cotton wool, then it still needs toileting. Do this at every feed.
Keep babies warm on a heat pad at all times even when feeding.
Esbilac is made up with hot water 2 parts Esbilac to one part water and add Abidec vits, one drop per baby in the litter per 24 hrs. Probiotic powder can be added to the feed. Royal Canin baby cat or baby dog milk is also fine to use for hoglets, see which yours prefer.
When they are very new feed 2 hrly, but get onto 3 hrly as soon as you can, and continue 3 hrly feeds until their eyes open (at 14 days), then you can feed every 4 hours, gradually missing out the night time feed! Depends on how they are doing….. Start weaning when you feel teeth emerge at about 3 weeks, but continue hand feeds until at least 4 weeks when they have enough teeth to feed themselves. Toiletting can usually be stopped around 3 weeks, but they are all different and to be sure keep on trying to toilet them until they tell you they don’t want it by rolling up!
Use a different syringe for hand feeding each hog or litter, it is OK to use the same syringe for littermates who are housed together. Disinfect after use and rinse well.
IF YOU SUSPECT A HEDGEHOG IS PREGNANT: (which is very difficult to know, and most damage is done in the first trimester when you won’t know that she is pregnant!)
Don’t give: Levacide, may cause abortion
Only use Ovex/Ivomec Super if Capillaria are really bad
Don’t give Norodine 24/Diatrim
Safe to use are:
Kitten/puppy foods are good to build up Mum too! They seem to love Royal Canin Mother and Babycat
If she aborts - take to vets for oxytocin jab 0.2ml twice 24 hr interval or get them to give it to you in a syringe.
PREGNANCY: Any adult female may be pregnant anytime from May to October, if she is in care and suddenly goes off her food, becomes active and makes a nest of all her bedding, she may be about to give birth, so take extra care when cleaning her out!! If there are babies, then take care not to touch them and put Mum and everyone back in the nest box together and leave well alone! She may not feed for 48 hrs after giving birth. They move the babies to a new nest, (so provide a second box in plenty of time) on about day 23.
DAILY CLEANING AND TREATING ROUTINE
All hogs inside are cleaned out every day. If they have not soiled the hutch you may not need to disinfect it, just replace all the newspaper on the floor and give it new bedding in its nest box, newspaper sheet underneath and shredded newspaper for nest material. You may need to replace the cardboard box or bag every day or even more frequently, depending on how dirty the patient is.
Slide the hog out of its nest box on the newspaper “draw sheet” into the hutch, put another sheet in the bottom and one side of the box and fill with shredded newspaper, then take the hog to the scales, weigh it, and on its record sheet write the weight down, and what it has eaten and what is has passed - give it the injections it is due to have. Put it back into its clean nest box, upright on the floor! And then remove all the soiled paper and food/water dishes. Replace the paper, washing the hutch if necessary, put the hog back and then give it fresh food and water. Very active hogs can be given sacks or bags full of hay and moved to a floor space (with a heat pad if necessary) this may quieten them down, some just hate being in a hutch where they can see out of the mesh door, an enclosed wooden pen on the floor is often less stressful. They may need Droncit and/or Norodine/Diatrim, even if you don’t see fluke or Coccidia in their droppings, it’s often worth a go to see if they will quieten down, can sometimes just be a sign of digging a hibernation nest, if it’s the right time of year! When I am short of floor pens I often just cover the mesh door of the hutch with cardboard and stick down with duck tape and this often will quieten the hog down as it can't see through the mesh.
Always wash out the hutch or pen when moving a hog on to new accommodation, and always disinfect all traces of faeces and urine or blood etc as necessary. We use Anigene but any safe animal disinfectant is fine.
WASHING UP AND CLEANING THE FLOOR
We disinfect all the bowls and other utensils used each day by leaving them overnight in a bowl of water with a splash of disinfectant in it.
Brush and mop the floor every day however busy you get this will keep down the germs!
Once the hedgehog has finished its basic treatment and has gained in weight, try turning off the heat pad, if it decides to move off the heat, then you know its OK to switch it off! This is hard to give rules about, it depends on the weather…. If the hog stops eating or loses weight, turn heat back on…. Once you are sure it can do with no heat pad and is doing well and is probably making a mess of the hutch, try moving it somewhere cooler, either in a hutch or a floor pen. Once treatment is completely finished and its droppings are looking good, consider moving outside to a pen or enclosure.
Good rule of thumb given to me by Anne Jenkins who used to run the BHPS, if hog stops doing well, whatever stage you are at, just go back a stage, whether that means putting it back inside or into the warm room on heat or re-starting medicines or hand feeding it again.
In summer babies can be moved outside from 400g, in winter I increase the size according to the weather, but don’t put them out under 600g in winter, you will see how they do and decide accordingly.
MOVING OUTSIDE We mark all hogs before putting them outside with nail varnish and record the mark we have given it on their record sheet, check that you haven’t marked 2 the same in the same pen!! Even though we do use ear tags, they are so small and if the hogs are not unrolling, it is very hard to see an eartag!
Ear tagging: We have been tagging since 1997 and use tags from the National Band and Tag Co http://www.nationalband.com/1005.htm
Record the ear tag number on the record sheet or in any other way that makes it easy to refer to when the hog is found again in future.
The scientists tell me it is important to monitor post release when we can. (WOT no gloves again!)
EARTAGGING WESTERN EUROPEAN HEDGEHOGS (ERINACEUS EUROPAEUS)
Hedgehogs should weigh at least 400g before an ear tag is applied. I always put them in the right ear for ease of checking when the hedgehog is found again (and because I am right handed)!. The hedgehog has to be fully open with face and ears fully exposed before attempting to ear tag it.
I put the tag in the pliers with the number on the LEFT hand side, the hook on the RIGHT on the pliers will bend the sharp end over against the tag once it has come through the ear, so it doesn't stick out and hurt the hedgehog or get ripped out easily or get caught in undergrowth. For the same reasons the bend in the tag should be placed against the edge of the ear.
The tag number, hedgehog identification number, date of tagging, sex, date of release, release site and ordnance survey grid reference are recorded.
When any tagged hedgehogs are found again, the date, weight, site where found, whether dead, alive in the wild or readmitted to care are also recorded.
If the hedgehog is readmitted for care, its new identification number, subsequent release date, release site and grid reference, or if it died in care are recorded.
Tag details are recorded on each hedgehog’s record sheet, when readmitted previous record sheets are attached to the back of the current form to provide a history of care for that animal.
Only hedgehogs which have been taken into care are ear tagged, no animals in the wild are ever tagged.
DECIDING IT’S TIME TO RELEASE- Release in mild damp weather, don’t release if its very dry or very cold with ground frost. In summer youngsters can be released at 600g+ and in autumn and winter at 700g-800g. Adults’ weights will vary according to the size of their frame! They can go when they look nice and big and healthy! Keep hogs outside for at least 5 days after their last drugs, and keep youngsters outside for at least 2 weeks to be sure they are acclimatised.
Release where found if at all possible, finders can be very interested in having “their hedgehog” back in their garden. Release information is given here Give the finders some food and tell them to put it out with some water for the first few nights. Take the hog back in a clean sack of hay and tell the finders to leave the sack under some sort of cover in their garden until the hog no longer uses it.
To release in the wild, when the hog cannot go back to the finder…. Take it in a sack filled with hay to a good release site as near to where it was found as you can, look for somewhere away from main roads, with a natural source of water and plenty of cover to nest under, somewhere where there won’t be too much disturbance or agricultural activity and put the hog under some brambles or similar in its hay ball, without the sack, so you don’t have to come back the next day and collect the sack! I prefer to find an alternative garden near where they were found where food and water will be provided, I only rarely do wild releases now.
Things change in winter! Hibernation is an amazing process and does affect the hogs quite markedly. You will notice changes in behaviour and droppings and of course eating habits! Sometimes it is hard to decide if the hog is thinking of hibernating or is not well ! Droppings can have dark green plugs or be all green, but never pale and slimey, that is diarrhoea! If it does pale green slime warm up the hog and treat again with wormers and antibiotic (Norodine/Diatrim 24%).
A hibernating hedgehog is stone cold and in a tight tight ball and may huff at you if you disturb it. They will gradually eat less and less and sometimes will dig a lot trying to make a winter nest, so give them extra bedding, hay and a paper sack to make a nest in. They can wake up at any time during hibernation, so always leave clean water and some dry food with them, and check every day to be sure they have not woken up and made a mess! They can lose 25% of their body weight during hibernation. But in care, if they drop below 500g I tend to warm them up to wake them up to get them eating again.
Then once they have put on a bit of weight, they can go back to sleep, if that is what they want to do. There don’t seem to be any rules for hibernation, there can be 2 hogs next to each other in exactly the same temperature and conditions, and one will be fast asleep in hibernation and the other will be eating its head off!! They will stir about every 7-10 days even if they don’t come out of their nests, or they make get up for a shit and a drink and possibly something to eat! So at least every 4 weeks - and usually more frequently - I check the hibernators even if they do not appear to have stirred and weigh them and give them clean beds if they have been up for a pee or poo. The males wake up in Spring first and are the first to be released usually, the girls can sometimes go on being sleepy or in hibernation until even the end of April, depending on the weather! Don’t panic, just think how chilly it may still be getting in the middle of the night - the girls have plenty of time to regain their condition in the wild while they are pregnant - even though the ones in care will be released in tip top condition and don’t need this extra month! This is in Jersey of course where our temps are much higher than in the UK and I guess we release earlier than people do further north! In recent years our hogs in care have not been hibernating for very long at a time at all, we don't seem to get the cold winters we once did.
PERMANENT RESIDENTS THIS IS VERY CONTENTIOUS OUR VET DOES NOT ALLOW US TO KEEP ANY HEDGEHOG IN PERMANENT CAPTIVITY OR KEEP ANY NON BREEDING HEDGEHOG ALIVE, HE WILL NOT SPAY/NEUTER THEM.
THIS IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH RSPCA AND BWRC GUIDANCE. I HAVE THEREFORE REMOVED THE PAGE I HAD ON ENCLOSED GARDENS, WE DO NOT HAVE ANY HEDGEHOGS OFF SITE IN FOSTERER'S GARDENS WE DO HAVE A FEW PERMANENTS STILL AT OUR 2 RESCUE SITES UNOFFICIALLY.
I WILL LEAVE THE INFO I HAVE ON THIS HERE IN CASE SOME OF YOU STILL HAVE PERMANENT RESIDENTS:
There are some hedgehogs which cannot be released back into the wild because they are disabled in some way which would make their survival unlikely. ALWAYS check with a vet first before condemning any hog to life imprisonment. Only put hogs of one sex into each enclosed garden, it is not fair to let them breed with the problems they already have and mating and courtship might lead to injuries.
Hedgehogs with one front leg have very limited mobility and our vets no longer amputate front legs. Those with only one hind leg cannot groom themselves properly and are very prone to mites and other external parasites, but our vets will sometimes amputate on the understaning that the hog will be released. Sometimes a leg is not amputated but is stiff from an old injury leaving the hog with limited mobility and an inability to groom, leading to mite infestation. Leg amputation is a contraversial issue vets all seem to differ in their opinions. We used to keep all amputees in enclosed gardens, our old vet was happy to amputate even some front legs. Our current vet does not agree with keeping any wild animal in captivity permanently - but some of his colleagues seem to disagree with him and are still happy to amputate hind legs. - the hogs seem to have no moblity problems, it is just grooming that is the problem. I know some rescues release hind leg amputees.
Other reasons for keeping hogs in care can include: total blindness, if the hog really cannot tell day from night and continually comes out during the day. This can also happen if they are brain damaged. Sometimes neurological issues resolve themselves in time and the hog can be released. We had one who was hit by a car, at the start she couldn't even stand, then walked backwards not forwards, but gradually over about 5 months she put herself completely right again and was released. But then some wobbly hogs never get completely fit again so are not released. Some old hogs have had too many teeth removed so that they would not cope with foraging for food in the wild. And occasionally some hogs have such chronic chest conditions that the vet decides they would not last long in the wild.
Some who came in with head or back wounds are unable to roll up properly even when they are healed. This is not safe if faced with predators or during hibernation and so they are kept in care too. So any hog which cannot roll up properly is kept in care until it can, sometimes after a winter we find that they can roll up again and if so they are then released.
Hogs in an outside enclosure or enclosed garden should be checked every few days and regularly weighed. Their claws should be clipped when necessary and they must be given a thorough examination for mites and other problems, including bites from other hogs - this often happens in Spring !
When checking out a new enclosed garden, interview the people very carefully! Make sure their motives in offering their garden are for the hogs’ benefit and not just to remove their slugs! Check all round the garden for hazards and escape routes. Hogs with 2 front legs can climb granite or other rough walls where they can get a foothold and fenced gardens are not safe unless the boards on the fence panels do not allow any foothold, there is a right and wrong way round! Even a blind hog has escaped from a walled garden with just one section of granite.