Brighton Hedgehog Friendly Campus

Hedgehog care and re-introduction to the wild: the story of Mother Hedge and her hoglets.

By Caroline Wiechmann

On the 21st of September 2017, I received a phone call from a friend called Will; he had found a mother hedgehog and her five hoglets whilst at work. He was a builder and was building a fence and clearing an area of shrubbery. Will and his work colleagues had come across the mother first, making the discovery after accidently injuring her with gardening equipment, which had caused two minor puncture wounds. Will and his colleagues were unsure of what to do, so they placed the hedgehog in a bucket.

Soon after, the five baby hoglets were discovered too, thankfully unharmed. They were tiny and less than a week old, possibly only a few days of age. They were also put into a separate bucket. This is when I received the phone call asking for advice. I was called because of my experience with working with animals. After informing me what had happened, my initial thought was concern over the possibility that the mother might now reject her hoglets. I told him to reunite the hoglets with their mother. Thankfully she did not reject her hoglets, despite the human interference.

Will asked me if I could find somewhere for them to go, as their original home was no longer a safe place. I phoned my local rescue centres, but it appeared they were all overwhelmed with work and too busy to take the hogs. Therefore, I decided I would take them myself. As it was September, the hoglets were Autumn juveniles; they had a very minimal chance of being able to gain enough body weight in time to survive hibernation. Hoglets are usually born around May, June and July; however, it’s possible that a female hedgehog may sometimes have a 2nd litter in the year, depending on the weather. I decided I would care for them until the next spring, when it was suitable to release them to the wild. Will had offered to build some hedgehog hutches that I could keep them in; he built me some hutches, and gave me the hedgehogs. I cleaned the mother hedgehogs’ wounds with some sea salt and water to prevent infection, and that night I delved into hedgehog research so that I could provide the best care possible.


The hoglets grew fast, and it wasn’t that long before they were eating solid food. I fed them a varied diet of hedgehog dry food, high quality dog food, and some worms that I could find from the pet shop. They were always very eager at feeding time, scratching at the cage whilst I prepared their food. I couldn’t resist giving them names; I named the mother hedgehog ‘Mama Hedge’ and her hoglets were named after the songs of one of my favourite bands: Duncan Disorderly and the Scallywags. They were ‘Clandestino’, ‘Emilio’, ‘Fat Henry’, ‘Mr Boring’ and ‘Itchy Gypsy’

Time flew by, and it wasn’t long before it became clear the hedgehog juveniles needed to be separated from their mother. They were fully weaned and were around 7-8 weeks old, which is the natural age a hoglet would leave its mother. As hedgehogs are naturally solitary, I moved them all into their own hutch. I tried to introduce a water dispenser but they never seemed to be able to figure it out how it worked, so in the end I just stuck to bowls of water. One of my biggest concerns whilst I cared for them over the winter was their lack of natural foraging skills, due to the conditions they had to live in. However, as I researched this topic, I found out that hedgehogs are highly adaptable and have strong natural instincts, which was somewhat reassuring. Thankfully I also had a friend that bred bugs as food for his pets. He would regularly give me some invertebrates that I could feed the hedgehogs, which allowed me to provide a bit of natural enrichment.

As I continued to care for them over the months, I realised they began to scratch themselves more often. A flea infestation had developed, and it was apparent they were very uncomfortable. Unsure of what to do, I took to the internet. After doing some research, I learned that hedgehogs have their own type of fleas that are host-specific, meaning they can only live on hedgehogs. In the wild these fleas would not be very harmful because they are free to roam in an open environment. However, in enclosed conditions the fleas can rapidly multiply, which can result in a severe flea infestation. I always kept human contact to a minimum for the interest of successful reintroduction into the wild. However, in this situation I felt it was necessary to intervene and remove most of the fleas, because the infestation was clearly affecting their quality of life. I purchased some suitable flea removal product, and that night I tackled the fleas. I failed to get any photos of this process, but I can assure you, I have never seen so many parasites in my life. Thousands of fleas covered the bath as I treated the hedgehogs one by one. The treatment was effective, and the major infestation had not returned during the remaining time they were in my care.

Spring was approaching, so it was time to research suitable habitats in my local area of Kent for release. I released the mother hedgehog where she was originally found, as recommended by the sources I had researched. Prior to this release, I checked the area to ensure there green space remained for her to survive, and thankfully the previous construction work had not destroyed all the suitable habitat in the area. After releasing Mother Hedge, I then concentrated on finding ideal locations for her offspring. I wanted to release them in different areas in the hope it would maintain some genetic diversity amongst the hedgehog population in Kent.

On the 16th of April 2018, I released the first hedgehog, Mr Boring, in the back garden within a small town called Hythe. My friend’s grandmother owned this garden, and it backed on to a beautiful natural landscape where a hedgehog could forage and thrive, and she had also agreed to provide food if Mr Boring was reluctant to leave the area of the garden. Once placed in the garden, a hole was cut in the side of the hutch so that he could leave when he felt comfortable to (i.e. ‘soft release’). After the release, she did report to me the occasional sight of hedgehog faeces in her garden, which was good to hear. She also found Mr Boring one morning swimming in her pond, unable to get out. A plank was then placed in the pond to allow climbable access, which prevented this from happening again.

n the 20th of April 2018, I released Fat Henry and Clandestino in the back-garden of one of my friends’ houses within a village called Nonnington. This village was so rural, I felt comfortable releasing two of them there as there was so much natural habitat backing onto the garden in addition to a lack road traffic passing through the area. My friend Jess reported that Clandestino had left the hutch and garden after the first night. Fat Henry however, explored the garden at night and returned to his hutch to sleep in the day. After about two weeks, Fat Henry was finally confident enough to leave the garden and hutch for good.

On the 22nd of April 2018, I released the last two hedgehogs, Itchy Gypsy and Emilio. One of my friends’ mothers was a ranger for Poulton wood in Aldington. She agreed to let us release them within the woods. As tranquil and beautiful as this habitat looks, this release didn’t have the most prettiest of endings. In the morning after the first night of their release, the ranger had found one of the hedgehogs had been killed by what was most likely a badger. I was deeply saddened by this; however, I did also understand that’s just how the circle of life goes. There was no trace of the other hedgehog, so I like to think he probably survived.

This experience was very valuable to me, and because of it, hedgehogs will always have a place in my heart. It also contributed to my inspiration for studying Ecology and Conservation, as well as for joining the Hedgehog Friendly Campus (HFC) campaign. If you’re ever having some form of construction work carried out in your garden, remember to the check the area properly, because you just never know what you might find hiding under your shrubbery!

 

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Bronze award

Hedgehog Friendly Campus: Bronze Award 2020/21

We are excited to announce that the University of Brighton is now a Bronze level Hedgehog Friendly Campus!  We have spent the last year campaigning to increase awareness around the threats that hedgehogs face and liaising with our grounds teams to instigate more hedgehog-friendly management practices across our campuses.

Hedgehog Friendly Campus Bronze Award 2020/21. University of Brighton, c-change and Brighton EcoSoc

To achieve Silver Accreditation we hope to:

  • Complete hedgehog surveys on campus
  • Create wild corners with hedgehog houses, hedgehog highways and appropriate plant species
  • Continue to increase awareness of the issues hedgehogs face among both our student and local community

Why this is important

Hedgehogs have declined by up to 50% in the UK since just the year 2000. They are now vulnerable to extinction in Britain.

How you can help

Follow our social media channels for updates and upcoming opportunities on how to get involved! We can do big things across our campuses to help protect and encourage hedgehogs!

 

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Hibernating Hedgehogs

Here in the UK Hedgehogs are one of very few mammals that truly hibernate, using this as a strategy to survive during the winter months when their food sources are scarce. Other species in the UK may adopt daily torpor (a reduced state of activity) like birds do, or under go a shorter period of hibernation like the Pipistrelle bats, which hibernate in roosts. Hedgehogs in the UK typically hibernate from October to April. During Autmun hedgehogs are busy foraging for food and building up their fat reserves. Then then seek out quiet, covered spots or build their own hibernaculum (from twigs, and leaves) to spend the winter months. During this time, a hedgehog’s metabolism slows down, experiencing decreases in their heart rate, respiration rate and a internal body temperature. This conserves energy and allows them to survive the winter months.

Habitats with ample leaf litter, log piles and thick undergrowth are vital if hedgehogs are to undergo hibernation without disturbance. However, as climate change alters seasonal cues, temperatures and more, it is increasingly important to ensure these animals and other wildlife have access to food, hibernation sites and safe corridors to move throughout these habitats.

Research by Dr Pat Morris in 1970 highlighted the direct link between climate change and hedgehog hibernation. Observing that hedgehogs arose from hibernation three weeks earlier in S/W England than in Scotland, furthermore, showing a trend of prolonged inactivity and signs of late-entering into torpor. This influences hedgehog fat reserves and can cause premature arousal from torpor and may affect the overall fitness and long-term survival of the species.

So, until they awake from their slumber,  be careful to not disturb areas that they could be using. For example, if the garden is getting a haircut be sure to check the areas you plan to trim. Let hedgehogs sleep, curled up and cosy in their shelters waiting for temperatures to warm and spring to bring a bounty of food for them and their young. In urban areas, leaving leaf piles and log piles can provide just what a tired hedgehog needs for their winter rest. Other ways you can help these sleepy mammals is by ensuring dedicated ‘messy’ areas in our gardens and spaces, providing water and perhaps supplementary food. And by clearing areas that can be used as corridors, hedgehogs can move more freely if they are awoken early to find a new location, this will also support them whilst foraging for food and help reduce the risk of injury.

If you are concerned for a hedgehog and think one has woken or is too small to survive their hibernation, please contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801.

-Blog post written by Ella Scott, student in ecology and conservation at University of Brighton

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HFC News updates and Gardening for wildlife blog

  Hedgehog friendly campus

We are pleased to be getting started with the campaign, welcoming new students to the committee, raising awareness on campus, working towards next actions and planning the launch event.

Special thanks to Kayla Potter-Jones, MSci Ecology and Conservation graduate, who has provided us with her blog post ”Give a Hog a home” which is all about gardening for hedgehogs. Kayla is an aspiring ecologist and conservationist, who recently graduated from University of Brighton. With aims to inspire others to learn about and support their local wildlife! In her blog post, Kayla covers:

  • Gardening for hedgehogs
  • Hedgehog highways
  • Supplementary food and water
  • Hedgehog houses
  • What to do if you find an injured or sick hedgehog
  • and the signs of hedgehogs in your gardens

To check out Kayla’s blog post head to: Gardening for Wildlife-Hedgehog

Also available to find on Kayla’s Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/wildgarden_ecology/and blog website: https://linktr.ee/wildgarden_ecology

The points that are focused on line up with our main focuses, on spreading awareness of actions that can be taken to provide for hedgehogs and protect them. In future HFC events we hope to address these issues and look at what can be done to help hedgehogs in more detail and on campus and in your own gardens.

A quick reminder of our official online launch event at 17:30 on Thursday 26th November, including a hedgehog-themed quiz, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes available!

At our launch event we will also be introducing the Big Hog friendly lock-down litter pick, which we have added the university to. Hedgehogs are covered in thousands of spines, making them vulnerable to becoming trapped in litter. Unfortunately, many hedgehogs die every year because of this. Taking part in the competition will clean up your community and save lots of animals. For further details about the event and how to take part head to our Facebook page and come along to our launch event.

 

 

 

 

Keep an eye on our blog posts and social media channels for the campaigns progress and information and advice about hedgehogs.

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Creating a Hedgehog Friendly Campus

We are excited to announce that the university has joined a national scheme to boost the numbers of hedgehogs living on land owned by the University of Brighton and increase awareness about their plightThe British Hedgehog Preservation Societyregistered campaign sets out series of staff and studentled goals that if met will improve conditions for the prickly mammals living across our campuses  

A cartoon hedgehog wearing a mortar board next to the text "Hedgehog Friendly Campus"

To keep up with how we are making the university a more hedgehog-friendly place, please follow the campaign on Facebook and Instagram where we’ll be posting regular updates. Ella Scott, a student involved in the project, said: “We’re actively recruiting members and holding our official online launch event at 17:30 on Thursday 26th November, including a hedgehog-themed quiz!”  

Dr Bryony Tolhurst, Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Ecology, said: “While we know hedgehogs live across our local area, we don’t how many there are on our campuses, and we need to manage UoB premises to attract and maintain them. With help from students, we’re hoping to conduct hedgehog surveys and deploy measures to promote their safety, numbers and wellbeing. 

Finally, with bonfire night approaching it’s particularly important to remember the annual risk faced by sleeping hogs. You can help by checking all bonfires carefully before lighting. If possible, the entire pile should be re-sited before being lit, if not possible, use broom handles to lift from the base of the pile, and shine torches, looking and listening carefully for any signs of life.  

Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) populations in Britain were recently classified as Vulnerable to extinction. Image: Hrald (CC

By Dr Sam Penny

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