Today's Random Act of Wildness was chosen for me last night when I had a phone call about a hedgehog that had been found out in daylight. I am a hedgehog rehabilitator (I have a Facebook page here), and the finder had seen a video on my page that showed a foraging pregnant/ nursing female hog - the only time that a hedgehog out in daylight needs to be left alone. The finder watched the hog and said that hers was definitely slower and not looking anywhere near as purposeful, so I advised her to bring it over. The hedgehog turned out to be male (I'm pretty sure, although it didn't let me get a very good look) and was a bit weak and dehydrated, so I popped him onto a heat pad in a box with some food (tinned cat food and dried hedgehog biscuits) and oral rehydration fluids. If a hedgehog is very poorly/ dehydrated I will give them a sub-cutaneous injection of fluids, but this hedgehog (named "William" by the finders) looked strong enough to not require that, so after his initial check-over I just shut him in the box in a dark, quiet room for the night, hoping that he would produce a poo sample for me to get tested for parasites - that being the most likely reason for him being poorly enough to be out during the day.
With hedgehogs now on the brain more than usual, I decided to put my camera trap out near the hedgehog food bowl in my garden to see who we could spot eating the food we leave out. We just leave out dried hedgehog food as a supplement for our wild prickly friends, though dry cat biscuits would also work if any readers wanted to do the same - but PLEASE NO BREAD OR MILK - it can make them very ill!
Anyway, I went to check on William this morning, and he had done well through the night, completely trashing his box, which is a really good sign. He had eaten all of his food and produced a LOT of poo! He had lost a little weight over-night but that's not unusual for the first night in captivity. Once the sample was safely in a container and I had cleaned out his box, I even managed to get a photo of him - you can see he has a couple of patches of a clay-type mud on his spines. This seems to be fairly common in this area and doesn't cause problems.
(William under his blanket)
Next, over breakfast the children and I had a good look at all the footage on the camera trap. There were lots of clips of hedgehogs moving immediately in fromt on the camera, or eating the food with their back to the camera, but our favourite was the clip of a hedgehog pulling a juicy worm out of the lawn and chomping happily on it. We also caught the neighbour's cat on camera later on, tucking into the hedgehog's leftovers... and later still, after dawn we saw some footage of squirrels and rooks who came to see if there was anything left. The squirrels don't usually eat the hedgehog food, but rooks, crows, and especially magpies all love it!
We went to the Post Office this morning to send William's poo sample off for testing. We send it to Vale Wildlife Hospital in Tewkesbury, who did my hedgehog first aid training, and who offer tessting for a small charge. They are so experienced, it's great to have them on hand for advice etc!
Thsi afternoon I was chatting to William's finder and saying how funny it was that he is my only patient, as this time last year was really busy. A very short while later I had a phone call from my local vets asking if I had space for any more! I have agreed to take one off their hands tomorrow - a hedgehog who they have been treating for a strimmer injury and who just needs a little more nursing - and then they also have a litter of six week-old hoglets who need hand-rearing. This was briefly tempting but I know would be far too much work for me to even try while also having my own children to educate etc, so I sadly said no. They said they would keep hand-rearing them at the vets and could I take them once they are weaned? I'm more than happy to do that, so in a few weeks I think the hog shed in the garden will be very full!
So today has been all about doing our bit for our wild neighbours who need extra help. The boys love it and are very proud of what we do. Sometimes they get a bit attached to the hedgehogs, especally the ones who come in as babies, or the ones who end up staying for a long time, but they are never sad for long when it comes to releasing them as we are very clear that these are wild animals who belong back in the wild. They are not pets - just animals who we are privileged to be able to help!