What to do first
When you spot a hedgehog out and about it can be difficult to judge when to leave it alone and when to intervene. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and ordinarily will not be out during daylight hours. If you do see one, there is every likelihood that it is in some kind of difficulty and may require professional assistance. Here are some guidelines to help you to judge.
A hedgehog is in need of help if:
- it is obviously injured. It may have a wound or perhaps be dragging a broken leg
- if it’s trapped, for example in netting, in a pond or fallen into a hole or drain. It may have internal injuries and/or damaged claws trying to escape and would not be able to forage for food
- it’s lethargic or asleep out in the open and away from its nest
- there are flies surrounding it – it may have a wound you can’t see and possibly have fly strike or maggots
- it’s wobbly on its legs – it may be dehydrated or hypothermic
- it is an orphan out during daylight without an adult – watch carefully from a distance to see if Mum returns before taking steps to rescue
- if you see a hedgehog family clearly in need of help e.g. Mum has been accidentally injured or a nest has been disturbed when gardening/removing a shed/decking etc. try and catch Mum first followed by the babies taking care not to to touch them with bare hands
- A hedgehog that hasn’t reached 450g/500g by mid October may need help as it’s unlikely to survive winter without intervention.
Leave them alone when:
- you find a hedgehog or baby hedgehogs in their nest
- you see a hedgehog out during the day that is looking purposeful. Such hedgehogs may be out looking for more food or may have been disturbed and are moving to another nest site.
What to do next
- Pick up the hedgehog (remember to use thick gloves!) and put it in a high-sided cardboard box (they are great climbers) with an old towel or something similar (for them to hide in). Don’t use hay as this could contaminate any wounds.
- Put a warm not hot water-bottle (warm water from a tap will suffice) wrapped in a towel (or any plastic bottle filled with warm water) into the box as direct warmth will help an animal that may be suffering from shock. Remember to refill the hot water-bottle every hour.
- Provide a dish of water. Never give cow’s milk – hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. A good substitute rehydration fluid is 1 dessert spoon of sugar plus 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 litre of water which has been warmed to body temperature.
- Offer the hedgehog meat-based (not fish-based) cat food or dog food in jelly. Failing that some chopped boiled egg or grated cheese can be used in an emergency. For a young hedgehog, it may be helpful to mash the food with a little warm water.
- Put the box in a safe, quiet place such as a spare room, garage or shed. Do NOT leave the box outdoors.
- Contact Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust on 01665 570911. The Centre is open every day between 9 a.m. and noon. If you phone out of these hours please leave a message and we will respond as quickly as we can; this may be the following morning. Please note that the Centre is NOT open outside of these hours.
- If you are in doubt about whether to rescue a hedgehog, please contact us for advice. It’s important to act quickly rather than ‘keep an eye’ on a hedgehog for a few days – by then it can be too late to save it.