Hedgehogs in August by Kay Bullen
August is an in between time for hedgehogs. The hoglets born at the beginning of the hedgehog season will be leaving their mother’s home patch and will start to fend for themselves. These females may come into breeding mode again and start a new family. Other females may have taken a while to get pregnant or may have lost their first pregnancy and will be late having their first litter of the year.
There will be a large mix of age ranges all of which may have their own problems. August seems to be a month when the internal parasites that hedgehogs can get are most abundant. Large healthy hedgehogs can cope with these internal parasites but if the numbers are too high or the hedgehog is ill, underweight or just a recently independent youngster then they can have problems.
By encouraging hedgehogs into your garden (provided it is safe – see “Gardening with Hedgehogs” leaflet on the BHPS web site) and providing them with a supplementary food source you can help them to overcome some of their problems, making them more able to tolerate any parasites they may have. You will also be able to keep a watch on them for any unusual behaviour.
During any hot weather the hedgehog’s natural food is more difficult to find so again extra food and some water is a welcome help.
In wet weather the materials that they use to make their nests will be damp and any recently independent juveniles will need suitable sites and bedding for their new nests. Filling an unused nest box with straw may encourage a passing visitor to take up residence. Don’t keep opening the box to check for occupation but rather place a small object eg screwed up piece of paper just inside the entrance, during the day. If it is pushed aside by the morning then it is likely you have something nesting in the box. Look for signs of hedgehog droppings in the garden – a large hedgehog’s dropping could almost be the size of a small cat’s dropping but it will not be buried. It will often have black shiny bits in it (remnants of beetle casings).
If you are concerned about any hedgehog, or you see one out in the day, contact us at the surgery on 02892667544 or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 (if you can weigh the hedgehog first that is always helpful, but do use gloves when you handle them). For more information about hedgehogs and how to help them visit the BHPS web site at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk