Hedgehogs in October  

Hedgehogs in October by Kay Bullen

The Autumn Juvenile season is upon us.  There is only one thing on every hedgehog’s mind and that is to eat, eat, eat and get fatter and fatter and fatter.  Thin underweight hedgehogs will not be able to survive hibernation so often they do not try to hibernate.  However as their natural food supply disappears, as it will as the weather gets colder, they will slowly starve to death.
Hedgehogs seen “hibernating” in the open (or even just in plain sight) will most likely be dying of hypothermia.  Hedgehogs that are not in a ball, e.g. lying on one side will not be hibernating and again they are likely to be hypothermic (cold).
Small hedgehogs seen out in the day and mobile usually need help too.  Those that are hyper-active and rushing about can actually be in greater peril than those that move about at a steady pace looking for food.  Look at the BHPS’s leaflet on Autumn Juveniles as this gives you far more information about these juveniles than I can give in a short article. Check out www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk
Providing food can attract both those that are desperately searching for food as well as your regular visitors.  Regular visitors are less likely to need rescuing as whilst they need feeding up they are less stressed because they know of a regular supply of food and will doubtless have a nest near to that food source.  
Regular visitors to your garden can be monitored more easily.  Mark them with some coloured nail varnish or quick drying emulsion paint (not red or it can be mistaken for blood and the hedgehog ‘rescued’ unnecessarily).  Just mark a few prickles towards their back end and do not get it on their skin.  If the smaller ones can be weighed regularly you can monitor their weight gains, those with a steady weight can usually be left in the wild.  Those not putting on much weight, or worse still losing weight, even when adequate food is provided will need extra care.  Even if you cannot weigh them you should be able to tell whether they are thin (pinched in at the back end) or thriving (nicely rounded at the back end).  The thin ones and the hyperactive ones need to be rescued.  The sooner you can establish that they need help the sooner they can rescued and the greater their chances of survival.  However if in doubt it is better to rescue than to leave them.
If you are concerned about any hedgehog, or you see one out in the day, contact the surgery on 02892667544 or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 (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  

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