Hedgehogs in September
September is usually the start of the Autumn Juvenile season. These juveniles would most likely survive if they had been born a little earlier in the year, but now it will be a hard race for them to put on enough weight to survive hibernation.
It is at this time of year that the BHPS urges people to put out food for their visiting hedgehogs. Suitable food is hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food (wet or dry, avoid fishy flavours), dried mealworms and just water to drink. By putting on weight these youngsters will stand a far better chance of surviving their hibernation. The added weight will also help them to cope with any internal parasites they may have picked up during foraging.
There is a fine line between whether these small hedgehogs need to be rescued or whether, with extra help, they can be left in the wild. The BHPS has produced a leaflet on Autumn Juveniles which can be found at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk that has lots or practical advice on helping them and also suggests when a point is reached when intervention is necessary.
Regular visitors to your garden can be monitored more easily. If the smaller ones can be weighed regularly you can monitor their weight gains, those with a steady weight gain 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.
Although hoglets often leave mum at around 8 weeks of age, at this time of year they may remain with mum for longer. If you can provide that extra food for the mother she should be able to keep her family together and still add to her weight in preparation for her hibernation. At the end of the day it is her survival that is the most important issue for her.
Amounts to feed will vary depending on how much natural food is available. The best guide is to go by how much they leave. Check the dish in the morning and if it is empty then they could possibly have done with more food. Or is there something else eg a neighbour’s cat taking the food? [When hedgehogs eat dry food they tend to leave crumbs whereas a cat can take several whole biscuits in a mouthful and crunch up the biscuits in their mouths with virtually no crumbs.] If a lot of food is left over then give less the next night. If you use dry food it can be left out for several nights, or longer, without having to be replaced. Make sure there is plenty of water about especially when feeding dry foods.
If you are concerned about any hedgehog, or you see one out in the day, contact the surgery on 02892667544 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