The battle to save Berkshire's hedgehogs
PUBLISHED: 10:47 18 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:47 18 March 2016
Maureen McLean discovered an extraordinary scene when she visited a Berkshire rescue centre bursting at the seams
For someone who admits to being squeamish, Amber Glossop faces unpleasant tasks every day. Cleaning out wounds, giving fluid injections or dealing with mite and worm infestations all come with the territory of caring for ailing hedgehogs.
“You don’t get a choice really and the only thing I struggle with sometimes is live maggots in wounds, that can be really gruesome,” she tells us from her home in North Ascot. That’s the three-bed home this Thirty-Something senior executive assistant at Hitachi Data Systems in Stoke Poges currently shares with around 100 hedgehogs which she hopes to get through winter and eventually into homes elsewhere. Oh yes, and there are seven cats, all rescued felines who must sometimes wonder what’s going on.
For several rooms are full of little cat baskets of recovering injured, sick or underweight hedgehogs which would never have survived winter without intervention. And they keep coming as more people find them with glued up eyes and the snuffles, hobbling along in a bad state, or sadly often beyond help regardless of round-the-clock attention.
As is the way with most animals, including us, it’s the tiniest ones and the oldest members of the community who struggle most in hard times. Climate change means hedgehogs are having extra litters during the year – which might seem a good thing since hedgehog populations are falling. But it isn’t, because the late litters are unlikely to reach a weight where they can survive hibernation and reduced food supply.
Every hedgehog counts, hence the state of Amber’s home. The Hedgehog Preservation Society says that since 2000 rural populations have declined by at least a half in Britain and urban populations by up to a third. It’s thought that under a million were left by 2010.
Older hedgehogs can start to suffer in the wild when a diet of beetles and caterpillars comes to an end and they turn, often reluctantly, to slugs. Most of us now know not to give bread and milk to hedgehogs, but are delighted when we seem them snaffling up big slugs. The trouble is that some slugs carry the intermediate stage of lungworm, which can lead to pneumonia in the hedgehog, or have themselves eaten slug pullets, which then make the hedgehogs sick.
Amber’s Hope for Hedgehogs cause began just over a year ago when she began feeding hedgehogs visiting her gardens. She decided to find out more, got in touch with The Hedgehog Preservation Society and ended up on a course on their care.
“That’s how I learnt how stressful it is if hedgehogs cannot find enough food sources and so their parasites multiply because they simply can’t cope with it,” says Amber. “It’s also how I was taught to inject fluids into them - it was an eye opener from the start because we had to practise on deceased hedgehogs, and sadly there’s no shortage of them.”
Now she spends as much time as possible, weighing, feeding, treating ailments and cleaning out the hedgehogs, but it wouldn’t be possible without some vital supporters including her bosses at Hitachi Data Systems, Sunninghill Veterinary Centre and local volunteers and fundraisers such as Shauna, Jan, Devon, Cindy and Val.
Then there are the people either delivering essentials like newspapers and kitchen roll for bedding to her home or gifting vital supplies such as food or buying a ‘hedgehog house’ through an Amazon Wishlist. Sometimes gifts come in from across the world. The hedgehogs are mostly fed on chicken, IAMS cat biscuits and the meatier (non-fish) varieties of Whiskas alongside some specialist hoggie mixes.
But the truth is that Amber – and her house – have reached saturation point. She hopes to take a short break from rescue after winter and is appealing for a kindly builder to convert her garage so that it can become the perfect care home for the hedgehogs. She will be attempting to rehouse as many hedgehogs as possible in urban garden settings where they can travel about – hedgehogs can roam a mile a more during the night – and the main requirement here is that those willing to take them on agree to include a ‘hedgehog house’ for them to nest in and that water is readily available. It’s also important that they are not near badgers, which will eat hedgehogs if short of their preferred food of worms.
Find out more
If you would like to support Hope for Hedgehogs, need advice on your local hedgehogs, or could possibly adopt one or two when ready for release, contact Amber on 07979 755211.
See www.facebook.com/Hopeforhedgehogs for details of the Amazon Wishlist and other ways you can help.
Helping the county’s hedgehogs
Further west, Hedgehog Botttom, Berkshire’s Hedgehog Hospital, operates from the Chapel Street, Thatcham home of founder and manager Gill Lucraft, entirely run by volunteers. As well as native hedgehogs they have found themselves taking in ones originally kept as pets which cannot survive in the wild here, such as African Pygmy hedgehogs and Egyptian Long-Eared ones.
At Yateley on the borders of South Berkshire, North Hampshire and West Surrey, Jayne Morgan runs The Happy Hedgehog Rescue centre, where the aim is full rehabilitation and then release back into the wild. See www.happyhedgehog.org.uk.
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