How could anyone call this animal ‘horrible one’? Hedgehogs are so cute! The latin name; Erinaceous, meaning ‘spiky wall’ makes sense, but, the Irish name; Grainneog, meaning ‘horrible one’ is a little bit harsh? And after Bev Truss’ hedgehog conservation talk in October (organised by the Galway branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust, IWT Galway), I am more interested in these adorable, night-loving creatures and the kind of work that goes on at Bevs’ Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue in County Clare.
Of the 16 known species of hedgehog in the world, the Western European hedgehog is the only species of hedgehog found in Ireland. They live in woodlands, hedgerows, urban settings and anywhere that’s allowed to grow a bit wild. They mostly feed on invertebrates e.g. slugs, spiders, earthworms, beetles, caterpillars and millipedes and after the breeding season – females can have two litters a year – hedgehogs are under pressure to put on weight before hibernation; typically October to March.
Hedgehogs are born blind and without their 5,000-7,000 spines. They grow spines after their first 24 hours of life and use these to protect themselves against predators. Easily alarmed and stressed, they curl themselves into a ball for protection – this is the way I found the first hedgehog that I spotted in my housing estate this year.
They can live five to eight years in the wild and their main threats include slug pellet poisoning, garden netting, traffic, ticks, fox attacks, fleas, ringworm, lungworm, strimmers and cattle grids.
Fortunately, Bev provides a lot of great advice for supporting hedgehogs:
- Create a wild patch or corner in your garden with grasses, wild flowers, covered bushy areas, dense thorny hedges, log piles, leaf piles, or piles of branches.
- Create a hedgehog feeding station in a wild part of your garden before hibernation and again in Spring when they wake up.
- Create a hedgehog highway between you and your neighbours – a hole in the fence about the size of a CD for hedgehogs to forage from garden to garden. They need about four gardens to survive.
- Create more wild patches in the environment.
Hedgehogs need to be over 650 grams to hibernate and as there are a lot of young hoglets around, Bev is encouraging people who find any small one, to weigh it, and if under 600 grams, to call Bev so that it can spend winter in the Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue before being released in spring.
This hoglet is six weeks old and very sick. Hoglets can have respiratory infections and compromised immune systems this time of year.
Bev feels strongly about animals belonging in the wild and so the hedgehogs and other wildlife at the Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue e.g. squirrels, pine martens, bats and stick insects, are treated and then reintroduced back into the wild. Hedgehogs are legally protected under environmental legislation and a licence is required in transporting, caring for, and rehabilitating them in Ireland.
You can find more information on how to help hedgehogs from Bevs’ website here
Bev Truss was voted Irish Veterinary Nurse of the Year in 2012. She works tirelessly to help protect hedgehogs and has rehabilitated over 300 individuals. The Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue is a self-funded non profit organisation. Why not support the Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue by making a donation in someone’s name as a Christmas present this year? It costs 80 cent a day to look after each hedgehog.
Bev also requires transport volunteers and asks for anyone interested to please get in touch.
The Hogsprickle Wildlife Rescue facebook page:
The Galway branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust facebook page:
All images courtesy of Bev Truss