How can I help a Hedgehog?

Two hedgehogs in front of plant pots

Credit Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Hedgehogs  are  nocturnal  mammals  and  one  of  the  three  British  mammals  that  hibernate through  winter  (usually  November  -  mid  March  depending  on  the  weather).  Hedgehogs have  few  natural  predators  with  badgers  being  the  main  one,  but  dogs  and  foxes  can  also seriously  injure  or  kill  hedgehogs.  The  decline  in  hedgehog  populations  is  not  fully understood,  but  habitat  loss  and  fragmentation,  and  the  reduced  availability  of  food  due  to pesticide  use  are  likely  to  play  a  part.  A  hedgehog’s  diet  mainly  consists  of  slugs,  worms and  other  invertebrates,  so  the  hedgehog  is  definitely  the  gardener’s  friend.  Wet  dog  or cat  food  can  be  offered  to  hedgehogs  to  supplement  their  diet,  but  never  feed  a  hedgehog bread  and  milk. 


Signs  of  a  sick  or  injured  hedgehog

Staggering  behaviour  during  the  day  and  in  winter  -  Staggering  is  an  indicator  of hypothermia,  which  hedgehogs  are  particularly  susceptible  to.  It  should  be  noted  that  it  is not  uncommon  for  hedgehogs  to  change  their  nesting  site  during  the  hibernation  period, so  if  you  see  a  hedgehog  on  the  move  during  winter  and  it  looks  healthy  and  isn’t staggering  it  may  not  need  any  help. Sleeping  on  the  lawn  -  Healthy  hedgehogs  will  only  sleep  in  a  nest  and  not  out  in  the open.   Very  small  hedgehog  seen  close  to  winter  -  Hedgehogs  need  to  have  a  certain  amount  of body  fat  in  order  to  survive  hibernation.  A  healthy  hedgehog  should  weigh  a minimum of 450g by the  start  of  November.  If  you  are  concerned  that  a hedgehog  looks  too  small  it  can  be  weighed  on  kitchen  scales  and,  if  necessary,  looked after  over  winter  by  someone  with  experience  of  caring  for  hedgehogs. 


How  to  handle  a  sick  hedgehog 

Handling  a  hedgehog  can  be  extremely  stressful  for  the  animal  so  only  handle  them  if  it  is essential  and  limit  the  amount  of  handling  time.  Before  handling  a  hedgehog  prepare  a high  sided  cardboard  box  with  screwed  up  newspaper  or  a  towel  inside  so  the  hedgehog can  hide.  Wear  a  pair  of  thick  gardening  gloves  and  use  both  hands  to  scoop  the hedgehog  up  from  underneath.  Fresh  water  and  wet  cat/dog  food  should  be  made available,  but  don’t  attempt  to  force  feed.  The  box  should  be  kept  somewhere  quiet,  dark and  warm.  If  you  are  concerned  about  hypothermia  a  hot  water  bottle  can  be  filled  with  hot tap  water  (not  boiling),  wrapped  in  a  towel  and  placed  in  the  box.  It  should  feel  warm  to the  touch  and  it  is  essential  that  is  it  removed  before  it  goes  cold.


Who to  contact  for  help

For advice about sick, injured or underweight hedgehogs, in the first instance, please contact:

British  Hedgehog  Preservation  Society  -  01584  890801  

Further help or advice can be obtained from:

RSPCA -  03001  230708

Or, contact  your  local  vet  if  you  are  concerned  that  the  animal  is  injured.

Dead  hedgehogs

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