We first noticed the prickly visitor to our garden one evening. It appeared on our patio, but quickly dashed under cover of the plants once spotted. Much to the delight of my eldest son, Mrs (or Mr?) Tiggy-Winkle was on the patio again early morning at breakfast – shouldn't a hedgehog be asleep by now I thought?
Another sighting later in the morning and I worried that the hedgehog could be sick or maybe trapped on the patio unable to climb the steps? I left out some water and some food and placed a board across the steps – by the afternoon all the food had gone, but the hedgehog was still on the patio, although this time asleep under a pile of leaves behind the trellis. I put out some more food – this time at the top of the steps and early evening we watched our visitor climb the ramp and tuck in (surprisingly noisily!).
Since then there have been no more hedgehog sightings so I hope that our prickly friend was indeed just trapped and not sick [Epping Forest Hedgehog Rescue recommend capturing any hedgehogs spotted during the day – I didn't know that at the time]. In the evenings I am now putting out special hedgehog food that I found at our local pet shop – something is eating it – I hope that it is Mrs T-W (and/or friends).
I have been surprised by the number of Internet sites dedicated to hedgehogs – even hedgehog chat rooms! It appears that there are many people out there wanting to help these popular wild animals (hedgehog numbers are apparently falling in the UK). The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the Epping Forest Hedgehog Rescue websites both have some very useful advice and interesting facts about hedgehogs.
Our own VetMed Resource [free access until 20 September] has over a thousand records about hedgehogs in the Abstracts Database (search for Erinaceidae to avoid retrieving records about the hedgehog signaling pathway).
A news item recently added to VetMed Resource highlights concerns from the RSPCA that rat and mice poison may have an effect on the welfare of hedgehogs. Carcasses of 120 hedgehogs that had died or were put to sleep due to illness or injury were examined and it was found that 80 of them had been exposed to these poisons. The University of Bristol's Claire Dowding, who carried out the study, said the high figure is of concern and might be one of the reasons why the British hedgehog population is thought to be declining. Read more here.