Hedgehog rescuer reaches milestone

A CARING Ipswich woman has today reached a milestone in her project to care for hedgehogs.Ros Rumbold has spent 15 years working to rescue and care for baby, injured or in danger hedgehogs.

A CARING Ipswich woman has today reached a milestone in her project to care for hedgehogs.

Ros Rumbold has spent 15 years working to rescue and care for baby, injured or in danger hedgehogs.

Ros has been dedicated to caring for the prickly creatures ever since finding one suffering out in the elements while on her way to a Christmas carol concert 15 years ago.

After progressing from a cardboard box and hot water bottles wrapped in towels, Ros now has a specially adapted hedgehog shed with heat mats and hutches where the animals live while she cares for them.

Through recommendations from other rescue charities, such as the RSPCA, and word of mouth, Ros now looks after around 50 hedgehogs a year.

“Sadly the first one I had didn't survive,” said Ros.

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“It died in the February. I was so upset and my husband suggested I try again, so we registered with the RSPCA.

“So when a woman found three babies in her garage they contacted me and she brought them along.

“We gradually got them used to being outdoors in a run in the August and then one night I left the door open. Two of them were still there the next day and one kept coming back for food right up until October.”

Since then, Ros has honed her skills and will often have up to nine hedgehogs to look after at any one time.

She regularly visits schools, clubs and groups to give talks about the creatures and many of them help keep the association thanks to donations of cat food - which hedgehogs enjoy - and money to buy heat mats.

“It is hard work looking after them,” she said.

“Especially when they are babies but I love hedgehogs and really enjoy what I do.”

When hedgehogs are born they are completely bald - without even any fur. But they begin to develop prickly spines almost straight away and the brown prickles can be seen developing within 36 hours of their birth.

But hedgehogs aren't all prickles - they have soft and furry underbellies.

Hedgehogs are usually just five centimetres long and weigh just 12 to 24 grams when they are born.

To survive hibernation through the winter, a hedgehog must weigh at least 600 grams. After rescue they are usually released back into the wild when they weigh between 450 and 500 grams.

Hedgehogs are easily recognised, as they are the only British mammal covered in spines. Each hedgehog has as many as 7,000 spines covering its back and sides, and when threatened, it curls into a ball, so that the spines offer protection.

During hibernation, a hedgehog's body functions slow down, almost to a standstill. Heartbeat decreases from 190beats per minute to just 20 and body temperature drops from 35°C to 10°C. This helps them conserve energy. But if there is food always available they do not hibernate at all.

Hedgehogs are the gardener's friend because they eat slugs and snails and other pests that damage plants. You can encourage hedgehogs into your garden by leaving piles of leaves and twigs around for them to nest in, or by making a purpose built shelter.

A good hedgehog diet includes tinned pet food, chopped peanuts (not whole ones) or crunchy peanut butter, raw or cooked meat leftovers, muesli and a small amount of vegetables. They should not be fed on bread and milk as this gives them diarrhoea.

Litter is dangerous to hedgehogs. They can become entangled in plastic rings that hold cans together, or become wedged in yoghurt pots or empty tins. Dispose of litter carefully and squash tin cans before recycling them.

Hedgehogs have been known to live for up to 14 years, but in the wild, most will die after two years.

SOURCE: www.wildlifetrust.org.uk