Helping hand needed for hedgehogs

ONE group of prickly Suffolk residents have suffered one of their worst summers this year due to soaring temperatures and lack of rain.Hot weather and hibernation may sound wonderful for humans, as we head towards autumn, but the combination has been problematic for hedgehogs.

ONE group of prickly Suffolk residents have suffered one of their worst summers this year due to soaring temperatures and lack of rain.

Hot weather and hibernation may sound wonderful for humans, as we head towards autumn, but the combination has been problematic for hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs feed on slugs and snails and in the heat, the supply can literally dry up, leading hedgehog welfare campaigners to urge people to help where they can.

Ros Rumbold, a Suffolk carer from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said: "Any hedgehogs found during the day probably have a problem.

"The dry weather is potentially a danger and it is a good idea to feed hedgehogs on a little cat food to keep their weight up.

"Baby hedgehogs can be fed goat's milk but not cow's milk."

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Although it is too early to worry about getting them up to weight for hibernation, some hedgehogs have struggled to find food this summer in the dry weather.

It is a big help to feed the prickly mammals, particularly as the second litter of hoglets has just arrived.

"Hedgehogs should be fed about a third of a tin of cat food if there is still a supply of natural food- they will feed on beetles and crane fly in hotter weather and are likely to overeat if they are given the opportunity."

A ready supply of freshwater is also advisable although liquid is found in food, Ros added: "Hedgehogs will drink out of ponds but they need to have a way out, they are good swimmers but will drown through exhaustion.

"If there is no supply of water it is a good idea to leave some out."

Any hedgehogs found also need any flies and maggots removed to avoid fly strike, Ros said: "It is a misconception that maggots only eat dead meat, if hedgehogs are left with maggots on them, they will eat them alive and the hedgehog will die."

Although it is a little early to consider hibernation, September's hoglets may not have time to fatten up for the winter.

They begin to think about hibernating in November and need to build up their fat reserves to survive.

Hedgehogs must weigh at least 600 grams before they settle down, as they lose a third of their weight whilst hibernating.

It is too early to house hedgehogs at the moment but it is a good idea to keep feeding them, Ros added: "Any help is good but we don't have to worry about hibernation for a while."

As the cooler months arrive, any underweight hoglet orphans should be housed indoors in a box layered with hay, newspaper or towelling, the very young should be given a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket.

Anyone who is worried about a hedgehog can contact the Suffolk carers of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01473 687120.

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