A joyful encounter
13th May 2019 at 9:45 pm #15142
This past Friday ( May 10th ) I was very surprised and at the same time thrilled to encounter “our” hedgehog Bob ( which is actually a she ). Last summer she had a litter of three hoglets in the hedgehog house placed in our backyard. By mid August she and the hoglets were gone not to be seen again. I painted Bob with some red nailpolish on the spines though and some of the color is still left so it’s definitely her. She also listens when I speak to her and when I had some goodies in my palm she came right up and ate from my hand.
I wonder if hedgehogs can remember a scent or a tone of a person’s voice?
I’ve been feeding her twice daily since she came back here with cat food and eggs mixed with a teaspoon of oats.
I treated her for lungworm last year and wasn’t sure that she got cured but evidently her health improved and she seems to be in a good condition now. I will spray her for fleas one of these days because she scratches herself quite frequently but I will let her get accustomed first so she doesn’t think I am a foe.
Last year there was a male here courting her- that’s when I realized that it was a she, but I haven’t seen any this year yet, but maybe she has already been impregnated somewhere else and she came back here to have her young….I hope. There has been a lot of development in the area where I live with many new houses and many more cars so it’s a dangerous area for hogs, but I hope she will be careful if she goes foraging.
I’m just so happy she decided to come back. : )13th May 2019 at 10:01 pm #15146
It’s always lovely to see the Hedgehogs, personally I wouldn’t mark any like that though. And I never go near enough them for one to eat out my hand, they are wild animals and I think it’s not good for them to become too friendly with humans. That’s just my opinion though .
Good luck and I hope your Mrs hog does well14th May 2019 at 12:14 pm #15156
I’m glad to hear you enjoying having hedgehogs around.
However, it is not appropriate to use nail varnish to mark hedgehogs. Personally, I don’t see the need to mark them artificially, they have their own natural markings by which they can be recognised, but nail varnish is strong smelling and hedgehogs rely heavily on their sense of smell. It is also a chemical and hedgehogs can be more sensitive to chemicals than we may be. You could also inadvertently be discouraging males from showing an interest in her, by masking her natural smell. If you really feel you have to mark a hedgehog it should be on only a very few spines, away from the face and skirt and using a water based substance.
Cat food is fine for feeding, but I would not include the eggs and the oats.
Unless you are an expert, worming a hedgehog can do more harm than good. They should only be treated if it is certain they have a problem (i.e by doing worm counts, etc.). It is normal for hedgehogs to have a certain level of parasites. They have survived for millions of years. If worm treatment is used inappropriately it could increase the resistance of the parasites and reduce the effectiveness of the wormer for hedgehogs and other animals as well as the hedgehogs own natural resistance. Some worm treatments are harmful for hedgehogs and the dosage needs to be worked out very carefully. Worming of hedgehogs should be left to people who have the necessary training, knowledge and expertise – as should spraying of hedgehogs for fleas. Hedgehogs are sensitive to many chemicals and such things are best left to experts – again, if it is necessary.
Whilst it may be tempting, no-one is doing hedgehogs any favours by encouraging them to become habituated to humans. Humans are predators. Not only could it encourage hedgehogs to trust other predators, but not all humans love hedgehogs – it is better for them to have a healthy respect for them. Much better for the hedgehogs that we let them get on with their lives as wild hedgehogs. Yes, provide them with houses, hog holes, offer them food (at a distance) and water and help them when they are really in need of help, by seeking expert help. But, let them be wild hedgehogs.
I understand that your intention is to help the hedgehog, but we need to be really careful that anything we do in relation to wild hedgehogs is for the benefit of the hedgehog and not allow our enthusiasm to help them, or get close to them, ultimately do the opposite.
If there has been a lot of development nearby, you might like to look into creating a hedgehog highway, by linking gardens with hedgehog holes. Further information: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/link-your-garden/ If hedgehogs have enough gardens linked, there is less need for them to cross roads to seek suitable habitat.
I hope you continue to enjoy the visits of the hedgehog there and that she does, indeed, produce some young and stays safe.14th May 2019 at 6:33 pm #15172
Thank you for your long reply Nic. I agree with you that one’s own enthusiasm may not correlate with what is best for the hedgehog, even though I don’t mean any harm.
Having read Pat Morris´s book on hedgehogs I thought it would be interesting to see which ones return by marking them ( p 117 ), and if it gets run over so I know who it is, but any hedgehog being run over is of course terrible. It would just be nice to know if it’s the one I’ve been feeding or not, but that’s in truth only centered towards my feelings and the hog has of course no use for a blotch of nail polish on its spines and I am not doing a scientific study of any kind.
I think you are right that I should stop feeding it from my hand as it isn’t a pet and should for its own safety not be getting too accustomed to humans.
Putting out food is alright though I hope ? Especially if there is a drought and she will need to conserve enery to be able to give milk to her babies later in the summer – if she is carrying.
Why would you skip giving an egg to a hedgehog once in a while ? Birds eggs make up around 1/8 of their natural diet. The danger with bread and milk seems to be vastly exaggerated besides for babies according to Pat Morris. I mostly just give moist catfood and it is well liked and sometimes I give some dried cat food too. As long as it’s protein based it should be fine I would think. But I am no expert and maybe there are scientists diagreeing with Pat Morris’s take on hedgehogs.
I appreciate your reply however.
Paul15th May 2019 at 3:14 pm #15189
I know that you only mean to be of help to the hedgehogs – as I, and I believe all of us on the Forum do. I am sure, that you are being of great help to them by providing them with supplementary food. But, there is always more we can all learn about them.
It’s great that you have read Pat Morris book, ‘Hedgehogs’. It’s a really good book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in hedgehogs. There is a wealth of very interesting information in it. However, he did originally write it quite a long time ago. In those days not as many people watched hedgehogs. Now there are so many people watching them, that if everyone started artificially marking the hedgehogs it’s possible there would barely be a hedgehog without artificial markings on it – which, I and many others, would find to be a sad state of affairs.
It is easily possible to recognise the comparatively few hedgehogs which visit one garden, by their natural markings. I have, in the past, had 12 different hedgehogs which visited regularly and which I recognised by their natural markings (plus hoglets). It is something which just does not occur to many people, but is in fact easier than it sounds. I can direct you to some tips if you are interested in trying. But as mentioned, if hedgehogs are going to be marked it should be only on a very few spines with water based substance (which doesn’t tend to smell so strongly) as described in British Hedgehog Preservation Society FAQs “Can I ‘mark’ my hedgehogs” https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/faq/
But a lot of pleasure can be derived from watching hedgehogs even without knowing individual characters. The sad thing about hedgehogs is that sometimes they simply disappear and we have no way of knowing whether or how they may have died – even if we can recognise individual hedgehogs. In some ways, it leads to less heartache if we don’t recognise individuals and don’t become too attached to them.
Providing good nutritious supplementary food for the hedgehogs is fine, i.e. hedgehog/cat/dog food or cat/kitten biscuits. (As you say even more important in times of dry weather). Although creating good habitat for them so they can find natural food is also important (and expanding their habitat by linking gardens). Access to water is also vitally important. Quite wide, but shallow plant saucers are ideal for water and I leave it out 24 hours a day, in case a dehydrated hedgehog comes out during the day time.
The sort of eggs hedgehogs would eat in the wild, would be likely to be smaller bird eggs. I believe Pat Morris did comment on the fact that his data about how many eggs hedgehogs ate may have been exaggerated by the fact that much of the data came from trapped hedgehogs which came from gamekeepers, who baited their traps with eggs. Bearing that in mind, it seems entirely likely that an average hedgehog’s diet doesn’t consist of 1/8 eggs. It is, of course, illegal to trap hedgehogs now, certainly in this country. But, because hedgehogs have been persecuted for eating eggs, they are just not something that I, personally, would want to encourage them to eat. Hedgehog/cat/dog food should be sufficient as supplementary food without them.
Regarding bread and milk. It has now become fairly common knowledge that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant (possibly since the book was originally written). It’s a while since I read Pat Morris’ section on bread and milk. But, as I recall, he did point out that it caused diarrhoea in hedgehogs and also the dangers of that, particularly for young hedgehogs. These days when hedgehogs have become even more scarce, we wouldn’t want to risk giving hedgehogs diarrhoea, or worse, when we know there are better things to supplementary feed them and water is all they need to drink.
I hope that has covered the things you have raised. Good luck with the hedgehogs. I hope they continue to do well.15th May 2019 at 8:32 pm #15202
Thank you Nic. I appreciate your advice very much and learn some more about these fascinating animals. Have you read Hugh Warwick’s book “Hedgehog” ( Reaktion Books, 2014 )? I thought about buying it. I read his ” A Prickly Affair” from 2008 which was interesting but not as focused on the European hedgehog as Pat Morris’s book.16th May 2019 at 9:44 am #15208
Someone recently gave me both those books, but, so far, I’ve only read bits. Need to find time to read them properly!
If you’re interested in reading about hedgehogs, you might like to check out this site https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/animals/species/european-hedgehog
There’s loads of information there.
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