Guidance on Releasing Rehabilitated Hedgehogs
1st February 2019 at 6:59 pm #13659
Can I draw everyone’s attention to the information from News:
Important reading for everyone interested in the welfare of hedgehogs.5th February 2019 at 7:50 am #13678
I’m glad you highlighted this. Our over-wintering juvenile is now hibernating, but was getting very restless pacing up and down the large outdoor hutch from dusk to dawn. He hadn’t gained enough weight to be released, but it’s good to know that the advice now is to release the ones that have. keeping them in captivity for long periods of time can be very stressful, so as long as there is someone to keep an eye on them and provide food and water it can only be a good thing.5th February 2019 at 9:03 am #13679
I think this is very useful advice and timely! I’ve long thought that it must be better to re-release hogs once they are fixed and healthy weights than continue to keep them in captivity and await a good weather spell – which isn’t always predictable either. As you say Penny, they exhibit behaviours that are obviously demonstrating how difficult it is for them – I hear of hogs that make their feet bleed from the digging, scratching and pacing they do in desperation to escape. its also stressful for the carers to witness and causes you to question whether you are doing the best for them in such circumstances.
I have re-released fixed Hogs myself in milder spells through winter and continued to support feed and provide a shelter if wanted. some returned on and off through the following year, which was a comfort to me that they had indeed survived.
Hope your resident juvenile is in good shape for a release in the spring – potentially not too long now anyway!5th February 2019 at 11:06 pm #13681
I agree the information about release times are interesting, but also very important is sites of release and the advice that:
“hedgehogs should, whenever possible, be released from the same site at which they were found.”
“So why is this so important?
Hedgehogs build a mental map of their home range to help better navigate their environment, making them more vulnerable in unfamiliar areas. Hedgehogs released from unknown sites face larger competition for resources and a greater risk of road mortality. They may also spread infectious diseases to new populations.”
So anyone who takes a hog to a rehabilitator, please make sure you get it back, once well enough, to release it where it came from, where it knows, etc.6th February 2019 at 9:51 am #13684
Hi Nic, yes – totally agree this should be the approach whenever possible for all the reasons you outline. It is difficult though when people bring hogs into carers and although they leave a contact name and location area, are often not interested or contactable in re-releasing once the hog is fixed. Carers are then left with little option but to use rehabilitators whom they know have safe release sites at least.
On this topic – I understand some of the larger wildlife hospitals themselves re-release hogs in huge numbers in same locations year after year (many refuse to hand back to those who have handed in – understandable I guess if you are talking hundreds of numbers)- is there anything that suggests this is working as an approach or resulting in issues either for hogs or otherwise?6th February 2019 at 11:04 am #13685
Hi Jan-Marie, Nic,
Our patient was from a garden where the owner takes a keen interest in her prickly visitors and is anxiously awaiting his return, so as soon as the weather warms up he will be on his way home. Like you say Jan-Marie, it is not always possible to return them from where they came, often they are handed into vets for instance with no contact details left. I think the main concerns have been over large numbers being released into the grounds of stately homes, for example, where previously there were no hedgehogs. Although it might sound idyllic, there must be a reason why there were no local residents and the places from which they formerly resided have lost even more of their precious population.
Like you say Nic, the key is to make sure that if you take a hog to a carer make sure that you get it back, preferably by collecting it yourself if possible to save a carers valuable time.6th February 2019 at 10:06 pm #13688
If you read the document
carefully you will see it also refers to the problems of large numbers of hogs being released in locations other than where they came from. (The stately home thing is one aspect, but not the only one). The document says:
Furthermore, it has been reported that some rehabilitators will use the same garden or patch of land for many releases. To ensure success, multiple hedgehogs should not be released into one area (unless they originated there).
I’m sorry but I don’t think it is understandable any hog rescuers not being able to keep a record and keep track of where hedgehogs came from – it’s not rocket science. If the person doesn’t want to give their exact address, at least they could be asked for the location that the hog came from, so that the hog could be released as near to where it came from as possible. The document actually says if a hog cannot be released exactly where it came from i.e. dog attack:
we would then advise release in the same area, but not in that garden. Sometimes no information is available for the exact site the hedgehog was found; in that case every effort should be made to locate the origin of the hedgehog, even if it’s just the general area.
Releasing large numbers of hogs other than where they came from could actually ultimately be doing more harm than good and could be negatively impacting on the existing population in those locations.
After all the work that has been done caring for the hogs, it is vital that this document is read in full and taken careful note of and followed by everyone otherwise some people’s actions could inadvertently be damaging the wider hedgehog population which I am sure is the very last thing they would want.
I’m glad to hear your patient is doing well and will soon be able to go home. I agree with you about collecting the hogs yourself from carers. I have always delivered and collected any hogs which have needed to go to the local wildlife hospital and would encourage everyone who has transport to do likewise.6th February 2019 at 11:46 pm #13690
Sorry Jan-Marie. I meant to address the above to you as well. Too late to edit now! That will teach me not to try to do two things at once!7th February 2019 at 9:37 am #13691
I do totally agree that all efforts to re-release at sites where hogs were picked up should be made and certainly the carers I know – do this wherever and whenever possible. It does become a difficult decision though if the site / location is considered unsafe (and carer network have themselves put some less formal agreement/guidance around this based upon their conclusions that they share between them). There is a question as to the impact of hog rehabilitation also on their own immune system and home map recollection, that we simply don’t know enough about yet, so then the balance of risk of re-release back were they were found versus a known safe site comes into play its a difficult call. I know – the added complexity of the re-released hog on pre-existing wildlife and environment is yet another factor, so all very complex.
My bigger question though is the approach taken by recue centres and wildlife centres who take in hundreds each year – in one case upwards of a thousand – but they all get released in big batches, over a short period, in one fairly local ‘safe’ area. should BHPS be looking into the impact this is having as ultimately it could be driving hog numbers down and not up, on a Nationwide scale – it could also be having a detrimental impact on the pre-existing wildlife and environment.7th February 2019 at 1:57 pm #13696
Re. your last paragraph, I think that is one of the sorts of things this information is trying to prevent.
The trouble is there is all sorts of pseudo-science out there, about it being good for the gene pool, etc. for hogs to be released in areas other than where they came from. But it seems to me some of the things that are happening is counter-productive and such a shame when so much work has gone into helping the hogs reach a stage where they are fit for release.
I’m not sure how much more BHPS can do (apart from anything else, there is always so much needed to be done and so few resources). They’ve produced some authoritative advice and people need to take notice of it. And some of those involved in creating the advice [The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (BWRC), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Vale Wildlife Hospital (VWH) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)] are involved in rehabilitation themselves. But if you know which organisations are involved in these mass releases, maybe they could be contacted if the BHPS knew (that is if they don’t already know) – I have no way of knowing if that is something that is possible.
And I will probably never know whether the population of hogs here went down so much last year because some had been released in this area. A population which had been stable for many years.
There may be a small number of cases where hogs cannot be released where they came from, but the majority I think could, with a little care, be released if not exactly where they came from but nearby enough that they recognised the terrain. Most hog lovers would be quite happy, I would have thought, to make a contribution so that they could be telephoned when the hog was ready for release. All it takes is having a system in place. To my mind, these sorts of systems should be in place anyway – even more so in larger rescue centres, etc.
I just think the whole situation is so sad – for the hogs. But also such a waste of ‘helpers’ time.7th February 2019 at 3:32 pm #13698
I cant help but think there is still perhaps some benefit to BHPS directly contacting (at least some of) the registered wildlife charities and rescue centres and, checking they have received and read the advice provided and to take the opportunity to follow up on it and recommend the returns policy.
It could make a significant difference…………….7th February 2019 at 6:30 pm #13701
You are probably right, and they may already have done that – I don’t know. I’m not even a member, although I think they are a good organisation and support them in other ways. So I don’t have access to that sort of information. But there’s nothing to stop you asking the question, if you felt it might be useful.8th February 2019 at 10:15 am #13703
I think I will raise it with BHPS – I am a member (also of PTES) – and Fay has heard from me before and seems to act on feedback.
I hate to be a busybody / pest on such things – but I put it down to being passionate and wanting to see results from action. Time isn’t on our side either!8th February 2019 at 10:34 am #13704
Very good idea Jan-Marie8th February 2019 at 11:42 am #13706
I agree, that is a good idea, Jan-Marie. Especially as it sounds as if you have information which not everyone may have. I have already written to them about something relating to this subject, so didn’t feel I could again, especially as I have no further information to offer. But, yes, they are very good at responding. Good Luck.
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