16th April 2018 at 9:29 am #9053
So – with the weather drying up and set to improve, we have a window of opportunity to release some of our overwintered hogs this week. What a relief for them it must be to smell outdoor life and realise freedom for the first time in 6 months! I cant imagine how that feels for them.
Seb is first, (found as a late hoglet in early December at 300gms) and he went out in a large covered run at the back with his own house and nest taken with him on Friday. He did spend the weekend trying to tunnel his way out round the corners each evening. Plan is to transfer him, in his house, to the bottom of the garden this evening at dusk – where the other wild hogs play and we feed them. So that will be one gone – mixture of emotion – pride and relief for them to make it through.
Yo-Yo will be setting off on the same journey later this week also if his rescuer doesn’t want him back for release where found, we will do it locally. Similar circumstances for this tiny hoglet 280gms (not tiny anymore!) found wandering in the road.
With a warm dry week of weather coming up for most – hogs will benefit greatly just from bowls of water out, especially if just emerging from hibernation (the females tend to emerge a few weeks later than the males)17th April 2018 at 10:04 am #9069
so – we moved Seb in his house as planned at about 7pm yesterday evening and set up the camera to watch what he did – and he did something very strange indeed! something I have not seen a hog do before, but then they do strange things we don’t understand.
He appeared about 15 minutes later – probably woken by the movement – he had a good sniff around where we had put him at the bottom of the garden and behind the shed. Then he wandered over to a covered dense patch under the rose bushes and against the fence and rolled onto his back, uncurled, and lay there with his legs in the air. I panicked a little, thinking the shock of release might have given him a stroke or heart attack, so tiptoed out to peek at him. He didn’t move when he saw me – just looked at me and made a little noise that filled me with dread. I stepped a little nearer and his curled into his spiky ball, but still on his back. I decided to leave him – concluding he was safe enough from predators whatever his circumstances and perhaps I was worrying unnecessarily and this could be normal for a hedgehog after 6 months of captivity (although I’ve never seen it myself before on release).
He stayed in that position for about 15 minutes and as darkness started to set in, he simply righted himself and shuffled on his way.
I’m intrigued to hear if anyone has experienced this in hogs before – I assume something to do with their strange anointing rituals?18th April 2018 at 9:28 am #9109
so – all seems to be well with Seb following Mondays release concern – he reappeared yesterday evening about 8pm from the house we put him out in for some food! They often don’t take up residence where released, despite best efforts and cosy provisions etc. So very much relieved. He just needs to find the girls now!18th April 2018 at 10:14 am #9110
Have you read Pat Morris’ book ‘Hedgehogs’? Because in there is a chapter entitled ‘Rehabilitating Hedgehogs – Does it work?’ and ‘Can Inexperienced animals cope with release into the wild?’ It’s a while since I read it, and it may not have been in those chapters, but I recall that some released hogs in a study didn’t make it – thought to be (in part) because they didn’t have appropriate responses to predators. The reaction of the hog there lying on his back brought it to mind. It may be that they learn some ‘unusual’ habits in captivity and it takes them a while to learn to be wild again.
Maybe the results of the survey they did recently regarding rehabilitating, etc. will throw up some more useful information.18th April 2018 at 11:32 am #9111
I haven’t read his book, keep meaning to get a copy – but I have been working with local rescue on care and release strategy and make use of the Kay Bullen book and BHPS materials.
I know not all those re-released make it, which is a shame – but we have had quite good success rates with the ones we have release locally certainly.
The handling and disturbance of them is very much minimised whilst in captivity, and they certainly continue to recognise us as a threat whilst kept, which is a good thing.
I’m concluding that the behaviour seen by Seb is an early anointing ritual as he tries to cover his unusual smell taken on? Others seem to be thinking the same thing could be the case? I’ve just never seen them do that before! I expect it will take him a while to get his wild smell back.
He’s at no immediate risk by predators where we live, but does have access to small (predator free) woodland at the back. We will continue to provide him ready access to food should he need it over the next days and weeks.
so – I’m really hopeful he will return successfully to the wild – we do have a reasonable supply of wild hedgehogs in the area too, possibly even offspring from previous year releases – so that may help him adjust.
I know – its never a given that they will make it as individuals, and the reasons for that are plentiful, include reduced immunity. But we think we are seeing our local hog numbers increase slightly as a result of efforts.18th April 2018 at 12:58 pm #9112
I found this:
Could this be what you were thinking of in terms of a report?18th April 2018 at 2:18 pm #9113
No, it wasn’t that one, although that is interesting too. The survey I was talking about was only from last year. I haven’t seen any results from it, but the best I can do at the moment is to give you the link to the request for people to help with it.
Glad to hear you keep the handling to a minimum, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the hogs developed unusual habits, being kept in, for them, abnormal circumstances. From your description, I’m not convinced by the self anointing theory, but then I didn’t see exactly what he was doing.
I recall Pat Morris concluded that even though there was a comparatively high mortality rate for rehabilitated hogs, it was still worth trying to help the underweight hoglets, etc., as otherwise, even the ones who did survive wouldn’t have. Since he wrote the book (originally 1983), hopefully, people have learned how to improve survival rates. I haven’t had many re-released here, but they all survived their first year, at least. But even amongst hogs who haven’t needed ‘recuing’ there can be a fairly high mortality rate, especially in youngsters and during hibernation. So it has got to be worthwhile trying to help them, if necessary, even if not all survive.
If you do try to read Pat Morris book, try to get hold of a 2014 edition, (or there may even be a more recent one). Even some of that is slightly outdated now. But, there is a lot of interesting information in it.
Not sure if I am right, but I am guessing Seb was originally from somewhere else? I have found, here, that the males, who have grown up in the wild, tend to mostly move on after a while (probably makes sense from the genetics point of view), although they do continue to make occasional visits, possibly just to get a free meal (!). They usually come back after hibernation, stay for a while, but then disappear some time afterwards. It would be interesting to know if a hog from elsewhere did the same, or whether because he was already in a ‘different’ place he would stay put.18th April 2018 at 4:18 pm #9115
learning all the time! and still so many unknowns with hogs, they are fascinating and unique.
Seb was from within the County but yes – about 15 miles away found as a small hoglet before Christmas.
We have taken in hoglets we have found in our garden very late too and had some success in re-releasing over the years, improving the rate I think each year.
We tend to try and give them back to finder for release where they were found – but they don’t always want the hassle and I do wonder how much that matters to be honest, other than trying to replace the numbers and not cluster them.
We are fortunate in having a very good rescue contact that does all the checks and treatment, knows the best vets etc and keeps me moving on the learning curve. Its made a huge difference.
I wonder if the males just routinely move on every couple of years anyway -as you say- gene pool instincts?18th April 2018 at 6:27 pm #9119
I have found that the regular males, here, seem to stay around for longer than 2 years, but the boss hog only seems to be boss hog for 2 or 3 years, and he may not be so visible after that. The females, on the other hand, seem to stick around from hoglethood. There is one female who I have known, as an adult, since 2013. The females mostly aren’t back from hibernation yet, here, and she was the last to hibernate. But fingers crossed she returns for another year. One of her late hoglets didn’t hibernate (despite being big enough to) and was visiting here all winter. Only missed 2 nights when the snow was too deep! He is now bigger than his older fellow hoglets! But I think that often happens with over-wintered hoglets too, although, of course, they probably lose some weight after release. But I felt quite proud of the little chap doing so well ‘in the wild’ in winter.
It is really good what you are doing with the rehabilitating. One of the places near here closed not long ago and new people are always needed to carry on the good work.19th April 2018 at 8:56 am #9137
So – we weighed Yo-Yo yesterday evening before putting him out in his house and a large run at the bottom of the garden, following in Seb’s wake. Yo-Yo is a very handsome, almost black hog, with a little sooty face, when he decides to show it.
He must have spent a good deal of time overnight pacing the run perimeter, because there was a worn track round the edges when I peeped at it this morning and the beginnings of a tunnel at one end. One more night pacing and tunnel digging and then he can be moved to a secure spot, in his house, for him to begin his new adventures.21st April 2018 at 3:41 pm #9165
Hi Jan-Marie. I was amused to hear your story of the little hog lying on his back. I have seen both dogs and cats doing this, in high temperatures, resting all four legs against a wall .
You say you released him around 7pm and the recent weather has been unseasonally hot well into the early evenings (at least where we are). Could your hog have been trying to cool himself down? Just a thought!24th April 2018 at 11:34 am #9190
Its a thought – but I’m really not sure – they do tend to lie flat on their tummies when warm – but they do have some very unusual behaviours and sounds – I think as a species there is still an awful lot we don’t understand about these little creatures. They have been around for a lot longer than we have, so probably good reasons for it that they know about. The spot he chose was very leafy and I have read they cover themselves to build immunity and defence to the area they are in as well.
He is still around – but not appearing for food as regularly as he was – I expect his attention is turning to looking for girls!
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