FAQS - Hedgehogs

There's a hedgehog out in the garden during the day. I thought they were nocturnal?

They are – so a hedgehog out during the day is a sign there is almost certainly something wrong. If the hog is a healthy looking adult and is busy carrying grass and leaves to a dry space, then leave it alone – its nest has been disturbed and it is building another one.

If it is asleep in the sun, staggering or walking in circles, it needs to get to a centre as soon as possible. Try and pick it up and put it in a cardboard box or pet carrier lined with newspaper or an old towel. If you haven’t got anything to put it in, ask a neighbour for help, or wrap the animal up in an old towel and put it into a shed or garage to save it wandering off while you make arrangements for its transportation to the nearest wildlife hospital.

I can hear young hedgehogs piping loudly in their nest. Are they ok?

Probably! Do not be tempted to handle the babies as the mother is likely to eat them if they are contaminated with human scent. Wait and see if the mother returns to the nest in a reasonable time. The babies have a penetrating cry but she may be a few gardens away and even hurrying back will still take some time. Often people interfere far too quickly because they think an animal has been abandoned, but this is rarely the case, and you should always be absolutely sure before getting involved in any way. If, after several hours, the mother has still not returned, contact your local rescue centre who will tell you what to do next.

It's very late in the autumn and I have a nest of baby hedgehogs has just been born in my garden. Will they survive the winter?

A hedgehog needs to be about 600g to be able to survive hibernation. In these cases, sadly, it is best to let nature take its course, but if the babies have been abandoned by their mother, it is possible for local experts to hand rear them. Contact your local centre to ask their advice.

There's a hedgehog in my garden making a terrible wheezing and coughing noise and its nose is streaming. What's wrong with it?

Hedgehogs are prone to lung worms and respiratory diseases and most centres will willingly examine a hog if someone is worried about it. Pick it up carefully, using stout gloves and place it in a stout box, lined with towels or newspapers to take to the centre once they have agreed to see it.

Lots of people feed hedgehogs with bread and milk, but I've heard this isn't good for them. What's the real story?

You are right – milk and bread is not a good or healthy diet for a mammal that is carnivorous and can be fatal to hedgehogs! The fact that your hedgehog laps up any bread and milk left out for it doesn’t mean it is a good thing to feed it, any more than sweets are good for us, no mater how much we like them!  Mealworms should also be avoided as they can cause metabolic bone disease.  Wet and dry cat food with a shallow bowl of water is a far better way to keep the hedgehogs in your garden fit and healthy.

I have just noticed a hedgehog in my garden. Should I put food out for it, and if so, what?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and so feed during the night.  If you want to feed your hog, then a plate of dog or cat food (no fish flavours as it upsets their digestion) and a saucer of water will be very welcome!  Do not give hedgehogs milk, as they cannot digest it.

I have seen a hedgehog swimming in my pond, will it be OK?

Like many mammals, hedgehogs can swim if they have to, but it is not a natural activity for them.  Try and rescue the hedgehog using gloves as they can be very prickly!  Once you have rescued the hedgehog it is sensible to either put netting over the pond, or provide a slope or ramp so that any future hogs can get out easily.

My dog found a hedgehog in our garden, and has attacked it. It is curled up, so I can’t see if it is injured. What should I do?

Please pick up the hog, wearing gloves to avoid prickles and place it in a ventilated box.  Please then bring it to the hospital as soon as possible to be checked over.

A hedgehog has got caught up in netting in my garden

Please cut the netting free around the hog, and then bring it in to us.  We will anaesthetise the hog so that it will unroll, and we will be able to remove the rest of the netting.

I have found a hedgehog inside my bonfire, it is still alive, but the fire has been burning for a while

Please bring the hedgehog to us as soon as possible so we can try and help it.

I have found an extremely large, round hedgehog

Hedgehogs can suffer from a condition called Ballooning, which causes them to bloat up to an unnatural size.  It is caused by air getting trapped under their skin, and can hinder the hedgehogs ability to rollup, and to move easily.  It is treatable, so please pick up the hedgehog, place it in a box and bring it to us, and we will treat the condition.

I have found a hedgehog with lots of small grey balls attached to its spines

These are ticks, which need to be removed.  You can attempt to do this, but it is probably safer to bring the hog in to us to remove them.  Make sure you wear gloves to pick up the hog as they can be quite prickly!

I have found a hedgehog with lots of blow flies around it

The presence of blow flies, or their eggs/larvae (small yellow clusters of eggs/grubs) means that the hedgehog has an open wound.  Please bring the hedgehog to The Wildlife Aid Foundation for treatment.

Don’t forget: Hedgehogs can sleep inside sheds, garages, bags of rubbish etc.  Please check before clearing out these areas that there are no sleeping hogs inside!

Some useful telephone numbers:

British Hedgehog Preservation Society: 01584 890801
Sue Kidger: 020 8894 3712 / 07776 153633

Hedgehog fact sheet