4, Are Hedgehogs In Danger of Becoming Extinct?
They are fast approaching that fate. About three-quarters of all the hedgehogs that are born, die before they are a year old. Of the ones remaining it is estimated that in Britain alone at least 100,000 are killed on our roads in just one year.
At least 5,000 and perhaps as many as 10,000 are reported killed by gamekeepers on country estates each year in the mistaken belief they are "Vermin" that eat the eggs of ground nesting birds such as pheasants and partridges. No doubt the odd hedgehog may stumble into a nest and eat the contents of any eggs it may have broken but by no means do they pose any great threat to the bird population. Hedgehogs may be responsible for as little as 1% of lost eggs, whereas foxes take around 34% along with other predators.
Apart from man, hedgehogs have few natural enemies, the main one being the badger who eat hedgehogs leaving just the skin turned inside out. Other deaths are from careless disposing of rubbish, tins, plastic bags etc. also garden ponds, swimming pools, tennis nets and of course, pesticides.
5, Do Hedgehogs Carry Diseases?
The hedgehog is actually less of a threat than some other animals, it does not appear to carry rabies for example, unlike the fox. However, they can get Ringworm, as can pets and this can be passed on to humans but it is easily treated. Anyway, hedgehogs seem to have a specific type of Ringworm, common only to them.
It is always wise to thoroughly wash your hands after handling any animals to reduce the risk of cross infection. On the whole, hedgehogs do not seem to be a serious cause for concern and come a long way behind rats and mice etc.
6, Always Pick Up Any Hedgehog Seen Out During The Day.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals and will often fight other males, especially around spring and summer when they are searching out mates. You may be lucky enough to hear them grunting and snorting in the garden at night, they will charge at each other and try to push each other over, biting and nipping each other.
Once a male hedgehog has mated he goes on his way, leaving the female with all the responsibility of bringing up the family. Fortunately for the mother hedgehog, the hoglets are born without any prickles, which erupt into soft white spines within a few hours changing to brown after a couple of weeks. When they are around four weeks old they start to accompany mum on her nightly forage trips for food and usually another week will see them completely independent, mum has nothing more to do with them and they wander off on their own.
If you see tiny youngsters out on their own in daytime, I generally advise picking them up and seeking my advice on what to do next. Although they are quite independent, they can easily get into trouble if food supplies are not good in that particular area. I usually keep them with me, feeding them up, until they are a bit bigger and then release them, preferably, near where they were found, providing it is a "safe" environment, not near a road or other obvious hazards.
One golden rule is: ALWAYS PICK UP ANY HEDGEHOG SEEN OUT DURING THE DAY no matter whether it is big or small, it will probably be in trouble! A days pampering with a good feed of tinned cat food and plenty of water will do no harm anyway * and you will soon be able to establish if it is healthy or not. If everything looks fine, then it may have been out and about after being disturbed from its day time resting place and it can be returned to the area where discovered, first ensuring there are no hazards nearby.
I am always pleased to advise about the best place to release a hedgehog. The woods often seem to be the first place people think of as an ideal place for a release, without realising this is also the home for one of their biggest enemies, the badger, a protected species that enjoys many a good meal of succulent hedgehog.
From experience I have discovered some of the best release areas are: gardens, large parks, edges of golf courses, cemeteries, etc.
Please e-mail me for a fact sheet on this subject. Info@hedgehogs.org.uk
* Never give a hedgehog bread and cows milk, it cannot digest it and will get very ill. Eventually the subsequent dehydration will probably result in its death.
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