Found a Hedgehog – What now?
A guide for animal friends: what to do if you have just found a hedgehog
OBSERVE first and then check for the following:
- Is the hedgehog injured?
Call your closest wild animal centre or vet for professional advice for next steps.
- Is the hedgehog weak, or walking around during the day time?
If it is weak but not injured, you can help by feeding it.
- Is the hedgehog in harm's way?
If you believe the hedgehog is in danger of being stepped on, or hit by a car, it's best to gently pick it up and move it to a safer area.
- Is it winter?
If so, it likely needs help, as hedgehogs hibernate. Call your closest wild animal sanctuary or vet for advice and what to do next.
- Is it a very young hedgehog?
If so, do not immediately remove it from it's environment. Learn more about young hedgehogs first.
Learn more about how to help hedgehogs:
Weak, injured, and young hedgehogs
Usually, hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. But weak, injured, sick or parentless hedgehogs sometimes show themselves during the day and might need support to survive. There are very few young hedgehogs that are really abandoned. Mother animals sometimes leave their litter alone for several hours while they go off in search of food. An apparently abandoned young animal should always be closely observed before being taken into care.
Weak animals should not be removed from their natural environment, unless they are young, very small or obviously sick. Immediate aid is possible, for example, by feeding the hedgehog. Make a feeding spot in a protected area of your garden, away from other animals like cats.
What to feed a hedgehog:
- High protein foods – a mixture of high-quality wet cat food (at least 60% meat content, without sauce, jelly or similar) and cooked, minced meat (chicken, turkey, ground beef)
- Egg – eggs are especially popular with hedgehogs as scrambled eggs: fry the scrambled egg in a pan without seasoning, but with a little vegetable oil – until it is set
- Always provide a shallow dish of water
What NOT to feed a hedgehog:
- Under no circumstances should a hedgehog be fed fruit or milk. This can cause severe digestive problems and may even lead to death.
- Commerical dry hedgehog food is not reccommended, or should not be the main food you give. Hedgehogs' natural diets consist of less carbohydrates, and higher protein foods are better for weak hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs and hibernation
In autumn, food for hedgehogs becomes scarcer, and hibernation lies ahead. If you want to help hedgehogs survive the cold season, it is vital to be well informed, because not every hedgehog needs our support and sometimes it can do more harm than good.
Hedgehogs are protected in all European countries and may not be captured or removed from their environment. Sick, injured or orphaned animals are exceptions. A hedgehog wandering aimlessly in the day time is always an alarm signal. Should you find such an animal, contact a vet with wildlife expertise in order to get specialist advice and discuss what to do next.
From mid-November to March, hedgehogs go into hibernation. They reduce their body functions to a minimum. With the energy reserves they have piled up by eating, they can survive for up to half a year without food. Hedgehogs that weigh half a kilogram or more before hibernation have a very good chance of survival.
How to protect hedgehogs in your garden
Not only hedgehogs, but other wild animals as well are happy when part of your garden is left uncleared, and the compost heap upturned between October and March. Heaps of twigs and leaves, as well as hedges and shrubs provide refuge and protection from the wind and weather.
Leaf vacuums and blowers, lawnmowers and other devices should be used with care – they can lethally injure small mammals and birds. Burning leaves and compost is not recommended, and before having a bonfire in your garden you should always check with care in case there are hedgehogs or other small animals around.
Besides gardening work, the architecture of house and garden is full of hidden dangers for hedgehogs. A few helpful interventions can be very effective: cellar windows and ventilation shafts should be protected by bars or mesh, steps can be made more easily climbable for hedgehogs by using bricks to build intermediate steps. A wooden board in the pond will guarantee that a hedgehog can safely get out of the water.