I was getting concerned for our garden’s hedgehog population – we hadn’t seen one for a while, and the mealworms I had left out went uneaten for a few days (that never happens if hedgehogs are about!). But I wasn’t expecting my next sighting of a hedgehog to be in broad daylight.
Usually if a hedgehog’s out during the day, that’s a bad sign. The last time we found one in our garden in daylight, it was obviously poorly – sluggish (which is strange, given our hedgehogs never seem to eat any of the thriving slug population in our garden) and disorientated. We ended up taking him to the local wildlife hospital, Wildlife Aid, where he stayed for a few months, being treated for a respiratory infection, dehydration and underweight. (It ended happily, with us being able to release him back into the garden, and him scurrying off, a picture of hoggy health and haste.)
But this time was different. The hedgehog was active and purposeful. I wanted to know more – should I be worried, or was it natural behaviour? A look at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website soon settled that. While hedgehogs are nocturnal, there are a couple of reasons that a health hedgehog might be out and about in daytime:
- it might be a new mum, grabbing a quick bite to eat while the babies are asleep
- or it could be an expectant mum gathering nesting materials ready to give birth
It being daylight, I got a good view of the hedgehog and what it was up to. It was collecting mouthfuls of bedding material from our ‘mini meadow’, and carrying them into our hedgehog box. Which hopefully means that ‘it’ was a ‘she’, about to give birth, and planning to do so in our hedgehog box!
According to hedgehog expert Pat Morris, young hedgehogs usually venture out of the nest for the first time 3-4 weeks after their born, so we’ve got a bit of wait before we find out how it’s all gone. But we’ve seen mum (we’ve named her Florence) a few times in the evening, tucking into the cat food and mealworms we leave out for her.
I’ve never been sure how much our hedgehog box gets used. Hedgehogs are rather nomadic, and will use several nests in a single week, so I wouldn’t expect a particular hedgehog to move in and stick his nameplate on the door (entrance tunnel). We know that it has been used from time to time, but I’ve always had a suspicion that the hedgehogs prefer our compost heap to the box (that’s where the fencers found one hibernating when they were fixing our fence, so they put it safely in the box). So it’s really good to know that Florence has chosen to bring up her new family there.
I’m dying to know how things are getting on in there, but obviously I have to be careful not to disturb the young family (if there is one now). Hedgehog mums have been known to eat their babies if they’re disturbed soon after birth. Or it could just drive her to find a new nest. I tried setting the trail cam to keep an eye of the entrance of the box, to keep track of when Florence comes and goes. But the box is in the meadow, so all I got was footage of the plants rustling, and the odd glimpse of prickles. So I’m going to have to be patient. Not my strong point.
Anyway, Dr C and I are delighted to know that the hedgehog box we built is helping a new hedgehog family – hedgehogs need all the help they can get these days. It was well worth the effort of building it!