Tips and information for zoo lovers and animal lovers

Hanover. Autumn is the time of the hedgehog. In August and September, it is time for prickly animals to swarm, so young animals are born. But the drought of the past summer months has hit hedgehogs hard and is also having an effect on autumn, says Barbel Rogochek, head of the Nabu Species Conservation Center in Liverde (Gifhorn District).

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Hedgehogs feed mostly on insects, they are called bugs. But earthworms, snails and ground beetles, which are on the list of hedgehogs, are in short supply in nature after a severe drought. “We’ve lost 75 percent of the insects, it’s scary,” Rogoszek says.

What are many hedgehogs currently suffering from?

The lack of insects not only reduces the number of songbirds: “We also have more hedgehogs in the reserves that are not in good shape,” says the head of the Naboo Species Conservation Center. Due to drought, thorny garden dwellers are forced to cover increasing distances to access their resources such as food sources and shelters. As a result, they also have to cross streets frequently. This increases the risk of falling under the wheels. Especially now that mother hedgehogs are out with their young, drivers must drive with greater caution.

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The blackbird refreshes itself in the water of the garden pond. Flat banks and small stones make it easy for birds, hedgehogs, and insects to drink.

How many hedgehogs are in the sanctuary?

There are currently more than 20 hedgehogs at the Laverde Species Conservation Center and are looked after by 13 independent workers, including apprentice breeders, interns, federal volunteers, and Volunteer Environmental Year alumni. The number of hedgehogs is constantly fluctuating, and some animals have already been released back into the wild. Last year, between August and December, Rogochek and her colleagues nursed 444 needy hedgehogs. She hopes there won’t be too many again this year.

A small hedgehog drinks from a bottle at the Nabu Species Conservation Center in Leverde (Lower Saxony).  Hedgehogs are found as a result of dog bites, removal of wood piles, or other habitat changes.

A small hedgehog drinks from a bottle at the Nabu Species Conservation Center in Leverde (Lower Saxony). Hedgehogs are found as a result of dog bites, removal of wood piles, or other habitat changes.

Robotic lawn mower: What are the biggest dangers to a hedgehog?

The problem: “Gardens are becoming increasingly hostile to hedgehogs,” says the hedgehog expert. Landlords were laying lawns and using robotic lawnmowers, especially at night – exactly when the nocturnal animals were looking for food. In the best case, automatic lawn mowers will only have a frightening effect, and in the worst case, the animals will be hit and injured. The smaller the hedgehog, the more dangerous it is. “It’s really horrible and insects die with it,” Rogochek says.

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Karolin Schütte knows that hedgehogs are at high risk from other garden tools such as lawnmowers and sickles. The veterinarian at the Hedgehog Center Lower Saxony in Laatzen warns: “Usually, hedgehogs have only one nest for breeding, disturbance or even destruction of the nest can lead to the death of young animals and is prohibited by section 44 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act.”

How do you help thirsty hedgehogs?

It is important to place flat bowls of water with small stones on which the animals can stand. “Now the hot stage is behind us, but hedgehogs, insects, and birds still need clean water sources,” Rogochek says.

Not only do birds drink from these bowls of water, hedgehogs now also need clean sources of drinking water.

Not only do birds drink from these bowls of water, hedgehogs now also need clean sources of drinking water.

Because hedgehogs have very good noses and ears, but their eyesight is very bad. So it happens that even though they smell the water, they can still fall into the pool. Therefore, animal rights activists recommend securing or covering the pond so that animals do not drown in it. The garden pond should also have nice banks. Basement stairs should be partitioned with bricks or secured with a long board. In addition, poles in front of basement windows should be covered and plant nets removed because hedgehogs can get stuck in them and nets can grow in them.

This should be taken into account when feeding hedgehogs

Regarding supplemental garden feeding, there are different opinions, says veterinarian Carolyn Schutt. “Given the dehydration and resulting food shortages, supplemental feeding certainly does no harm.” However, feeding plants can attract many hedgehogs and also be a site for transmission of pathogens. Therefore, as with water points, it is especially important to pay attention to hygiene.

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In addition, wet cat food is only an alternative food, and at best, hedgehogs outside will only accept this food in addition to their natural food. So it is best to design your garden naturally so that the hedgehog has a lot of insects available as natural food.

Dog owners should leash their pets in the garden in the fall. In order for hedgehogs to eat safely, owners of dogs and cats should put a wooden crate or an old plastic box with a hole that only hedgehogs can fit in, and weigh the box from above.

Contrary to what is often assumed, hedgehogs do not tolerate milk. They get diarrhea from it. The hedgehog is under protection and cannot simply be taken to the forest. It has its home in villages and on the outskirts of the city and in the orchards of meadows. Because hedgehogs need small structures, shrubs and a living forest floor, which is rare in pine monocultures.

A hedgehog prepares for hibernation at the hedgehog center in Lower Saxony in Laatzen.

A hedgehog prepares for hibernation at the hedgehog center in Lower Saxony in Laatzen.

How do I get to know the young hedgehogs?

Unfortunately, distinguishing between small and large hedgehogs isn’t always easy, Schott says. In fact, the only way to express it is by size. Old hedgehogs are about the size of a honey melon and usually weigh over a kilogram when well fed. The size of hedgehogs varies with age.

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The little hedgehog is still eyes closed and should not be found outside the nest.

The little hedgehog is still eyes closed and should not be found outside the nest.

Babies under two weeks of age are easier to identify because their eyes are still closed. If you find such a baby outside the nest without a mother animal, he always needs help. “Baby hedgehogs sing like birds,” Rogochek says. Hatching should be monitored for two to three hours to see if the mother will return. If not, the wildlife station should be contacted.

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Since many small animals are being born at the moment, it is only natural that you will encounter small hedgehogs. You don’t have to bring them all to the basement for the winter at once – unless they are infected. Escape artists are under protection and need a lot of space. The sleeping parasites of the hedgehog grow in warm cellars. Hedgehogs have until January to lay down a layer of fat. In general, healthy hedgehogs are independent of 300 grams.

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weight problem

Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell age from weight, as a 500-gram hedgehog could be an older, well-fed young animal or a very strong adult animal that definitely needs help, Schutt says. So it is better to assess the shape of the body and see if the hedgehog has collapsed in the wings or is starving in the neck.

Checklist: This is what a healthy hedgehog looks like:

  • The body is pear-shaped (narrow in the front, wide in the back)
  • Clear and black button-shaped eyes
  • Wet nose (no cloudy discharge)
  • It turns or escapes when touched
  • No fly eggs and/or larvae infestation, and no infestation

With Gloves: What Should You Consider When Weighing Your Hedgehog?

According to Schutt, a hedgehog doesn’t necessarily have to be weighed immediately upon finding it. First of all, you should look at the above points in the checklist and, in the case of a healthy hedgehog, leave the animal alone and do not stress it unnecessarily by its weight. However, when in doubt, weighing in with a telephone consultation can help.

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In general, hedgehogs should always be weighed once a decision has been made that they need to be looked after, Schott says. Weight is an important point in further care to monitor development. Rogochek says gloves should be worn when weighing hedgehogs. This not only protects you from pricking, but also does not transmit human odor to small animals.

The hedgehog is weighed in the center of the hedgehog.

The hedgehog is weighed in the center of the hedgehog.

It happens that night hedgehogs roam the garden during the day because they either do not find enough food or because the gardens are too tidy. Leaves should be left lying flat, at least in an untidy corner, says the head of the Species Conservation Center. Because it provides cover and food and acts as a hibernation option. The trimmings can also be placed on the stack of papers.

You can carefully identify two or three spines with nail polish to see if a wayward hedgehog is really the same animal, Rogochek says. “It doesn’t hurt him,” says the head of the Nabu Center for Species Conservation. Anyone who owns a wildlife camera can use this as well.

Hedgehogs need piles of leaves to find food and cover.

Hedgehogs need piles of leaves to find food and cover.

What should I definitely not do in the garden?

Things to Avoid in the Garden: Stay away from pesticides and insecticides. Hedgehogs are poisoned not only by eating the poison itself, but also by eating a slug poisoned with slug pellets. It is better not to use ultrasonic alarms against mice, as they also scare away hedgehogs. Instead of using loud leaf blowers, it is better to use a rake or a broom. Fences are also dangerous for hedgehogs. While the little ones are acclimatising through the narrow bars, mothers often get stuck. So it’s important for gardens to remain porous, Rogochek says.

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Vet Caroline Schutt of the Hedgehog Center with one of the hedgehogs.

Vet Caroline Schutt of the Hedgehog Center with one of the hedgehogs.

How do I recognize an infected hedgehog?

You can tell that a hedgehog needs help by the fact that it is pulling its leg, is bleeding, or has an open injury from robotic lawnmowers or mousetraps. Packets of flies eggs (yellowish white pearls) should be collected immediately and taken to the vet or hedgehog sanctuary before the worms eat the inside of the hedgehog. “Hedgehogs suffer for a very long time and often survive very serious injuries,” says the head of the Center for Species Conservation.

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