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Hedgehogs injured by garden strimmers and toxic chemicals treated at Shepreth

Three hedgehogs that have been injured by garden strimmers are being treated in the dedicated ‘hogspital’ at Shepreth Wildlife Park.

It has prompted a warning to gardeners to be aware that their prickly friends may be resting in long grass. The hospital has also witnessed hedgehogs being poisoned by toxic chemicals such as pesticides and weedkillers used by gardeners.

Brockley, from Barton, had burns - possibly from lying in a road where petrol was spilt
Brockley, from Barton, had burns - possibly from lying in a road where petrol was spilt

Kirstie Coddington, manager of the hedgehog hospital at Shepreth, told the Cambridge Independent: “We have three hedgehogs in the hospital with strimmer injuries that are currently with us. We have one called Reginald who only has a superficial wound and was only clipped by a strimmer, but Minnie had been completely mauled. Her injuries had to be stapled together. Thankfully she is making a full recovery.”

The hospital recommends buying strimmer guards but also checking undergrowth. Meanwhile, steering clear of chemicals will help your garden wildlife.

“Some hedgehogs come in with chemical burns on their chest and belly because weedkillers and pesticides are so toxic. Sadly, one we saw recently passed away the first night we got him. Currently we are looking after Dorothy, who is being treated with antibiotics and pain relief because, as you can imagine, it’s quite painful,” said Kirstie.

Householders are also encouraged to look out for baby hogs, leaving the nest in search of food and water during the hot summer.

“A lot of babies at this time of the year do come out of the nest during the day and we advise that if you see them on their own without their mum that they do need help,” said Kirstie. “A big hedgehog walking around with purpose that looks like it’s looking for food and nest material tends to be a mum. But if babies are on their own they tend to be confused and they can quickly get dehydrated or attacked by flies and that’s a concern.”

The dry weather is especially dangerous for hedgehogs as finding available water and food – like slugs – can be difficult on dry ground.

Vinnie, from St Ives, was injured by a strimmer
Vinnie, from St Ives, was injured by a strimmer

Kirstie says: “We get so many dehydrated hedgehogs, both babies and adults. So in the summer months, we actually have to stop releasing them back into the wild if there has been no significant rain. That’s why we recommend supplementary feeding for hedgehogs in gardens. We advise putting dishes of water out and kitten biscuits, which you can buy from the supermarket. But avoid mealworms, seeds and nuts, as they are really not good for hedgehogs.”

You can also help a hog by ensuring there is a ‘hedgehog highway’ in your street. This means cutting gaps in fences so they can travel from garden to garden.

Hedgehogs have been in rapid decline and it is thought there are only about one million left in the country for a range of reasons including loss of habitat and habitat segregation, road deaths and lack of food.

One million people have now signed a national petition, started in 2018, calling for hedgehog highways to become a legal requirement in new-build developments. In 2019, they became recommended under the the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Some developers, including Bovis and Taylor Wimpey, already install them.

You can report sightings of hedgehogs, and see reports from others, at https://bighedgehogmap.org/.

For more on the hedgehog hospital, visit swccharity.org/hedgehog-hospital/about/.

For more on hedgehog highways and the petition, visit hedgehogstreet.org.

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