Helping hedgehogs

Hedgehog on grass
“…I take two sugars in my latte.” The Auckland guest settles in.
Photos: Claudia Aalderink

Would you, could you, look after my hedgehog, Lisa from Auckland asked.

She was a member of Hedgehog Rescue NZ, and had just given refuge to a little waif who had been found wandering the streets of Auckland in a sorry state.

Lisa was off to Fiji for a wedding, and was struggling to find someone who was not squeamish sheltering a hedgehog for a week.

“You can absolutely say no…”

We said yes before we’d read the rest of the message. Hedgehogs are part of the landscape around these parts, and last summer we’d been delighted by the punctuality of one who strolled past our kitchen window every evening around sundown, always following the same route.

Mr Hog arrived a few days later, with his own plastic box, feeding bowls, heating mat, straw, food and a bottle of wine.

“Not for hedgehogs,” we told him, as we set him up in the office and opened the bottle to toast his arrival.

Our little friend was given water, a dollop of dog food and his heating pad warmed to the precise temperature (toasty) in the microwave.

But he didn’t thrive. In fact, after a few days, he was looking not too flash and was right off his food. If we couldn’t get something in to him, he might soon be an ex-hedgehog.

We made an emergency run in to the supermarket and returned with a can of Chef Jellymeat, classic.  In the purple tin.  This is what Lisa had been feeding the little guy.

We plopped it in his bowl and he charged out from his bed of straw in the corner and chomped down on the food with relish. Our fussy Aucklander clearly had standards and four friends in Horsham Downs were the lucky recipients of one large can of dog food.

Four cats and one lab eating dinner
Tucking in in Horsham Downs

Thereafter he was on the road to full recovery – he’d lick the bowl clean; I even had him feeding from a spoon that I held up to his wiffly nose. Hedgehog tongues are cool.

Taking a photo of a hedgehog
Claudia Aalderink shoots her hedgehog… (this photo taken by Annette Taylor!)

Hedgehogs are cool. Even if they’re introduced to this country and have a tendency to eat native birds (chicks and their eggs) there is something gentle and endearing about them,  as we all know from Beatrix Potter.

Our little hog was now a doddle to look after.  He slept, ate, slept again, licked his food up and I’d take him on little walks around the front lawn.

Then, one morning, he escaped from his little box. We found him curled up under the bookshelf after a worried search. We popped him back and noticed little paw prints on the side of his home – this fellow wanted Out.

Lisa was still in Fiji but was happy for us to release him to the charms of rural living. It rained for a few days so we kept him safe and sound and fattened him up on cat food until the sun shone.
On the morning of release local vet Sally Moore dropped by for a cuppa so we were able to report to Lisa that Mr Hog was released under veterinary supervision.

He was last seen heading towards Puketaha, possibly looking for a lady hog to settle down with.

cute hedgehog illustration

Sally has treated a few hedgehogs over the years and says keep them clean, warm and well-fed.
Don’t feed them milk – it’s bad for them.
Do make sure they have plenty of fresh water.
They often present with mange, which can be treated with Advocate (available from vet clinics.) Keep an eye out for flies – our friend was lucky and this was not a problem.  If they do get fly-blown, remove maggots with tweezers or get a vet to do this.

Hedgehog Rescue NZ is now looking for foster people in Hamilton – so if you would like to get involved, click here.

For more information on hedgehogs and top tips on looking after them, click here.

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