Hedgehogs at Fountains Abbey

Throughout 2017, up to 18 hedgehogs were found around the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal estate by visitors and volunteers and taken to HAPPY (Hedgehog Appreciation of Prickly Pals Yorkshire) for care.

Hedgehog numbers are in huge decline, dropping from a population of 25 million to 1 million over the past 50 years. It’s believed that they may not be around at all in another 5-10 years’ time if they’re not looked after.

So it was cause for great excitment here when one year down the line in May 2018 six of them were ready to be released back into their natural habitat around the grounds at Fountains Abbey. It's perfect for them with plenty of cover and a lot of food for them to tuck into.

Mini the hedgehog was found out in the daylight in summer 2017
Mini the hedgehog was found out in the daylight in summer 2017
Mini the hedgehog was found out in the daylight in summer 2017

Above you can see Mini, one of the first hedgehogs to be rescued from the estate last year. Weighing in at 65g she was so small she could fit in the palm of a hand. It was a delight to see her released back into the grounds at a very healthy 781g. 

But why did they need to be rescued in the first place?

All of these hedgehogs were found out in the daylight, which immediately set alarm bells ringing with the staff on the estate. HAPPY, founded by Jacqui and Peter Morrell, and supported by ex-veterinary nurse Sharon Clayton, explain that although it looks like the hedgehog is just enjoying a bit of sun, it usually means they have an underlying health condition. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and so it's not their usual behaviour to be out in daylight.

There is one exception to the rule, which is when a hedgehog 'moves with purpose'. Peter points out that you may in fact see a hedgehog out and about in the daylight but this is usually a mother, moving or caring for their young but they will be moving around so intently that it is a stark difference to one that's truly ill.

Those that are ill will be slow, lethargic and likely to be suffering with parasites and fleas. It’s a common misnomer that hedgehogs have fleas. If you find one that is covered in fleas or ticks this is a sure sign that they’re ill and you need to get help for them quickly.

What do you do if you find one out in the daylight?

If you find one on your visit, take note of where you found it and let the nearest member of staff or a volunteer know. They will radio for help. If you're out and about place it gently in cardboard box with a towel in and put it in a dark corner until you can take it to the vet or your local hedgehog rescue.

Call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for rescue on 01584 890801.

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