Hedgehog influx puts pressure on foster carer

Tawny owl chick.
Tawny owl chick.

A WILDLIFE charity has appealed for help after being inundated with young hedgehogs – taking in around sixty of the prickly patients over the festive season.

Normally a quiet time of year for Blyth Wildlife Rescue, the figure is double that of what its founder John Anderson would have expected – something he puts down to the changeable weather.

And stretching the charity’s capacity to breaking point has meant that John and the 30 foster carers who look after the animals in their own homes have been unable to carry out their normal fundraising activities to raise the many thousands of pounds needed each year.

“We’ve been so busy,” John said. “The people who would normally be out there fundraising, they are the same people caring for these animals.

“We’ve been bogged down with so many patients, we’ve not had time to organise any fundraising, so the funding has really dried up when we need it the most.

“We’ve got more patients than we’ve dealt with before.”

In addition to the record number of hedgehogs, a large number of birds including tawny owls, fantail doves, seagulls, wood pigeons and even exotic animals have been rescued by the team.

“I’m the first person to admit them,” said John, who founded the rescue in 2006. “Members of the public, vets’ or other organisations, contact us.

“Me and my mother are always on call, handling enquiries and organising rescues, taking them through a process of triage and intensive care before moving them on to foster homes, following treatment.

“We get ten calls a day, if not more, during the summer months.

“This time of year we get maybe one call a day, but it’s been a constant stream.

“Hedgehogs normally hibernate, but we’ve had lots of rain that’s washed them out, and we have had a cold spell followed by warmer weather and it’s caught them out.

“We’ve had a long summer and a lot of the adults have had second litters, so a month later all these babies are born and when it gets cold we have all these juveniles.

“They are too small to cope and there is no food around.

“Sadly, a lot of the time they don’t come to us until they are at the end of the line.

“If someone has a cat or a dog they will notice behavioural differences, but with wildlife, they carry on and try and survive as long as possible, and eventually they will crash out, and that’s when people spot them.

“When they come to us, they are underweight, and have parasites like worms as well as being cold and dehydrated. Sadly, not all of them make it.”

John and his fellow volunteers are also looking for hedgehog friendly gardens, to release the rescued hedgehogs back into the wild, from March onwards.

To contact John to have a garden hedgehog assessed or to make a donation, call 07910 643122.

There is also a 2013 calendar for sale for £6 on the charity’s website, www.b-w-r.org.uk