Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tales from the Riverbank (well, the hedge)

Well, we've certainly got something to write up as the "What I did this summer" story when we get back to Chicago.

Last week we arrived at my mother's house, which is semi-rural, and certainly a world away from downtown Chicago where we live. The kids spend a huge amount of time outdoors, occasionally asking why we don't have such a large back garden. When i tell them that it would mean moving to the suburbs, they quickly change their minds, with no prompting from me. City kids through and through.

Anyway, had we been less "city-ish" we would have known that when you see a rather small hedgehog wandering round the lawn in the middle of the day, there's probably something wrong. But no, we took photos with our heads in one corner of the frame - as proof that we had seen nature up close and lived to tell the tale. The next day however, when the poor mite appeared not to be able to move very quickly, I suspected that all was not as it should be and jumped on the Internet.

A few phone calls later, courtesy of the British Hedgehog Association (or something), I had had a thirty minute chat with a lovely lady called Moira, who has taken in about 1500 hedgehogs in her time. Unfortunately, she's not taking any more in as it costs her too much and she's now on a pension. However, I did learn that:

- hedgehogs have hearing that is about 800 times more sensitive than ours
- my hedgehog was a "spring juvenile" and probably had lost its mother
- you can give them dog or cat food
- as long as it doesn't contain fish as that gives them diarrhea
- they are extremely susceptible to hypothermia

so-.... we had to get it indoors and in the warmth as quickly as possible. And that's when the fun started. Number one was finding gardening gloves thick enough to withstand the potential prickle damage, and ones that we could throw out later (hedgehogs are often flea-ridden). Then we had to come up with dog food (kindly neighbour), and find a bowl small enough that the hedgehog (now named Snuffles) could reach into.

The biggest challenge was keeping it warm, and before we finally found the hundred year old hot water bottle, there was a mad search for an empty Coke bottle. The challenge here is to keep the bottle from cooling down too much as that can apparently do more damage than good. Anyway, as I said, we managed to unearth the hot water bottle and little Snuffles cuddled up to it almost immediately. I felt sorry for it every time I had to lift it up to refill the water bottle, but hey - better than the alternative.

Cutting a long story short, we managed to keep the mite alive until Monday morning where we found a nice man called Sid, who runs a wildlife sanctuary. Fortunately, after a brief inspection, he pronounced it just hungry. No fleas, maggots, injury or hypothermia. I felt a bit foolish but he made me feel like a hero by saying that it wouldn't have survived had I left it outside, and it didn't really know how to eat properly so the pet food didn't really help.

And the best part - that despite some friends and relatives saying "It's only a hedgehog" and making half-joking (I think) offers to put it out of its misery, I did what I and the kids knew was the right thing to do and it all had a happy ending.

(I would post photos, but they're stuck in my I-phone and if you read my previous post, I'm not switching the e-mail option on again.)



  1. oh oh oh i had pushed down a memory of finding three baby hedgehogs once, the stupid woman next door decided to cut her grass after five years and they lost thier mum...they are very delicate wee things, poor babies. well done for saving it, they are unspeakably cute...

  2. I'm a big fan of the hedgepig, and glad you saved it. They love slugs and snails, and are the gardener's friend.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. You did such a nice job I could just about see it.

    I've only seen a dead hedgehog on the side of the road, but I feel better prepared now to help save one should one ever wander into our garden. I love to see a picture of the one you saved.

  4. That reminds me, does anybody remember hedgehog flavour crisps in the 80s? Really good, I have to say!

  5. We found a hedgehog in our garden a few weeks back and the girls were completely in love with it. After about 30 min of just watching it curled up in a ball I made them come inside, and 15 min after that I went outside to look at it and it was gone! Fast little thing apparently!

    Good for you and getting the little guy to a professional!

  6. I remember rescuing a hedgehog in similar circumstances when I was a kid. Unfortunately it died within hours, whereupon my sister and I conducted a lengthy funeral service, with hymns and readings, and buried it in the back garden. I'm glad yours made it.

    (And, to Brit out of Water, I remember hedgehog crisps too!)

  7. St Francis of Assisi- that's who you are

  8. That's the cutest thing - a hedgehog cuddled up to a hot water bottle.

  9. Well done you!
    Years ago I found one in similar ditress and it died after a couple of days. I was sad that Spikey had died but my husband picked it up with a shovel and tossed it in the outside bin with a "that's taken care of that" manly pose. I still remind him of it.

  10. Great story and what an experience for your city kids - has to be good!
    glad it lived to move on to great things, whatever those are for a hedgehog.

  11. Re BOOW's comment - Yeeesss I do remember Hedgehog flavour crisps! Used to have them in my school packed lunch. Seems awfully cruel now I think of them. Hope no hedgies were harmed in the making...

  12. I rescued a baby bird earlier in the summer, and it made me feel terribly fulfilled, in a maternal kind of way. Illogical, I know, since two others from the same nest didn't make it, but I'm very soft in the middle.


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