Could you care for our prickly friends?

Portishead’s very own ‘Hedgehog Lady’ Beryl Casey is keen to bring another fan of the spiny mammals on board after having one of her busiest years to date tending to an influx of prickly visitors. “By the end of August, I’d had around 250 hogs brought to me, many of which were babies,” she said. 

Hedgehog populations are falling dramatically, with one report indicating that in the last 18 years, urban and rural hedgehog numbers have dropped by 30% and 50% respectively. Beryl, who nurses injured and displaced hedgehogs at her home, believes several factors have contributed to both their decline and the high number arriving at her door. “Hedgehogs have lost a great deal of their natural habitat due to the ongoing development and construction work in and around our towns, which has led to them venturing farther afield in their search for food,” she said. “On top of this, the recent heavy rains washed several out of their nests. A number of the babies, in particular, were then unable to find their way back.”

Aside from new building work, people’s preferences for concreting over their front gardens and heightening security with fences rather than hedges is also problematic for hedgehogs, restricting their mobility and making their hunt for food more challenging. In fact, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species are campaigning for ‘hedgehog highways’ in new builds that would take the form of a 13cm square hole in fences to help hedgehogs move freely.

Beryl, who works closely with local vets, is currently caring for over 20 hedgehogs, some of which are now hibernating. Any that are healthy and strong enough will be released close to where they were found in April. Routinely overwhelmed, she is keen to enlist the help of a fellow hedgehog lover who has room to take in injured or rescue hedgehogs at their home. Training and equipment will be provided. Anyone interested in finding out more about the volunteering role can contact her at b.casey1@sky.com or on 01275 848894.

If you find a hedgehog…

Give it meat-based cat food and water, but no bread or milk.

Don’t touch young hedgehogs with your bare hands as the mother is then likely to reject any young when she returns to the nest.

If the hedgehog is injured or looks unwell, place it in a high-sided box with shredded newspaper and keep it quiet, warm and dry before contacting a vet or Beryl.