By DAN HALL
“WERE there only four? Normally, they have more than that.”
That was the last thing Rebecca Bradley wanted to hear on arrival at Withington Hedgehog Hospital, in Manchester. The reason is more sinister than you might think: if hedgehogs don’t get enough food and water and are far from their natural habitat, a mother might start to cannibalise her babies.
“I cannot stress how much I did not want to see that at 8am on a Sunday morning,” Rebecca tells me.
It was only 12 hours earlier that a neighbour had alerted her to the fact that there were likely to be hedgehogs in her garden. The previous night, the neighbour had seen Rebecca’s night-light come on and something scuttling across the garden.
“I had no idea about hedgehogs,” says Rebecca. “I live in a suburb of Manchester and it’s quite far from their natural habitat, so I’ve no idea how they got there. My garden table had a cover over it in case of the rain and I realised, when I tried to lift it off, that’s where they must have been.
“I left some dog food, because apparently they like that, and some water. I went back early the next morning and there was definitely something there. The food had gone, and I was able to move the cover.”
There was indeed a hedgehog – a gigantic mother with four babies. Unsure of what to do, Rebecca checked the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which had several handy tips on what to do if you find one of these cute critters in your garden.
“From that point, it felt like a race against time. I realised getting the hedgehogs into a box, sealing the box, and getting them into the car was too much of a job for one person, so I called my parents, and they came to help.”
Armed only with ski gloves, rags, and a couple of shoeboxes, Rebecca set about getting the hedgehogs to safety while awaiting her parents’ arrival. With a pair of decades-old ski gloves, she avoided the parasites and prickles that covered the little spiny mammals.
“The hedgehogs felt really weird. They’re solid but they’re wriggling like jelly. It’s how I imagine an organ would feel,” said Rebecca.
But getting the family of hogs into the boxes and sealing was only half the battle.
Though the babies didn’t mind being all wrapped up and cosy in their box in the back of the car, the mother didn’t take so kindly to being moved from her new home.
“My dad is a 72-year-old man who was in the army; not much frightens him. However, this hedgehog was shrieking and squealing as he’s holding the box and it’s trying to jump out,” explains Rebecca. “My dad’s screaming at me to drive faster. Thankfully, I don’t live too far away, and we were able to safely drop them off at the Hedgehog Hospital.”
Though Rebecca looks back on this calamitous escapade and laughs, she says that she wouldn’t have done anything differently. “I’m glad I phoned the Hedgehog Hospital. My biggest worry was the babies, who were more at risk because they couldn’t start fending for themselves. The mother could have died too!”
If you find a hedgehog in or around your student home, make sure to get some expert help before attempting to move it. And if you must, get a pair of thick gloves!