We’ve always been lucky enough to have hedgehogs in the garden. The garden is quite extensive – one and a half acres – and includes a wooded banking of mainly larch, ash, wild cherry and rowan trees. It also abuts farmland so it is hardly surprising we have hedgehogs. What I didn’t realise was how many we had until my daughters bought me a trail camera for my birthday earlier in the year.
I’ve used the camera almost every night since May, sometimes taking photos but mostly taking short film clips. I’ve had 5 different cats, red squirrels, mice, a frog, early birds and of course hedgehogs. The camera has been sited at different parts of the garden, especially on a bridge over the burn. This position is particularly good since it gives a view of the underside of the hedgehogs and I can see what sex they are. I leave a wee drop peanuts in strategic positions so that I’m more likely to encounter the prickly fellows. I’d like to leave dog or cat food but I don’t want to be encouraging the visiting cats.
In the late spring and summertime there were at least a male and female, and I watched part of their courting ritual in some of the film clips. Slightly later in the summer I could identify two different females since one had some sort of mark on its spines as if it had brushed up against paint. This was temporary and I could see it fading and eventually disappearing over the course of a couple of weeks.
A second male appeared, and it was clearly lower in the pecking order to the other male as twice I saw it being butted and rolled over by the bigger male. There was then a new kid on the block: a young hedgehog about half the size of an adult. It sometimes came out just before dark and frequently met my wee dog, not even rolling into a ball when approached. At some stage it must have hurt a front paw and for or a week or so it had a slight limp. Thankfully it recovered from that.
On 12th October one of the film clips showed a very small hedgehog following an adult, I presumed to be its mum. This youngster appeared most nights after that, and after I put a short film clip of it on Twitter I was advised by a lady called Jane from a small hedgehog rescue centre in Wales that the hedgehog looked about 300g, which was most likely too light to survive the winter. Jane communicated with me and passed on some really helpful advice.
On Sunday 18 October I went out to the garden with a torch about 9.00 pm and was lucky enough to find this wee hedgehog. I caught it and put it in a garden tub for the night with some straw, some wet dog food and some water. I was still using the trailcam and noticed in the morning that there was a second tiny hedgehog. This meant another torchlight visit and I was lucky enough to encounter the hedgehog quite quickly.
By this time I’d made up a slight bigger run for the original hedgehog using a long rectangular plastic tray and the wire top of a cage in which we used to have guinea pigs. This temporary accommodation now housed two wee hedgehogs, one being just over 300g and the other about 310g.
I checked the trailcam as usual in the morning and there was a third wee hedgehog. An evening check of the garden by torchlight quickly led to the recovery of number three, and I also bumped into the young hedgehog from earlier in the year. He (or she) was looking plump and healthy and ready for the winter.
The three mini hedgehogs are eating the food I leave out for them in their short-term home and now await collection by Polly Pullar, another author and long-time friend of mine who rehabilitates waifs and strays, especially owls, hedgehogs (of which she already has 7) and red deer hinds (of which she currently has 2). They’ll be overwintered by Polly and maybe next spring I can get three hedgehogs of different parentage back to the garden to continue our wildlife adventure.