Hedgehog Soft Release Program
Find out about our highly successful program for releasing rehabilitated hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are the UKs only spiny mammal; there are 17 species throughout the world and all have in common the spines. They're mainly nocturnal, although they can be seen out in the daytime during pregnancy when they are building nests and prior to a hibernation period. They have between 5,000-7,000 spines covering their body and through a drawstring, muscular action, they can protect themselves from most predators.
They are born spineless, but within 24 hours white spines will appear and within 3 weeks they are fully covered in soft spines which harden over the following few weeks.
During hibernation, their heartbeat slows down to 20 beats a minute allowing them to slowly use up fat reserves that they have built up. They do not hibernate to avoid the cold - hedgehogs can withstand quite severe temperatures - they hibernate because their food sources disappear. In areas where people feed regularly in the garden, we often see the hedgehogs stay awake during the winter period.
Historically, hedgehogs have lived happily and successfully within dense hedges which used to cover much of the UK. With smaller gardens and more wooden fence panels, the populations have become segregated. Not only does this affect their ability to roam and feed, it also affects their ability to provide safe nest sites to have their young in. Fallen trees and dense piles of wood make safe nesting sites for hedgehogs to crawl in amongst and be safe from predation. Compost heaps are also ideal places for hedgehogs to feed and have their young. Over the last 10 years, we have seen many factors come into play that have caused the demise of a once very common mammal. The decline is so drastic that it is up to all of us to ensure that this mammal remains in the UK. Providing nesting sites is essential; leaving wood piles, fallen trees and dense hedges, along with man-made hedgehog houses are still the best ways to ensure they have a choice of safe locations.
Prior to being involved with releasing hedgehogs, we would ask that you check that your garden is safe from hedgehog hazards.
- Swimming pools & ponds need to have access and egress suitable for hedgehogs. Sloping sides, chicken wire, bricks & pebbles can all be used to create a way for them to be able to climb out. They are strong swimmers, but slippery, straight sides and low water levels will prevent them from being able to get out.
- Slug pellets and pesticides poison the slugs and insects which hedgehogs may go on to eat and therefore the poison will enter the food chain relatively quickly. Hedgehogs, slow worms and frogs all eat slugs - encouraging wildlife to eat the insects in your garden is a far better long term solution to using slug pellets which will leave your gardens devoid of not only slugs but predators too.
- Anti freeze is clear and sweet tasting and if it is left unguarded, hedgehogs and other mammals may drink it. We see this at the rescue and the process is very hard to reverse.
- Intensive farming has seen heavy machinery, increased sizes of fields and the removal of hedges. Field margins have been reduced and pesticides are used to produce stronger crops. The removal of hedges has once again put hedgehogs at a greater risk of predation. In 2015, a bird survey showed that 52% of farmland birds had disappeared from farms, showing the further impact of intensive farming.
- Lawn mowers, strimmers and garden tools have an impact on hedgehogs. Sometimes they lay in borders & long grass unguarded so please check before using any garden machinery.
- Garden netting can be a potential problem for hedgehogs so please make sure it is secure and not hanging freely. If possible, leave an 8 inch gap to allow hedgehogs to pass safely underneath. If you find a hedgehog tangled in netting then call a vet or local wildlife rescue as complications can occur once the netting has been removed.
- The modern fortresses we create in our garden for seclusion and privacy have a detrimental affect on our hedgehogs. They can roam around 2km every night and need several gardens to forage in. Fencing can cause local extinction as the hedgehog population becomes isolated. By providing a simple hole in your fence, you can create access into other gardens.
- If you have bonfires in November - or throughout the year - please check before you set anything on fire as hedgehogs will nest in these and, in winter months, will hibernate there.
- Cats and dogs can live happily in your garden. If your dog consistently barks during the late evening, it may be helpful to put him on a lead when you take him out last thing at night until he gets used to the hedgehogs.
- On average about 200,000 hedgehogs are killed on roads. Unfortunately, roads are a part of our landscape and are slowly increasing - there is little we can do to prevent hedgehogs crossing roads. They usually only begin to hear vehicles once they are in a range of about 8 metres, so it is inevitable that some will not survive.
The Soft Release Procedure
If an adult hedgehog arrives with us with a relatively simple injury and is healthy in other ways, we release them back to the area they came from and soft release isn't always used for this process. On all other occasions, we only use soft release. We have found this to be successful and to greatly benefit the hedgehogs and to increase the chances of hedgehog populations thriving.
Our soft release programmes are quite strict; over the last 30 years we think we have come up with a solution that benefits the hedgehogs and puts their well being first. Not all locations and gardens are suitable for soft release. When releasing orphaned hedgehogs back to the wild we have found our soft releases runs to be the best way to ensure the highest chances of survival. It creates a safe nest for them to slowly explore the outside from, just like a hoglet emerging from its wild nest. They will explore the immediate area and scent mark and eventually start exploring further afield and finally moving out of the release run.
Soft release runs at our rescue have evolved over many years and this year (2018) we are now manufacturing our own modular runs made from heavy duty galvanised mesh complete with our heavy metal hedgehog house and silver grace portal.
The release runs have evolved based on many factors. We realise the cost may be probative for many people but our first duty is to the precious hedgehogs we are releasing back. The new runs cover the problems we have encountered in the past. Many of you have waited a long time for these details and for that we apologise but we have been perfecting modulars that keep our hoglets safe and will last for many years. This year we have experienced many previously unseen problems with previously built runs and after much debate we have decided to change to this modular.
The Toal cost is £2,560
This includes the entire run built, galvanised and set up in your garden.
- Galvanised heavy mesh run 6' x 6'
- Wooden surround
- Grace silver entrance portal
- Bark covering
- Patio Slab
- Heavy Metal Hedgehog House
- Two bowls for food and water
- Hedgehog tunnel
- Installation and delivery
Once ordered the runs will take 12 weeks to manufacture and fit. We now install and set up the run ourselves and once set up, two to three hedgehogs are released in the run.
For period of several weeks they would be contained and fed and watered after that period the Silver hedgehog portal would be opened. They now feel safe in the run and they are aware of the smells around them. The portal is left open and the hedgehogs are free to leave or come and go as they like. It simulates the same process that would happen when a young hoglets leave the nest. They will have a safe place to come back to every night just like their nest would of been in the wild.
They will eventually settle elsewhere. Once the silver hedgehog portal is opened it will stay that way for several weeks. and the hoglets will slowly leave the run, but they will have a safe, familiar place where they can return during that period. After a period the run is shut and cleaned and the process can start again During the winter months and with older hedgehogs, some hoglets and long term patients the portal opening times can vary . Each hedgehog group will come with a complete care package and time plan.
Please fill in the form by clicking on the link below if you are interested in joining our Soft Release Program, purchasing a run and /or coming to our Soft Release Information Evening to find out more.
To access the form click here: https://gracethehedgehog.co.uk/forms/release-program