The past twenty-four hours have been eventful, to say the least! When I went to add more hay to Eric’s new des res in the hog yard yesterday morning, I was shocked to find he had gone. Scott happened to be around, so together we went put on our C.S.I. caps and investigated the scene of the absconsion. Scott reckons that Eric used thick ivy stems hanging on the walls by his hog house to climb on to his hog house roof, then used them again for the short climb on to the top of the dry stone wall and on to freedom and that it was probably Eric that I had seen under the apple tree just after midnight late Saturday night. We did dust for fingerprints but it had been raining heavy in the day and none could be found 😁 Hedgehogs are very good climbers, and last night proved it. The hog yard is entirely enclosed and there was absolutely no other way that Eric could have got out, other than up the ivy and over the wall.
Now, I wouldn’t have been too concerned (sad, yes but not worried) had we been a week or so further along in the year but bear in mind that Eric has been with us since the beginning of December and temperatures where we are, are supposed to drop over the next week. Other hedgehogs that are out and about at night from hibernation, can go right back to where they have been hibernating, should the temperatures get very cold again at night but not Eric. I had planned that this weekend coming would have been an ideal time to release him back into the wild. At the moment, although the weather has been mild and damp, there has been very little natural hedgehog food about: I have seen very few beetles, no caterpillars and hardly any worms. I have seen lots of slugs but contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t eat that many slugs, I mean, would you? I have been leaving food out for any passing hedgehogs for a few weeks or so now and Eric was weighing in at a very healthy 1120g last Tuesday 14th March, so he wouldn’t starve for quite a few nights but he could succumb to the cold.
So, yesterday’s big dilemma was…What to do about Eric?
By this stage I was beside myself with worry and sad that he had gone and that I hadn’t had chance to say goodbye. I am so glad Scott was here to calm me down and design a plan of action. First, I checked what had been caught on the Trailcams for the previous night and there he was, about half an hour after I had last seen what must have been him under the apple tree, making his way through the woods. Two cameras had captured him on his quest for freedom. Then, Scott and I baited the Trailcams in the woods, to see if at night we could lure any hogs in front of the cameras. We also opened up the tunnel that leads from the hog yard to the rest of our garden and the woods and last night I put out bowls of Eric’s favourite food in the hog yard: should he get hungry he could get back to the food. We then set up a Trailcam in the hog yard facing the tunnel, hopefully to catch any hogs coming into the yard. The yard itself has a security light that comes on with any movement, so last night, I was to sit in the dining room (in the dark) and keep watch through the blinds for any sign of hedgehogs coming into the hog yard through the tunnel. As the hog yard is an enclosed yard except for this tunnel, it is an easy place to keep watch on. If I saw a hedgehog, I was to catch it, weigh it and if it was Eric, put him back in his hutch until the cold snap passes but if it was one of the other hogs around at the moment, I was going to weigh them, mark some of the ends of their quills on their rump with a little bright coloured nail varnish and put them back outside**.
So, last night I sat from 7:30pm to 1:30am in the dark waiting for hedgehogs to come into the hog yard. Not a single hog set off the security light. I watched a good Miss Marple film on my iPad for over two hours but I was nodding by midnight and bored to sobs! At 1:30am I decided to get a torch and a cat carrier and go look for Eric. Low and behold, I found a hedgehog by one of the baited Trailcams, munching away on some dried beetles I had put there. It looked like Eric and I was very hopeful that it was him. Back indoors, this hedgehog weighed in at 928g and although some of the quills looked similar to Eric’s, this hog wasn’t as round or as heavy as I remember Eric being.
I decided I must have picked up one of the other hogs I had seen on camera from the other night. I marked this hog’s quills with blue nail varnish and went back into the woods and released him (or her) exactly where I found him. I was walking quietly away when it dawned on me, that I hadn’t even recognised Eric the other night when I saw him escaping, so how on earth could I be sure to recognise him now. I took another look and decided to err on the side of caution and once again picked up this hog and brought him back indoors. This time he went into a warm hutch with plenty of food and water. I am 90% sure that it is actually Eric but a check through what is on the Trailcam today where I found this hog will confirm it or not, as Eric carries a lot of his excess weight on his shoulders and this is only noticeable when he is running around but not when he is curled into a tight ball. He could very easily have lost 200g since last Tuesday, especially considering he has spent almost two full nights running around to find food for himself and hedgehogs can travel up to a couple of miles a night looking for food.
From the video that I have of Eric’s bid for freedom I have made a short film based on a classic. The link to it will be in my next post. I will keep you up to date with Eric’s shenanigans.
** Marking hedgehogs on the ends of a few of their quills with nail varnish is a harmless way to mark them. The varnish goes nowhere near their skin and eventually wears off after a couple of months but in the meantime it is a valuable way of being able to keep track of that particular hog. They can be identified, weighed and their health checked whenever they are found. Some hedgehog preservation and rescue groups use this method as it causes very little stress to the hog, which is the most important consideration of all.