Freedom for the Fab Four and Jaffa

The first wild hedgehog to visit the feeding station in our little woods this year, arrived late on the evening of Saturday 10th March and he came every night after that, around 10pm. The Trail Cam routinely recorded him two or three times a night, eating and drinking in all sorts of weather: hail stones, heavy rain and gale force winds. But still he came, regular as clockwork. It took until 22nd March for me to find out that this lone hog was our old friend, Eric, the autumn orphan, who had spent Christmas and most of winter 2016/17 with us indoors, as he was far too underweight to have survived hibernation. It was so lovely to see him again. He was brought in to be weighed and re-marked (lime green is Eric’s colour) and then put back outside right where he had been found and he still visits the feeding station every night, like clockwork. To make sure he and the others have plenty of places to sleep during the daytime, we had a go at building a ‘log house’ for the hedgehogs. We have four hedgehog houses around the woods. One was bought and the other three we made ourselves out of old bee hive boxes but as we’ve had so many fallen branches from the storms this winter, we thought we’d have a go and build our own and pack it underneath with lots of dried leaves. I put a camera on it for a week or so and a couple of hedgehogs inspected it as they passed by at night, so has one of the red squirrels but as yet, there have been no hedgehogs spending the day asleep in it. It looks like a jumble of branches and twigs just thrown together but actually I locked them all together so it wouldn’t collapse on any unsuspecting sleeping resident and rain-proofed it with smaller twigs.  So far, the leaves have kept nice and dry inside. Commissions taken 😀

The Log House

Then it was time to bring back the four little autumn orphans who we had taken to The Owl Box Sanctuary on Anglesey in December and again in early January this year, to be cared for over the winter months.

The Owl Box Sanctuary, Llangaffo, Gaerwen on Anglesey, is a wildlife rescue centre where they rescue, re-home and care for all kinds of wildlife, including hedgehogs. They support the running of their sanctuary by making and selling owl and wildlife boxes for Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, Little Owls, Kestrels, Bats, Dormice and Garden Birds. Click either their name above or the link below to see their site. It was obvious how much they care about animals they take in at the sanctuary, just by looking at the Fab Four and seeing how healthy, well fed and happy they were to be handled and weighed. They weren’t frightened of us at all, just naturally wary, so obviously they hadn’t been mistreated in any way.

The Owl Box Sanctuary

The Fab Four, as we have called them, are Apple, Poppet, Tyke and Dodger.  Tyke and Dodger are hogs (males) and were taken to the rescue sanctuary first, on 19th November, weighing 284g and 348g respectively. Tyke is on the left below and Dodger on the right.

Poppet (a sow) was taken next on 25th November weighing 300g but it wasn’t until 7th January this year that Apple was taken in weighing 331g. The ideal minimum weight for a hedgehog to survive hibernation they say is 600g although a little under that is OK in some circumstances but these four, most likely from the same litter in early autumn, were far too underweight. Poppet is on the left and Apple on the right.

Jaffa, a large sow, who had been staying indoors with us for a couple of weeks after an injury and needing oral antibiotics, was well enough to be released the same night as the Fab Four. It was a busy evening, weighing, marking and checking over five hedgehogs, especially when the Fab Four were four very inquisitive, energetic, lively spikey little hedgehogs, getting into everything and not staying put in their boxes or crates for one second. The release ended up being a bit of a farce, all on film of course, with Jaffa refusing to move from her crate, and the Fab Four content to play between themselves in their box in the woods.  Eventually, we sealed Jaffa up again and dealt with the Fab Four first. Tyke was the first to go, he didn’t have a choice really, as he’d been bothering Poppet and she wasn’t having any of it, so she decided to push him out of the box. He was a little surprised at first and then you could see him smell the grass and smell freedom and he was off, with me chasing after him, with my night vision binoculars (a Christmas pressie from my hubbie) fixed on this fast-moving hedgehog in the pitch dark.  I did have a torch, but that scares the hedgehogs, so I kept the torchlight facing away.  ALso bright light will white-out night vision bins anyway, so you can’t see a thing with them if you have a light around at night, so I ended up chasing a fast-moving Tyke, in the pitch dark, using only my night vision bins to see the way and having absolutely no idea where I was putting my feet. I had the binoculars trained on Tyke in case I lost him, and as they are binoculars they were focused on him at around twelve feet away, so if I tried to look down with them to where my feet where, just for a split second, then I couldn’t see anything but a blur and by the time I had raised my bins up again, it took me ages to find Tyke, so I just stumbled around after him doing the best I could. It was a good job I did follow him though, as after ten minutes he’d managed to get himself upside down and thoroughly stuck in a large tightly tangled coil of old hose and just couldn’t get himself out. By the time I had freed him and got back to Steve, the other three had decided to leave their warm, straw-filled cardboard box.

When all three had left the box, Steve followed with his video camera and I eventually turned up with Tyke, so we put him with the others and left them to their own devices in the big wide world and went back to let Jaffa out.  Not surprisingly, once the four youngsters were out of the way, Jaffa was out of her crate like a shot, disappearing into the shrubbery. I have seen her a few times since and Apple almost every night, Poppet once and I think but not too sure, that last night the Trail Cam took a video of Tyke at the feeding station. I won’t know for sure unless I come across them, on my late-night walks through the woods.

Some photos of the Fab Four and Jaffa:

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