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The Vale Wildlife hospital again, put out a call for volunteers on Facebook - at this time of year in particular, they're really rather busy, and it's the holiday season. So I sort of got volunteered - their hedgehogs needed a bit more attention.

With a day starting 'before 8am' (on a saturday *shudder*) I made my way to the hospital. Made a brief hello, and then started to give the guy who actually knew what he was doing a hand. The work at hand was the hedgehogs. This was a ... room? shed? well, place with a number of hedgehog enclosures. They were due their weekly weighing, feeding and cleaning. Mostly there were recuperating patients, who'd been admitted for a variety of reasons - usually 'got stuck somewhere' or otherwise needed rescuing - one had fallen in a swimming pool, for example, and had needed rescuing.

A few, were pregnant or had recently given birth - a few enclosures had '5-ish' hoglets. Which look a lot like miniature hedgehogs, but their spines haven't actually hardened and gone prickly, and they're just a bit smaller and more wobbly. Working down the line of enclosures, involved scooping the hedgehog(s) out with a pair of leather gloves I was on the 'larger end' of their volunteers - most, particularly on this day, seem to be female and college/university age, and so the gloves in the room were just too small.

(This is the 'before' photo - these little ones are in the process of being moved, one at a time, to a new, clean enclosure, after being weighed).

2013-08-10 12.05.10

Pick up hedgehog, put in a basket, weigh it, check the microchip, and note down weight, whether the food was gone, and whether there was 'enough' poo. Mark the ones that have lost weight, or haven't been eating, and - later on - someone with a bit more experience (I presume a vet) would check the case notes, and see which were ready for release. Maybe administer some medication, and generally check health.
Once they're up to a sensible weight, they would be released - most were underweight, but a few were too fat. This is a big problem for a hedgehog, as their defense against ... well, foxes, cats etc. is to be a spikey ball. So with too big a tummy, they can't ball up entirely, which makes them very vulnerable.
And of course, the hoglets were't going to be released until they were a little more robust. (they really were tiny - a few of them were just 50g).

(Not a great photo, sadly, but..):

2013-08-10 12.05.40
2013-08-10 12.05.53

The newly arrived get painted to identify them (with some 'animal safe' dye), but they get microchipped a bit after. Hoglets can't be chipped until they get a bit bigger. So as part of the weigh in, we checked the chip to ensure we were looking at the right ones (and that the chip was working). Some enclosures had two hedgehogs - not all a male/female pair.

2013-08-10 13.08.52

Hedgehogs make a reasonable amount of mess - if you've ever had a guinea pig, it's a similar sort of size. However, it's also a carnivore, and lives on - basically - dog food. (or cat food, I wasn't entirely sure) supplemented by biscuits. So, they're sort of on a new level of 'stinky' when compared with hedgehogs. If you've ever experienced the delight of cat wee, then you're not far off ...
A couple of patients - when presented with fresh and clean bedding - proceeded to ... well, redecorate in short order. The pens needed a bit of a scrub in places, because ... well, lets just say that hedgehogs can propel things a bit further than guinea pigs as well. (Which is why there newspaper here has a 'lip' - it makes the next clean out just that little bit easier).

2013-08-10 13.09.29

2013-08-10 11.06.41

Somewhat more intriguingly though, was the noises - hoglets squeaked (or perhaps squealed). Larger hedgehogs hiss and chuff. Sounding not that dissimilar to steam trains. (It's a bit disconcerting to be carrying a hissing bundle of spines to the scales).

Once pens were cleaned, there was a bit of tidying up - floors to be swept/mopped, and the rubbish to be burned. I would recommend against standing in the smoke of burning, hedgehog soiled newspaper. The smell is ... exceptional.



But all in all, an interesting sort of a day. I'm unfortunately not going to be in a position to do a regular shift at the hospital, but think I shall keep an eye out when for when they're short handed again. (I'm on the list as being able to fetch rescuees on my way home from work, which is a little less time intensive.)

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December 2015

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