Record-breaking flood of hedgehogs brought into our rescue centres this Autumn

Record-breaking flood of hedgehogs brought into our rescue centres this Autumn

Every two hours, a hedgehog was admitted to one of our wildlife centres in October.

Hedgehogs admissions into our care are breaking records this year, with numbers showing a five-year high for the period from January to October.

New data reveals that admissions of hedgehogs into our specialist wildlife centres are up by 22 percent already this year.  Up until the end of this October, more than 2,000 hedgehogs (2,123) were admitted, compared with 1,739 for the same period in 2018.

In October, a hedgehog was brought into our care every two hours

hedgehog at rspca centre

Admissions for this September and October are the highest they have been for the last five years. Last month (October), an average of twelve hedgehogs were admitted into our specialist centres every day - equivalent to one every two hours. There have already been more than 200 admissions this month so far (November).

Our Scientific Officer, Evie Button, says:

It's going to be a difficult year for hedgehogs. As we head towards the hibernation period, we're seeing a surge in hedgehogs being brought to our centres by concerned members of the public and our own officers. We could be in for a record-breaking year.

While it's impossible to know exactly why we're seeing so many more hedgehogs this year, some potential causes could be that they're having trouble finding food this year. Or perhaps changes in weather has affected the timing of the breeding season. Or even that people are more aware and concerned about hedgehogs and so are reporting them to us more often.

461 hedgehogs are currently being cared for

rspca hedgehog

Every autumn, in the run-up to hedgehog hibernation time, we see a flood of these iconic wild animals brought into our centres. Hedgehogs are by far the most common species admitted to our wildlife centres across October and November and there are currently a total of 461 being cared for across the country.

It¿s not easy to tell if a hedgehog is in trouble, so from time to time, perfectly healthy hedgehogs are brought into wildlife centres by well-meaning members of the public.

How to tell if a hedgehog needs help

hedgehog guide

To help animal lovers make a more informed decision, we¿ve introduced simple guidance based on fruit sizes to help the public gauge whether a hedgehog is underweight and needs specialist care (if the hedgehog if mango or apple-sized, for example) or big enough to survive hibernation (pineapple-sized).

Evie continued: 

It's important to ensure that our scarce resources are targeted at the animals most in need, but it can be quite tricky to tell whether a hedgehog really needs help or not.  Using fruit sizes as a guide is a useful way of working out whether the animal's healthy or in trouble.

If the hog is mango-sized or even smaller, it needs to be taken to a rescue centre. At this size, the hedgehog will probably weigh less than 450g and is unlikely to survive the winter without expert care. If they're the size of a pineapple, there's no need to worry. That hedgehog will have reached a very healthy weight and can be left in peace to carry on with their preparations for hibernation.

Hedgehogs need considerable fat reserves to get them through the winter. As autumn turns to winter, prey such as insects become much more scarce, and that can prevent young hedgehogs reaching an appropriate weight of 500g or more so they can hibernate safely.

While September sees the tail end of the orphaned hedgehog admissions - by October, the balance tips towards those who are found out during the day looking for food or who are starving. These animals may also be orphans who are now struggling as they were not able to put on as much weight without their mother's help. However, you may also see hedgehogs out and about during winter when the weather is mild, as they will often wake up during hibernation to forage for food or move their nest sites.

How you can help

Anyone with concerns about a wild animal¿s welfare can contact our advice line 0300 123 4999.

Find out more about how to help hedgehogs in your garden.