Spotting a hedgehog’s now par for the course

RSPCA staff releasing young Hedgehogs at Sedlescombe Golf Course
RSPCA staff releasing young Hedgehogs at Sedlescombe Golf Course

OGS nursed back to health at an RSPCA wildlife centre have been given a new home at a golf course as part of pioneering research into their care.

Two prickly pals which came into Mallydams Wood centre in Fairlight a couple of months ago as emaciated, abandoned orphans are now deemed well enough to be returned to their natural habitat.

They were due to be released at Sedlescombe Golf Course earlier this month and fitted with tiny radio transmitters so their movements can be tracked for the second year of a study into rehabilitating hedgehogs around the hibernation period.

The research, carried out with the University of Reading, uses new techniques of hedgehog care and for the first time releasing the rescued mammals into the wild in a hibernating, or pre-hibernating, state.

Initial findings showed this new approach to be very successful in helping hedgehogs recuperate and survive.

Richard Thompson, wildlife supervisor at Mallydams, said the golf course was a new release site which he felt would be ideal because it was a big open area which was ideal for foraging, with the varied mix of pasture and hedgerows which the animals needed.

Richard said: “We are delighted that early stages of this study seem to show that releasing hedgehogs in this new way works.

“It could make a real difference to how we care for our prickly friends in these difficult winter months, and so potentially help more of them survive.

“Every year we learn a little bit more about what works best and so improve the care we provide.

“For instance, it is the first time we have gone to a golf course to return hedgehogs to the wild - and I believe it will be an ideal place for them to live. The perfect hog home!”

James Andrews, from Sedlescombe Golf Course, said: “We are delighted to be able to do our bit to help the RSPCA with their work looking after hedgehogs – particularly given the reports that the lovely little animals may be in decline.”

Hedgehogs which come into centres in winter after being orphaned, injured or infected with disease normally end up hibernating in captivity until spring.

However, prolonged stays in captivity can cause problems for most wild animals, leading them to put on weight and preventing them from expressing natural behaviour.

All eight hedgehogs released between December and March last year in a hibernating or pre-hibernating state were tracked via the transmitters.

Results showed that they all stayed in the hibernation until April when they all woke up in a typical way.