Grace was found with a neck wound. She was treated for fly strike (myiasis) and her deep cut cleaned. Some of the fly eggs were found inside her mouth. Fly eggs can hatch into maggots just eight hours after being laid and immediately start feeding on their host. In nature, this process is essential to remove dead and decaying wildlife from the environment, but on a live animal it is usually fatal. Nature is harsh but effective.
Grace recovered with the usual fight we see from hoglets. They are strong and stoic and fight against most adversities.
At the rescue we have treated hedgehogs for over 30 years and during that time the reason for admission has changed dramatically. Hedgehogs are extremely susceptible to lungworm due to its increase in the environment. Gardens have become fortresses, keeping hedgehogs restricted and preventing their roaming to find food, nesting sites and mates, causing small populations to become isolated and more vulnerable to local extinction.
Gardens are more manicured and so compost heaps – once a great food source for much of our wildlife – no longer exist. Leaves are raked into piles and left but are then removed. Leaves are a great source of food for worms and insects, and they, in turn, are a favourite food of hedgehogs. Our tidy gardens have a lack of nesting sites and nesting material. Garden ponds are often introduced and have steep plastic sides that prevent a hedgehog from getting out, hedgehogs can swim well however they cannot tread water indefinitely. Our flowers are often not native and so do not attract our native insects and so the food is not plentiful for the hedgehogs.
Climate change affecting temperature affects hibernation, albeit indirectly – wildlife hibernates because the food source has gone, and not because of temperatures.
Road traffic and house building has segregated hedgehogs further and causes up to tens of thousands of deaths per year. Pollution from cars can poison hedgerows on motorways and roads has further impacted upon the steady decline of our wildlife.
Intensive agriculture, with larger fields and the loss of hedgerows and permanent grassland removes habitat. Badgers, stoats, pine martens, and foxes are all natural predators of hedgehogs and when the habitat provides sufficient cover and good foraging opportunities, these predators and hedgehogs can coexist, but when there is no safe refuge and the prey that a number of species compete for is scarce, hedgehogs may be in serious trouble.
Pesticides are one of the biggest causes of decline, killing the insects upon which hedgehogs feed and so reducing the amount of prey available. Pesticides also cause hedgehogs sickness and thus cause a dramatic decline, along with other species such as songbirds on farms who have declined by 52% for the same reason.
It’s simple for wildlife to thrive, for they need only two things: a safe habitat and food. If either is destroyed, their numbers decline. We are destroying both, and at an alarming rate.
On a clock face, Man arrived on this planet at around 2 seconds before midnight – the Anthropocene age, or the age of Man – and we have been the most destructive force so far. We are in the 6th extinction. With species dying out at 1000 a year, it is a racing extinction.
Grace’s population is declining at an alarming rate. This fact should make us all sit up, listen, and learn about the impact we have on Grace and her friends and how we can help them. Considering all the obstacles man has put in their way, it is amazing that Grace and hedgehogs like her survive at all. She really is amazing! Please help her and, in doing so, you will be helping lots of other wildlife.
You may be able to introduce plants that attract the food she needs, buy her a home, remove hazards from your work place or garden and connect green spaces and gardens with simple access routes for her.
Find out how else you can help Grace and stop the dramatic decline in hedgehogs in the UK.
You can raise awareness by taking our selfie plus 5 challenge The Challenge
You can make your space safe for hedgehogs by reading our handy tips here Hazards