Meet Emma Farley! Emma rescues hedgehogs in York and makes silver jewellery to help fund her rescue centre.
First let’s get to know Hedgehogs a bit better. If you missed it, my previous article Helping Hedgehogs can be found HERE
Hog fact file:
Latin name: Erinaceus europaeus, the west-European hedgehog (Britain’s only spiny mammal)
Life style: Nocturnal. Ageing hedgehogs is hard but one estimate is that they live 3-5 years
Diet: Invertebrates (beetles, earwigs, caterpillars, slugs , worms, and millipedes)
Weaponry: Spikes made of keratin (the same protein as our hair and nails) which is hard on outside and hollow on inside, therefore it’s lightweight but tough!
A Great fact file can be found at Hedgehogstreet
If you have hogs in your garden and decide to feed them, here’s what you need to know:
Supplementary Hog diet info:
|Water||Milk (hogs are lactose intolerant)|
|Meaty dog/cat food (not fish flavour)||Bread|
|Hedgehog food – various brands|
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SH: Ok Emma, how did you get into caring for hedgehogs?
EF: One of my first dates with my now husband was to a hedgehog sanctuary in Devon. I got to hold a cute baby rescue hedgehog and have loved them ever since. I am lucky to live in York where there is a good population of hedgehogs and a very experienced hedgehog carer, Toni Bunnell, who has taught me everything I know. She has an amazing 20 years of experience as a hedgehog rescuer, so I have a long way to go!
SH: Can anyone do it or do you need specific qualifications?
EF: You don’t need any qualifications although experience of caring for animals is helpful and a vet nurse background would be really useful. You will need guidance from an experienced hedgehog carer to help you along the way and provide advice and support.
SH: How does it work? You get the hogs from the RSPCA?
EF: Some hedgehogs come to me direct from members of the public or from other Yorkshire carers who are full. Others I pick up from the RSPCA once they have started their treatments.
SH: How long have you been doing it?
EF: I started in Autumn 2012 so two years now 🙂
SH: Do you know how many hogs you’ve helped so far?
EF: Including the ones I have at the moment, I have helped over 50 hedgehogs in those two years. Great for a small rescue when I also have a full time job!
SH: Is it rewarding? How do you feel when the hogs are released?
EF: I am always happy but sad to see them go and I sing the song ‘born free’ as they run off into the undergrowth! You do get attached to them, particularly the ones that have been very poorly. But the aim from the outset is to release them back to the wild and it is so rewarding to see another one go back to its natural environment to hopefully produce more hoglets!
SH: Do you know how much it costs to help them, per hedgehog?
EF: The costs vary enormously depending on the hedgehog and its particular problems. If they need vet treatment, then the costs can run into hundreds of pounds. If they need medications, such as worming treatment, it can cost around £30 per hedgehog. Then there is the cost of the food, the electricity to power the heat pads for the poorly ones, several loads of washing a day (at 90 degrees if they have ringworm!), car journeys to pick them up and release them, plus equipment such as bowls, syringes etc. It will easily run to £100 for each one that stays with me all over Autumn and Winter.
SH: Do they have individual personalities?
EF: Most definitely! Some are very shy and won’t uncurl whereas others are very outgoing and will even lick your fingers! Some are very boisterous and will bop other hedgehogs out of the way and will ‘huff’ at you, whereas others are really quiet. They also vary in their tidiness. Some keep their houses lovely and clean whereas others make it look as if there has been a party overnight! Some will be there waiting for me in the morning when I clean their hutches looking for their mealworm treat!
SH: Do you have favourites?
EF: I try not to but I do find favourites, particularly those who have had a really traumatic experience and have needed lots of extra special care. Victor, who I cared for in Winter 2013, was very special. He had terrible ringworm and stopped eating and lost so much weight. I thought he wasn’t going to make it but he did and it was such a joy! He was the most gorgeous chocolate brown colour when his fur re-grew, so handsome!
SH: What’s the funniest thing you have experience working with the hogs?
EF: My escaphogs! I have had two hedgehogs that have managed to dig their way out of their outdoor enclosures and escape. Luckily they had finished their treatments but they are little houdinis! Another hedgehog liked to lick my fingers, which is super cute and Victor used to huff and puff at me all the time which was most amusing!
SH: What are the misconceptions you think people might have about them?
EF: People think they are covered with fleas, which is simply not true. Fleas on hedgehogs are very rare and are a sign of illness. It Is also false that humans or pets will catch hedgehog fleas. They are hedgehog specific. People also think they are sunbathing when they are found out in the day. Also not true – a hedgehog out in the day is always in need of help. They also don’t eat many slugs contrary to popular belief. Beetles are the main part of their diet. Too many slugs are bad for them as they carry lungworm, which can be enormously debilitating and can cause death if the burden is high.
SH: What are the most common problems they come to you with?
EF: There is a huge list. Most have a parasite burden – there are several types of worms that cause reduced appetite and then death. Others have infections from wounds or internal bacterial infections that need treating with antibiotics. Others are just too small to survive hibernation and need feeding up.
SH: How long do you have them for?
EF: It varies from several weeks to several months. The longest would be around 7 months all over Autumn and Winter – these are Autumn juveniles that are born late in the year but struggle to get up to weight for hibernation. Others found in the Summer may just need wounds treating or parasite medication and then they are released after a few weeks once they have been treated and have recovered.
SH: Have you been bitten or spiked?
EF: Number one rule is always wear gloves and shoes when you work with hedgehogs! Their spines are literally needle sharp! I have had spines that have got caught up in the washing and then ended up lodged in the carpet and I have trodden on them! Some have tried to bite me but I have never been seriously injured and my gloves are so thick that it hasn’t really hurt.
SH: How do you find a release site?
EF: A combination of word of mouth, recommendation and followers on my social media sites. The number one rule is that there must already be a population of hedgehogs in the area – that is the only way of knowing that the area is suitable. It also means that there will be hedgehogs in the area to mate with and help increase the population. Ideally, the location will be free of dangers such as big fast roads, ponds without escape routes and there needs to be plenty of mature gardens for them to forage in.
SH: Are there any you can’t release? What happens to them? Closed gardens?
EF: Blind hedgehogs and tripods (3 legged hedgehogs) cannot be released back to the wild but they can live very happily in enclosed gardens where they are provided with food and water.
SH: What’s the best habitat people can provide in their gardens for hogs?
EF: Provide a 13cm square gap under any fences to link your garden with others – hedgehogs travel up to 2 miles a night
Provide shelter such as log piles and a hedgehog house
Don’t use slug pellets or other pesticides
Provide an escape route from any ponds
Always check before you strim in the garden or turn your compost heap – hedgehogs might be living there
Provide a wide variety of plants – they will attract the beetles and insects that they love to feed on
Keep any netting off the ground – hedgehogs can get trapped in it
SH: I was shocked to hear that in the US they can be pets. I don’t think they’d make good pets, do you?
EF: Personally I think they make terrible pets. They are nocturnal so won’t be awake when you are. They are also pretty messy and smelly. They look cute but if you smelt my garage where they live, you would think twice! Sadly the craze for African Pygmy hedgehogs also means that some wild European hedgehogs have been captured and sold as pets. People have also abandoned the African ones when they get bored of them and they will die without being kept in a heated cage.
SH: Do you have any book or resource recommendations for people who want to learn more?
EF: I would highly recommend the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website – packed with information and leaflets on everything from what to do if you find a poorly hedgehog to how to make your garden hedgehog friendly.
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Where to see hedgehogs up close:
- Wildwood trust animal park many of their animals are linked to conservation programmes.
- The sanctury in Devon Emma mentioned in question one is http://www.devonwildlifecentre.co.uk, they are a rescue centre.
Huge thank you to Emma for being such a great, friendly source of information, for agreeing to do this interview, and doing it so well! 😀 All the photos in this post were also provided by Emma.
Great stocking fillers if you act quick! 😉
Link to my previous article again: Helping Hedgehogs can be found HERE
[At the time of this post this blog is not monetized in any way. I am not making any funds from linking to Emma’s store]
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Edited to add:
Emma has now joined WordPress, you can read her blog HERE.