Local animal lovers have rallied round to help provide care for prickly patients at a special hedgehog hospital in Ousden.
The Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital is the brainchild of Sue Studley, who has taken ill and injured hedgehogs into her home for years. But with a number of factors combining to make life more perilous for them, she has now installed a purpose-built shed complete with secure outside runs where more of them can be looked after until it is safe to release them back into the wild.
“This year there has been a massive influx of hedgehogs because of the mild autumn which has seen extra litters being born,” said Alix Jones, who helps Sue with publicity, particularly on social media, and looks after a few hedgehogs at her home in Cheveley.
“The dry conditions mean many have become dehydrated and we also see a lot infected with lungworm. Their habitat is disappearing so they cannot get enough food, plus there has been an increase in the population of badgers, which are the enemy of hedgehogs.
“The 21st century is all against them,” said Alix. “Sue is amazing. The care she gives them is fantastic: she really devotes her life to them.”
An appeal on the hospital’s Facebook page has resulted in villagers in Cheveley rallying round to donate dog and cat food, dog biscuits and bedding for the hedgehogs and some are volunteering to keep one or two in cages in their gardens, while Newmarket trainer Jill McNeill has handed over two straw-lined boxes at her Cedar Lodge Stables in Hamilton Road so up to 10 hedgehogs can hibernate in luxury. Local vets are helping out at a fraction of their usual fees.
“Everybody has got on board. It’s a good example of community spirit,” said Alix.
Once there is a prolonged spell of mild weather forecast, hedgehogs which have gained sufficient body weight can be returned to the wild via carefully selected release sites - stud land is good because it is largely free from badgers. Meanwhile those which are underweight and sickly will remain in the hospital’s care.
“Their body clocks tell them it’s time to hibernate, but if they are too small sadly they will not wake up again,” said Alix.
Anyone who is concerned that a hedgehog visiting their garden is in need of care should go to the Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital Facebook page to find contact phone numbers but are asked not to leave messages.