Grace was found with a neck wound. She came to us and was treated for 'flystrike' (myiasis) and her deep cut was cleaned. Some of the fly eggs were also found inside her mouth. Fly eggs can hatch into maggots just eight hours after being laid and 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 their environment. Gardens have become fortresses, keeping hedgehogs restricted and preventing their roaming and finding food, nesting sites and mates, so that small populations can 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 swim well but cannot tread water indefinitely. Our flowers are often not native and don't attract our native bugs and so the food is not plentiful for the hedgehogs.
Climate change affects temperature, which affects hibernation, albeit indirectly – wildlife hibernate because the food source has gone, and not because of temperature.
Road traffic and house building has segregated hedgehogs further and causes up to tens of thousands of deaths per year. Pollution from cars and poisoning hedgerows on motorways and roads has further impacted by 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, badgers etc and hedgehogs can coexist, but when there is no safe refuge and the prey that the two species compete for are 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 them to be sick and thus effect a dramatic decline in hedgehogs (along with songbirds on farms who have declined by 52% for the same reason).
It’s simple, for wildlife to thrive, 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 workplace or garden and connect green spaces and gardens with simple access routes for her.
Find out how 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 - Amazing Grace Hedgehog Challenge
You can make your space safe for hedgehogs by reading our handy tips here - Factors and hazards that affect Grace and her family