Hedgehog charity to double intake after it secured £7k extension
PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 January 2017
A charity which rescues and cares for more than 600 hedgehogs a year has announced plans to double its capacity in the new year.
Prickles Hedgehog Rescue is based in Cheddar and takes in injured and orphaned hedgehogs. Mercury reporter ELEANOR YOUNG went along to the rescue centre, in Wessex Business Centre off Wedmore Road, to find out more.
In the 1950s there were an estimated 30 million hedgehogs in the UK; however as the human population grew in size, habitats changed and farming methods evolved, the number of spiky little critters dropped dramatically.
By 2015, there were as few as 1.4 million left.
Hedgehogs do enjoy limited protection through some UK legislation, while bodies like the British Hedgehog Protection Society work to raise awareness of ways people can help look after the animals.
However, there is also an independent charity working here in Somerset to keep the loveable creatures safe.
Jules Bishop founded Prickles in 2007 after taking in a hoglet; since then, she and a team of nearly 60 volunteers have rescued 3,500 hedgehogs in need.
She told the Mercury: “My friend rescued wildlife and she took in three babies and asked me to care for one of them. They were all too tiny to hibernate.”
Jules released her first hedgehog back into the wild the following spring.
Prickles has gone on to become an established charity, and Jules and her team are always looking to recruit new people to help with its work.
The group also provides work experience placements and caters for youngsters doing the Duke Of Edinburgh award.
Winter and spring are the busiest times of the year for Prickles, as that is when it is called upon to care for underweight hedgehogs and newborns.
Hedgehogs need to be at least 600g to survive the winter in hibernation, but many of the hogs under the centre’s care this year are as much as 400g underweight.
Looking after them is not a simple business, either. When hedgehogs first arrive at Prickles they undergo a number of tests to ensure they receive a tailored treatment plan.
Jules said: “Hedgehogs are the most complex wildlife species to care for – their care is complicated by their defence mechanism to curl up.
“When they arrive, the first thing we do is an all-over assessment. We put samples of their poo under a microscope so it can tell us what is going on inside them.”
Hedgehogs go in with worms, fractured legs, rotting teeth and injuries sustained by fences and dog attacks.
The charity runs a strict plan which ensures each creature is given the best treatment possible before they are released back into the wild.
The expansion… The charity has had great success since its formation a decade ago, and is now believed to be one of the largest hedgehog rescue centres in the country.
Jules said: “There are not many rescue centres so we take from all over the area, from Cornwall right up to Bristol and Bath.”
Prickles can currently care for up to 200 of the animals at one time and is under pressure to meet the demand.
That means Prickles now has ambitions to extend into its neighbouring unit in a move which would enable it to double its capacity.
Jules said: “Everything here apart from the office will need to be bought again; the shelves, crates, heat pads, fleeces and tables. We will need to double up on everything.”
The charity plans to move into the unit in the new year and will begin taking on more and more hedgehogs once it is set up.
The new facility will cost £7,000 to get up and running, and will include a treatment room for vets and volunteers to work in, while also enabling the charity to care for up to 400 hedgehogs at a time.
If you cannot get to Prickles...
During winter, hedgehogs are at their most vulnerable as temperatures drop, food becomes scarce and weather becomes more extreme.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures which traditionally hibernate during the winter.
If people come across a struggling wild hedgehog this winter and you are unable to take it to the centre, then Jules has told the Mercury how to care for them until you can get to Prickles.
Jule said: “Most of the time we will answer the phone but if you cannot get to us then we suggest placing the hedgehog in a box with a towel overnight.”
Leave some food out on a plate for the hogs, they commonly eat cat biscuits, cat meat and dried meaworms.
The expert helpers at Prickles are also available to offer guidance. If you are unsure what to do then Prickles volunteers are available to take your calls or your Facebook message or tweet.
Donations The charity relies entirely on donations to meet its £40,000-a-year operating costs, and is also seeking public support for its expansion ambitions.
To find out more information about the charity or to make a donation call 07806 744772 or visit www.prickleshedgehogrescue.org.uk