From Tony Thain:
At long last the miserable, cold and wet weather that we had been suffering for what seems years finally broke at the end of last week, and at the Old Dairy thoughts turned to releasing all the fit hedgehogs that we had been looking after since last Autumn.
When they arrived, they were cute little babies weighing about 2-300 gms; over the winter they had all grown to be monster adults weighing up to 1.4 kg. Initially all inmates were given a thorough medical, with any ticks removed and a course of wormer to treat any internal parasites. The idea is that hedgehogs hibernate over the lean and cold winter period. Unfortunately, we experienced a very mild winter with fluctuations of temperature from icy to quite warm. Our guests, being far more intelligent than some give them credit for, soon worked out that they could go to sleep during the cold snaps and then wake up when the temperature rose and there would be dishes of food and water available for them. Keeping twelve hedgehogs fed and watered became quite a logistical exercise as some were hibernating whilst others, obviously with the hooligan gene, were racing around their pens keeping each other fit.
It was quite difficult to keep the handling to a minimum, as we wanted them to retain their wild instincts when Spring finally came around. From mid February our hedgehogs had worked out that the weather was getting warmer and started to become quite a handful. Unfortunately, we could not release them as the ground was saturated and the rain was still falling; they would have drowned in the many pools around, also it would be almost impossible for them to find dry shelter.
At the end of last week it was decided that the change in the weather was resonably stable and dry, so the first batch of six [mainly the larger hooligans] were brought in, checked over, given a pedicure and marked up for later identification. They were then put into our old "generator shed" from where we soft release them. There is always food and water available, with the door left open at night. The next morning all the food was gone, so were the hedgehogs! That afternoon the same proceedure was carried out with another four and the following morning, the same; all the food was gone and the shed and boxes were empty. So far no-one has returned for a B & B stopover.
This left us with two hedgehogs, one [Zena] was a very old animal who showed no interest in leaving and Sissie who was attacked by either a dog or a pine marten last year, is very nervous and likes to be in the company of Zena or even us, as minders. Both of these are now housed in their five star accommodation and have the whole of the secure front garden to roam around at night. They will be carefully monitored and if either or both show any inclinations to leave their current, safe enclosure, they will be released as soon as we can.
We were congratulating ourselves on a successful release and the repopulation of Achnaha with fit hedgehogs when someone set light to the hills just south of the township. As hedgehogs roam considerable distances during their night foragings, we were worried that our recent releases would be injured in the fire or burnt by the embers. About midnight on Saturday night we spotted a hedgehog crossing the lawn and decided to catch it to check it out. It turned out to be one that was not from the ten released a few days earlier, but it had some soot damage to the spines on its back. So he had made it to the hospital! The injuries were not too bad, with no blistering to the skin, just sooty and singed spines. He was taken into the surgery and by one o'clock had been cleaned up; ticks removed and Aloe Vera cream brushed into the singed area and then taken down to the food for his dinner.
Releasing the hedgehogs is always a bitter sweet moment as we are sad to see all the little characters disappear, but happy that they are now out where they belong. Each one was given a talking to before release, telling them to come back if they get into trouble! Over the years many have returned to get medical attention, food or even a nights B & B. We are also sure that many of the mothers bring their late Autumn babies into the garden, leaving them for us to collect and look after over the Winter!!!
"Summer" is now approaching and we will probably be receiving injured or ill hedgehogs until Autumn comes around again and the late Autumn babies start arriving on our lawn.