The leaves are turning and the weather is definitely feeling Autumnal, and staff at the Tropical Butterfly House near Sheffield will soon be releasing two young hedgehogs ready for hibernation.
Animal Presenter and Team Leader, Heather Scott, found a small hedgehog out in the open in the grounds of the zoo at the beginning of September; “It was strange to see a hedgehog so exposed in the day and I knew something wasn’t quite right when the animal didn’t ball up to protect himself when I approached. On closer inspection, ‘Fluffy’ as I’ve named him, had quite a lot of ticks and was noticeably underweight and I couldn’t resist helping him out.”
Heather and the other Keepers at the Tropical Butterfly House removed Fluffy’s ticks, and have fed him a mixture of cat and dog food, cat biscuits and live mealworms, supplemented with a multivitamin and have been very pleased with his weight gain. It is estimated that hedgehogs should be approximately 600 grams in order to survive hibernation.
“It’s important that the hedgehog doesn’t become tame so, whilst he is very cute, it’s vital to treat him like a wild animal and keep handling to a minimum,” Heather explains; “Even in hibernation, when their heart rate drops from around 190 beats per minute to just 20, hedgehogs will tuck in their heads and curl tighter into a ball if they are disturbed, with their spines acting as a successful deterrent to predators.”
Alice Blore from Birley Moor Vets4Pets contacted the Tropical Butterfly House to ask if a young hedgehog she has reared could be released in the grounds, having seen the many untouched wildlife havens that are maintained to support native species. Alice reared ‘Pringle’ from the day he arrived at the vets at just 43 grams.” Pringle was about 1 week old when I got him, so he was blind and deaf and needed 2 hourly feeds 24 hours a day! He was brought in by a member of the public who believed his mother to be run over.”
Pringle is now at a suitable weight to be released, and Fluffy is catching up quickly, so staff from the Tropical Butterfly House and Birley Moor Vets4Pets will set them free together at the start of October. They will be in a safe outdoor run for around ten days, allowing time for them to re-adjust to life in the wild. Hedgehogs will make their nest and hibernate any time between November and March, so the two ‘hibernation buddies’ may well remain active for a while if they are able to find sufficient food.
The Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre places great emphasis on fundraising and has donated to charities including the World Parrot Trust, Hawk Conservancy, Madagascar Fauna Group and British Trust for Ornithology and Comic Relief. Having recently completed a successful drive to raise money to help save Vultures, staff are about to begin a fundraising project to help rebuild the Hedgehog Hospital at Shepreth Wildlife Park; by selling coloured wristbands and with the help of two Hahn’s Macaws who collect donations from audience members during the Bird Displays.
For information and advice on what to do if you find a young hedgehog or any other animal that seems to be in need of assistance, please contact the RSPCA or Tiggywinkles. The Tropical Butterfly House is open daily and is located just 5 minutes from the M1, junction 31. Visit www.butterflyhouse.co.uk to plan your visit.
Members of the press are invited to attend to see the hedgehogs being released into their outdoor pen and are welcome to capture film, photographs and interview Heather Scott and Alice Blore if further information is needed.
We will be releasing the hedgehogs on October 6th around 6pm – please contact Heather Scott at the Tropical Butterfly House on 01909 569416, 07956 319464 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your attendance.
Images supplied: ‘Fluffy’ the hedgehog, photograph taken at the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre (the hedgehog is being held using protective handling gloves). ‘Pringle’ the baby hedgehog, photograph taken at Birley Moor Vets4Pets.
The Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). BIAZA represents its member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums. For further information, please telephone 020 1449 6351.
Marketing Assistant and Animal Presenter
Tropical Butterfly House Limited
M: 07956 319464
Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre