TECHNIQUE

Accommodation of Casualty Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog (Mammal Husbandry & Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Hedgehogs: Health & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation  which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" and "Hedgehogs: Health & Management" Wildpro volumes, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog

Transport Containers:

  • A cardboard box is suitable.
  • Ventilation holes should be provided.
  • Bottom lined with newspaper and towels.

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Quiet, warm, dimly lit box or cage.
  • Secure cardboard box with ventilation holes may be used.
  • Line floor of box or cage with newspaper and provide a towel for bedding/to hide under.
    • Non-slip bedding (towels not paper) is important if the hedgehog may have a pelvic injury. (V.w45)
  • Supplementary heat may be provided if necessary by the use of an infrared heat lamp or a hot water bottle.

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Solid plastic box e.g. fish crate or similar.
  • About 0.5 square metres floor area is appropriate for hospitalisation accommodation. (B284.6.w6)
  • The container should be covered with a wire grill to prevent escape as hedgehogs climb well.
  • Floor of container covered with a thick layer of newspaper.(B291.12.w12)
  • Clean towel (changed daily) for hiding under. (B151)
  • Provide nest box hideaway e.g. small cardboard box (just big enough for the hedgehog to enter and curl up in) with an entrance hole on one side. (B10.39.w28, B291.12.w12)
  • Short-length soft shredded paper (e.g. shredded newspaper) may be provided as bedding which the hedgehog can burrow into.
    • Shredded office paper should be avoided as this may rub the hedgehog's shoulders (D97) and long lengths may tangle around a leg. (B284.6.w6)
  • Scrunched-up newspaper may also be used as bedding. (B291.12.w12)
  • The container should be cleaned out daily.
  • Heat, if required, may be provided using an electric heat pad, vivarium heater, infra-red lamp, dull emitter infra-red lamp, microwavable discs or thermostatically-controlled hospital cage. (B337.3.w3)
    • Take care that neither the hedgehog nor the carer can get burned on the heat source. (B337.3.w3)
    • Use of electric heat pads not designed to be used with animals cannot be recommended due to possible safety risks. (B337.3.w3)
    • Hot water bottles are effective short term but may draw heat from the casualty when they cool. (B337.3.w3)
  • If possible, for mobile casualties, provide a temperature gradient, for example by heating at one end of the box, so that the patient can choose the position at which it is at a comfortable temperature. (B337.3.w3, V.w5)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Keep males and females separate (except for juveniles before their first winter) to avoid breeding in captivity. (V.w56)
  • Secluded small grass paddock.
    • Pens 18x12 feet (5.4 by 3.6 metres) and five feet (1.5 metres) high have been used for up to four individuals. (J23.6.w1)
    • A suggested surface are of at least 1.0 square metres per hedgehog in communal housing. (B284.6.w6)
  • Perimeter fence should be secure with wire buried to a reasonable depth to prevent hedgehogs from digging out and escaping.
  • Perimeter should be checked daily for evidence of digging or other damage which may allow escape.
  • Ample natural vegetation should be available for cover: long grass, low-growing bushes etc. 
  • No agrochemicals, particularly molluscicides, should be used in the paddock.
  • A large sleeping box should be provided, with hay, straw or dry leaves for bedding.
    • The number of nest sites provided should be at least one more than the number of hedgehogs in the pen. (D89)
  • Maintain in outside pen for at least two weeks after recovery before release.(B151)
  • Pens should be wire-covered to prevent individuals from climbing out and birds from flying in. (J23.6.w1, B199)
  • Shade must be provided in summer. In particular nest boxes must be protected from direct sunlight. (J23.6.w1)

(B10.39.w28, B151, B199, B291.12.w12, J23.6.w1, D89, V.w56)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation may be particularly important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
    • Hedgehogs for whom this type of accommodation may be required include:
      • Female hedgehogs with young, until the family is ready to disperse. (V.w45)
      • Juveniles which have been over-wintered in care without hibernating, in the spring prior to full release. (D89, V.w45)
      • For assessment of a hedgehog following treatment, as an aid in deciding whether it is suitable for release. (D89, V.w45)
      • For hedgehogs considered to be elderly, e.g. with badly worn teeth and "gingery" colouring to the spines. (V.w45)
Notes
  • All cages/boxes must be cleaned and disinfected between occupants, or (for cardboard boxes) discarded.
  • Shredded paper is useful because blood and faeces are easily seen and monitored. 
    • White paper and, where used, towels, are preferable to coloured bedding as it is easier to see blood and other discharges. (V.w5, V.w45)
  • The potential for the transmission of ringworm should be considered when designing accommodation. Plastic containers are easy to clean and disinfect; cardboard boxes should be disposed of after use by one patient.
  • Perimeter of outdoor enclosures should be checked daily for evidence of digging or other damage which may allow escape.
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
  • Although 0.5 square metres floor area is sufficient for hospitalisation accommodation larger areas should be provided for hedgehogs which are being kept for more than a short time. (B284.6.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Wooden surfaces harbour ringworm spores and should not be used for hedgehogs with visible ringworm lesions.
  • Hay, straw and shredded paper may tangle around the legs of weak animals, and may act as a ligature.(B151, B284.6.w6)
  • Wire floors should not be used as they may lead to toe or limb injuries. (J34.24.w1)
  • If bedding is not replaced frequently faecal/urine soiling of the hedgehog may lead to skin infection. (J34.24.w1)
  • Metal floors and styrofoam insulation should not be used. (B291.12.w12)
  • Heat sources must be safe.
    • Take care that neither the hedgehog nor the carer can get burned on the heat source. (B337.3.w3)
    • Use of electric heat pads not designed to be used with animals cannot be recommended due to possible safety risks. (B337.3.w3)
    • Hot water bottles are effective short term but may draw heat from the casualty when they cool. (B337.3.w3)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Suitable containers for short and medium-term accommodation are available from many shops.
  • Most materials required for the construction of rehabilitation enclosures may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation requires some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation in particular may be expensive – the cost is generally proportional to the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01)
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Wildlife Casualty Legislation (with special reference to UK Wildlife).
Author Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Becki Lawson (V.w26); Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Kay Bullen (V.w45); Dru Burdon (V.w56)
References

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