A glance out of my window one evening in May 2017 resulted in a huge surprise. There was a hedgehog on the lawn. I called my partner who thought I had imagined it, but there really was a hedgehog in the middle of the garden. The following day we researched what to feed them and started putting out food and water from that point.
The hedgehog kept coming. Soon one became three and sometimes up to five hedgehogs were feeding most nights. Over the course of that summer we found that there were two distinct groups of hedgehogs. Three were very light in colour and had distinct blonde markings. The other two were a darkish brown. One evening during the Athletics World Championships I commented that one of the hogs had a lightning bolt pattern on his back, he was also sprinting up the lawn. I remarked that we should call him Usain Hog and the name stuck. His siblings were named Vic and Spot because of their markings. The other two were called Roly and Poly by my neighbour’s young son; I think one of them was Nelson but that’s another story.
Summer turned to Autumn, and by November only Vic and Usain were still feeding. One very cold and misty November evening I went out to feed the hedgehogs and made a dreadful discovery. Usain was rolled up right by the back door. I gave him a gentle prod but he didn’t respond; he seemed lifeless. I had no idea what to do at that stage but I sensed I needed to warm him up. After a quick look on the internet I got him in a box with some food and made a hot water bottle up for him. Taking care that the bottle was not too hot for him I placed it by his side, wrapped in a towel. There was a slight response, so the next stage was to get him help. I felt strongly at the time he wanted to be found so I was duty bound to get him the very best help I could.
After a few calls, I was given Tracey’s number at Hedgehog Rescue Chipping Sodbury, and to my relief she could take him. The evening meal was set aside my partner and I jumped in the car and set off to Tracey’s. Usain was in a critical state as he had collapsed and it was touch and go. However, Tracey filled me with confidence and I had no doubt he would make it. Updates from Tracey revealed that he had every parasite known to hedgehogs, Lungworm, Roundworm and the dreaded Fluke.
Over the next few weeks Usain continued to recover against all odds. In December, Tracey put out a request for volunteers. I was looking for something to do and I thought, why not? I wanted to learn more about the hedgehogs visiting my garden as well. During Christmas 2017 I entered the Hospital Shed for the first time as Tracey’s new weekend volunteer. I was reunited with Usain when I was being shown how to clean out the cages and hutches; he looked so well! I was thrilled that he would be coming back to us in the spring.
A few months went by and I continued volunteering with Tracey, learning more about the patients and getting very attached to quite a few of them. All the hedgehogs had different personalities and it was a joy getting to know some of their likes and dislikes. Eventually, in April 2018 it was Usain’s time to come home after a period of favourable weather.
Usain posed for a few photos, was put in carrier and started his journey back to my garden. He spent Saturday night in the carrier and was released on the Sunday night. Its better that way as there are less people in the garden to disturb the hedgehog when they are re-establishing themselves back in to their habitats. My wildlife camera revealed it didn’t take Usain long to leave the security of the carrier; he was wild and free in the garden again.
Usain continued to visit until late September 2018. He hibernated early as he was a bigger size, and large males tend to hibernate first. He returned in February 2019 after a mild spell of weather and spent the summer in and out of our garden. I haven’t seen him this year so I am not sure if he got through hibernation. I am hopeful as his sibling Vic is still with us. In November 2019 I had to rescue 3 little hoglets from the garden who spent the winter with Tracey. They are so like Usain in colour and markings I would like to think that they are his offspring. They are back in the garden now and thriving. As for me I continue to volunteer and support Tracey as much as I can.