The scale and impact of wildlife rehabilitation on the European hedgehog

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation at Conference


Introduction: Up to 71,000 animals per year are admitted to wildlife hospitals in the UK, of which 16% are thought to be hedgehogs. Individual carers, who frequently provide hedgehog rehabilitation, have not been included in previous estimates. With no regulation of wildlife rehabilitation in the UK, unlike Australia, the scale and impact of care is not known, despite the hedgehog's status as a European Protected Species. Population estimates of this nocturnal, native mammal are estimated to be less than one million, with a 40% decline in the last 10 years. This study aimed to determine with more accuracy the scale and impact of hedgehog rehabilitation in the UK, and assess variation in practice.

Methodology: A qualitative, self-administered online questionnaire was promoted to determine the number of hedgehogs admitted, the cause of admission and the outcome of treatment. The questionnaire was promoted to reach small-scale independent rehabilitators as well as large wildlife hospitals run by major charities. A systematic search of online records provided further data.

Main Findings: Responses were received from 177of ~800 hedgehog known rehabilitators, reporting 30,591 hedgehogs treated between 2012 and 2016, with 10,931 treated during 2016. Further online records of 11,418 hedgehog were found during 2016, suggesting previous estimates could be far too low. The most recorded cause of admission was activity during the day (36.49%, n= 3,546) and autumn juveniles (25.99%, n= 2,525). Over 54% (n= 7,507) of admissions survived to release, which is higher than previous estimates. Practice between centres varied substantially, particularly in relation to support for the animal during release. The controversial practice of releasing animals following limb amputation, which may have a significant impact of welfare, was practiced by 77.7% (n=115) of 148 respondents.

Principal Conclusions and Implications for Field: This is the largest scale survey on this topic in the UK, and suggests hedgehog care and rehabilitation is more widely practiced than previously thought. Based on these data, an estimated 5% of the UK population may experience rehabilitation in any one year. Some widespread practices could negatively affect the welfare and survival of this protected species, so greater standardisation of practice would be recommended.

Period3 Jul 2018
Event titleInternational Society for Anthrozoology Conference 2018: Animals in Our Lives: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human–Animal Interactions
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, Australia, New South WalesShow on map