St Albans wildlife lover calls for help with hedgehogs

One of Nicky Jones' hedgehogs.

One of Nicky Jones' hedgehogs. - Credit: Archant

Show some love to St Albans hedgehogs as they come out of hibernation. That’s the message from a wildlife fanatic and former animal welfare volunteer.

Nicky Jones, 46, Tanners Close, St Albans, is always on the lookout for wildlife in distress, and often scoops up would-be roadkill.

But her favourite critters are hedgehogs and she has saved many in her time – even working for the world’s leading wild animal hospital St Tiggywinkles, Buckinghamshire, as a volunteer.

She said: “I was in my element. I signed up as a driver to transport sick or injured wildlife. I worked full time but I had somewhere to take any wildlife I came across that was injured or sick.

“Local vets do what they can but it’s not the same. They have animals to deal with that they get paid for but staff at St Tiggywinkles never turned away any animals. I’ve been all hours of the day and night. I would get calls to collect ducks or pigeons and hedgehogs.

“You should never see a hedgehog in daylight, as they’re nocturnal creatures so if you do, there’s a problem. I always do what I can to make any hedgehog in need comfortable. I still take whatever animals I find or whatever other people bring to me to St Tiggywinkles.

“If you have hedgehogs, you are lucky. They are not a nuisance and eat slugs that can damage your garden. Sadly, they are on the decline because there are so many vehicles and buildings now, so we need to help and encourage our spiky friends.”

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Hedgehogs are now waking up after their period of hibernation and the mum-of-two care manager is keen to remind people to leave out fresh water and wet food. Tinned dog or cat meat (not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, chopped boiled eggs or minced meat are ideal - not bread and milk as they upset their stomachs and can be fatal over time. You can buy special hedgehog food from wild bird food suppliers.

Nicky bought a hedgehog house last year to keep in her garden to tempt her prickly pals to make their homes close to her. She said: “I have a hedgehog house and luckily we had three hedgehogs in our garden before hibernation and now I am patiently waiting to see them again. I have already put out food and water and bought hedgehog food as I noticed they tend to eat more of that than my dog or cat food – expensive taste, no doubt!”

Nicky has a soft spot for a host of other wildlife and has rescued foxes and muntjac deer. She explained: “Obviously I’d struggle with a badger but I’d call the centre if I came across one, as they can attack. If I can pull over safely I will check an injured animal. Sadly, nine times out of 10 they have been killed. But I have to check. I can’t bear the thought of passing by.

“It would play on my mind too much if I hadn’t stopped and they could be suffering. We wouldn’t leave a human suffering, so why not help a defenseless animal? They can’t call out. They are scared. It’s important we do what we can to help the beautiful wildlife we are lucky to have.”

Nicky became friends with Les Stocker, founder of the Buckinghamshire-based hedgehog hospital, who died last summer, and she dreams of following his footsteps. She added: “If I had land or financial security, I would love nothing more than to dedicate myself to doing exactly what Les and his family achieved.”

He received an MBE for his animal rescue work. St Tiggywinkles was opened in 1985 by Princess Alexandra and is a large groundbreaking teaching hospital, with a 24-hour emergency service, which also cares for swans, otters, seals and bats.

The RSPCA recommend covering drains and holes, avoiding the use of slug pellets and removing sports or fruit netting when not in use. They also suggest checking for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, covering swimming pools and putting bricks beside ponds to give them an easy way out, if they get in the water.

According to the animal welfare charity, 10 hedgehogs can visit one garden in the space of a few days, so ‘your hedgehog’ could well be several hedgehogs!