About us, our volunteers & our standards.
We also deliver education and awareness talks to schools, groups and for organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts local groups and RSPB.
We also work very hard locally, within our county and region, and nationally on projects to improve the environment for hedgehogs and reduce human impact through awareness, projects and initiatives with other organisations.
Before Willows Began
We started out after having a hedgehog move into our garden. At first he was a daily visitor but we soon realised that he had taken up residence in the garden. We noticed that he seemed to be out a lot in daylight and he would come and stay by the patio table while we ate breakfast in the summer, happily eating alongside us.
We knew that this wasn't right and we soon discovered that he was blind and couldn't tell the difference between day and night. Day time is not the time you should see hedgehogs and being out in daylight and being blind it put him in a very precarious position.
This sparked a love of hedgehogs in us and before long we were talking to rescuers around the country with the upshot that we ended up acting as a hedgehog foster. This entailed taking in hedgehogs that were well but not heavy enough for release from other rescuers and looking after them until it was time to release them.
We thought long and hard and rescued a few hedgehogs ourselves with advice from other rescuers and our vets before deciding to operate as a public hedgehog rescue unit.
Photo, me and Stephan (orphaned hoglet) on release day.
That was the beginning of Willows Hedgehog Rescue.
Rescue Rehabilitation Release and Education
We now take in up to a hundred adult hedgehogs at any one time in the main hospital area (it can be a lot more when we have hoglets in with us) and in excess of this number at times during the year with the help of our foster carers - with members of the public bringing injured, ill and orphaned hedgehogs into us. Our facilities allow us to give suitable accommodation to both adult hedgehogs and orphaned hoglets with a large number of the hog pens having heat pads. We also have the provision of three incubators for seriously ill hedgehogs and newly born hoglets.
2015 saw the build of a purpose built rehabilitation wing allowing for the housing of hedgehogs that are off treatment and awaiting release. This means that the main hospital area can be used solely for hedgehogs on treatment and for hoglets. It has also as part of the build allowed a dedicated storage area for food and other consumables necessary to run the hospital.
Our Basic Standards
We are an RSPCA inspected centre and we work alongside the RSPCA in the region as well as working to their very high animal welfare standards. The welfare of our admissions is of the highest priority to us here at Willows. We have also attended RSPCA wildlife rehabilitation courses.
Top Left: Main examination & treatment areas. Top right: Main hospital housing. Bottom Left: Rehabilitation wing housing (during construction & now open) Bottom Right: Casualty examination area.
Our Basic Standards include.
- To only rescue where there is suitable evidence that rescue is necessary.
- That the welfare of the animal must always take priority.
- To provide suitable clean accommodation to all animals in with us and to continue to do so during the period of captivity.
- To provide that accommodation in a secure dedicated stress free hospital and rehabilitation area away from human noise and smells.
- To provide the medical attention that the animal requires regardless of cost or time.
- To provide that treatment where the animal has a good chance of recovery and ability to survive in the wild.
- In the case of animals whose injuries are too extensive or where treatment would be detrimentally long or stressful to the animal to euthanize humanly.
- To ensure that the animal is fully recovered before release.
- To release where the animal has the best possible chance of surviving.
- To release back to the location found unless the admission circumstances preclude this
- To allow natural behaviour as much as possible while with us and to only handle animals during assessment, treatment and cleaning of pens.
- We do not allow members of the public into the hospital area.
- No other animals wild or domesticated are allowed into the hospital areas.
- No persons under the age of 18 are allowed into the rescue areas.
- Animals are never shown or taken to events even on the basis of raising awareness.
- No animal is ever treated in such a way as become tame.
- Hospital volunteers have to undergo induction, training and to sign and abide by the hospitals rules and standards.
While raising awareness in the media we will not take part in any kind of media press/radio/TV that we believe does not respect the true nature of the hedgehog as a wild animal. We do not support imagery of hedgehogs shown out in daylight, images of hedgehogs posed in 'cute' positions (e.g. in plant pots) or any portrayal that shows hedgehogs other than wild, nocturnal animals.
We work closely with our vets Townsend Veterinary Practice Bromsgrove who carry out examination and operations on severe casualties, including x-rays, splinting broken bones and stitching together lacerations.
We have the experience, necessary medications and equipment to carry out prognosis and treatment for a wide range of situations and we carry out our work with advice and the support of our vets and from the kind staff at St Tiggywinkles who we speak to when more unusual or difficult cases come in. We also take advice from the Vale Wildlife Hospital.
(Please note that we are not connected with St Tiggwinkles but as the longest running, largest and most experienced wildlife hospital dealing with hedgehogs in the UK we feel that there advice and knowledge is invaluable. We are also not associated with the Vale Wildlife hospital who are a large and experienced Wildlife Hospital in Gloucestershire who we also highly respect for their knowledge and dedication to wildlife. We are not associated with the RSPCA but we are an RSPCA inspected and vetted facility recognised as working to their standards of animal welfare).
Some of the housing pens in the rescue area.
Many have electric heatpads under for hedgehogs undergoing treatment and juveniles. Larger bottom pens are often used for disturbed nursing sows and hoglets.
We self funded the unit to start with begging and borrowing items where we could and also spending a lot of time on the web looking for people looking to get rid of items that we needed such as large plastic pet carriers which are used in the rescue area for accommodation. As the number of hedgehogs coming in increased we had to expand our facilities and we now have outdoor and indoor pens for different stages of a hedgehogs stay with us. In fact we are now on our fourth extension of the unit facilities with the building of the new rehabilitation wing. We now need in the region of at least £8,000 a year to operate and these costs are rising year on year and as such we fund raise at our awareness events as well as having the ability on the site to donate to our unit. All of the money donated goes into the rescue unit to purchase food, medicines, daily disposable items such as examination gloves, cleaning products etc.
Fundraising for specific items such as incubators and for example the hospital extension are fund raised for separately so those donating can see where the money is being spent. We have a local accountancy firm that produces our yearly account for us accounting for all monies incoming and outgoing.
Every year we work hard to improve our facilities.
Our time is given free and we run the hedgehog emergency phone line twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Due to work commitments most of the cleaning and medication is carried out in the early morning and late evening and we often come home form work to go straight out on a call to collect an injured hedgehog. Where possible we ask that hedgehogs are brought into us as this helps keep fuel bills down and allows our time to be spent in the hedgehog rescue area and on the treatment of casualties.
The Day to Day
Running the unit can be hard. We see many horrendous injuries and some that end in having to euthanise the hedgehog as the injuries are not recoverable from. Sometimes many hours and days are spent providing care to an animal that does not make it.
When we have hoglets in we have to hand feed litters of up to six hoglets per litter and numerous litters at any one time every two hours for the first few weeks. Everyday the rescue area is cleaned, all bedding changed, food supplied twice a day and medications administered when necessary often twice daily. However the joy is in that most of the hedgehogs are treatable and do recover and are returned to the wild for a second chance.
Incubator and part of the examination area
After running the rescue with no volunteer help for the first two years and with just hoglet nannies and foster carers from then onward we decided in 2014 that to maintain high standards and also to improve upon them with increasing admissions and to allow us to keep a little sanity that we needed help with areas of the rescue.
We have three hoglet nannies who have been trained to look after hoglets while we are at work. All hoglet nannies have the equipment needed and the training from us to care for hoglets and our senior hoglet nanny Sue also has an incubator supplied by ourselves allowing her to care for very small hoglets when needed.
We have a number of rescue centre volunteers that help on a rota basis with the general rescue duties of cleaning and feeding in the hospital. They all work to strict standards and have to sign and agree to our facility rules before they can start volunteering with us. Volunteers are not expected to assess or give treatment to any animal in the hospital.
We have a large network of very dedicated foster carers who have the facility to look after one or two hedgehogs during very busy periods. These hedgehogs are ones off treatment and gaining weight before release. The foster carers also work to our standards and sign agreements with Willows before they can act as foster carers.
All volunteers have to
- Receive training before they are allowed to work in the rescue
- Wear appropriate clothing and any safety clothing supplied.
- Follow strict hygiene standards in handling of animals.
- Read, fully understand and sign our volunteer contract before commencing duties.
- Abide by the rules and regulations of Willows Hedgehog Rescue.
For more information on volunteering opportunities please see our Volunteering with us page.
Along with our initial aims of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release we spend a lot of time delivering education to both schools and groups and to the wider public at our awareness events. We believe that if things are to change in the favour of our native wildlife then this is imperative.
Who are we?
Willows Hedgehog Rescue is owned and ran by ourselves; Jayne and Charlie.
Jayne is a local government officer by day and I am a Ranger by day qualified in Countryside Management and Environmental Conservation and also delivering environmental education.
We both carry out the daily feeding, cleaning and general welfare activities for our patients as well as the assessment and treatment of the hedgehogs.
We also both respond to calls and if necessary attend to pick up casualties.
Jayne mainly carries out the additional roles of booking in events and manning the roadshow stand, getting contacts, keeping the paperwork, doing the hog washing (blankets, not the hedgehogs themselves!) and running the Facebook page. Want to know a little more about an average day (if there is such a thing for us)? More information here Behind the scenes
I run and write the website content and design, take the photographs, run the Twitter stream, administer the medications, design and deliver the education and give the public talks. Oh I also designed and drew our mascot Willow and create illustrations for awareness.
We do have some lovely lady volunteers who sew hedgehog blankets for us and we are now looking for people to help us man the events and awareness events stand as I am often working weekends. If you think you could help with this the please drop us a line.
Many thanks to our volunteer team of three hoglet nannies, hospital assistant and over twenty foster carers who help keep Willows running:
We do in an extreme emergency respond to other wildlife injuries but we do not treat other wildlife at our facility passing the casualty on as quickly as possible to an experienced centre, We have also received training in the handling of Badgers and rehabilitation of Bats. We do survey for other animals including Birds, Bats, Badgers and Water Voles.