WILD, NATIVE, ALBINO HEDGEHOGS
By Annette L.Pyrah
In 2015, I admitted the first wild albino hedgehog into my Wildlife Rescue. With pure white spines, pink eyes, nose and paws, it is thought that there are only around 100 albinos in the UK making them very rare indeed. However, in my area, Selby, North Yorkshire, they seem to be quite prolific with reports each year that more have been seen and generally it’s in the same location.
My first albino hedgehog was a young male who I released back into the wild quite locally and in 2017, a second albino was admitted. This time, a baby, a tiny little female who I named Twinkle. She was found just yards from where our albino male had been released. It is more than likely that he is her father. Although genetics is not my strong point, I understand that both parent hedgehogs have to carry the albino gene to create an albino baby.
Sadly, Twinkle was very ill when she arrived. Dehydrated, emaciated and found out in the day by the side of a main road. Out in daytime is never a good sign. Following many days of round the clock care, she finally began to improve. From there on in, Twinkle began to eat. She was a very hungry hedgehog and loved her food. I had to put Twinkle on a diet as being overweight is very dangerous for hedgehogs as they need to curl into a tight ball to protect themselves. However, the reason for her eating became obvious as strangely enough she began to hibernate in September which is very early indeed. Her premature hibernation prevented her from being released and Twinkle spent all winter in Rescue, snoring away.
When Twinkle finally began to emerge from hibernation she was still a good weight and very healthy. I thought, great, she can now be released. However, having shared her large, wild enclosure throughout winter with a gentle hedgehog named Bobby, it soon became obvious that Twinkle was eating for more than one. Bobby was released back into the wild and Twinkle gave birth to four beautiful, normal coloured hedgehogs. The babies were fat and healthy, three little males and one female. Twinkle was a great mum.
It was around this time that a news article was pointed out to me which stated that albinos do not do well in the wild. A Press report on the internet said they get picked on as they glow in the dark. Well Twinkle certainly did glow in the dark and being very large, I now faced a dilema whether to find a captive garden for Twinkle in order to keep her safe or release her in the same manner I release all our rescued hedgehogs. The habitat is checked for suitability and the presence of other hedgehogs is noted, there has to be no badgers in the vicinity and no ponds without an escape route. The checklist is thorough and endless.
I was torn one way and then another. Keeping a wild creature in captivity is an alien concept to me and being a very typical Sagittarius myself, freedom is our lifeblood, it’s essential to life.
However on the other hand, having put so much time and effort into Twinkle to get her fit and well again, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being predated.
I decided to discuss my concerns with hedgehog experts and contacted a number of Hedgehog Hospitals down south who reassured me that I had done the right thing in releasing my first albino and I should do the same again with Twinkle. This came as a huge relief and made me feel a whole lot better so I began to seek out a suitable garden for Twinkle’s release.
Through the power of Twitter, I found a beautiful garden in a small rural village, just outside York. It was perfect and the owner had motion cameras to capture Twinkle’s nightly adventures.
Reassured by what the London Rescues had told me, Twinkle was released. It was a bitter sweet moment, but I knew I was doing right by her. Sure enough, she became very grubby very quickly and all the followers on Twitter now eagerly await the next instalment of what Twinkle gets up to in the Night Garden!
In July of 2018, I admitted our third albino hedgehog. This was a tiny little baby, weighing just 88g. I named him Jericho. He was in such a bad way I did not think he would survive, and once again I threw everything I had in trying to save him. Huge blue ticks had sucked his blood and he was very anaemic. However, once again, I pulled him back and Jericho, though very small is still with us and is a most charming little fellow. His eyes are bright pink and he has a most endearing and inquisitive nature. Once again I will worry when he is released into the wild. But Jericho is a wild creature, he was born wild and wild he must remain.
On the 1st April, a female hedgehog was admitted with lacerations and a broken leg. These were caused by a dog attack. The leg had to be amputated
The Wildlife Orphanage has had an influx of small hedgehogs over the last few weeks. These are the Autumn Juveniles, born late in the year. They are often seen out in daytime and looking a bit wobbly. Please act quickly if you see one as they go downhill rapidly.
With winter just around the corner, these little hogs will be just too light for hibernation. They need to put on lots of weight to see them through the winter.
If you see a tiny hedgehog roaming about, often in daylight,
Please ring 0771 1883072 for advice.