By Rose Barrett
Misguided families ‘rescuing’ stricken hedgehogs and keeping them as pets are causing serious health problems for the spiked critters.
Yvonne McCann of Hedgehog Rescue Dublin says her half-acre plot in Rush, north county Dublin, is now too small to cope with the rising number of hogs needing help.
She told Dublin Gazette: “We normally have dedicated volunteers here but with the virus restrictions, that’s not possible.
“I’m trying to complete my studies in veterinary nursing with Dundalk IT, along with needing to do six or seven hours a day at the rescue centre. It’s hard going.”
Alarmingly, Yvonne revealed her workload has been exacerbated by well-meaning people ignorant of the needs and laws around wildlife.
She said: “Hedgehogs are a protected species under Irish law. You have to have a licence and it’s not easy to acquire one.
“I’m getting at least three calls a day from parents reporting a young hog or hedgehog they’ve found and they want to care for it themselves.
“It’s against the law to keep a wild animal such as a hedgehog in your home. It’s infuriating; I offer to collect the creature but no, they want to keep it themselves.
“These are families at home during lockdown, and the children are bored but hedgehogs are not like domestic pets, they’re a wild animal.
“Hogs often have parasites inside. We treat where necessary, otherwise they die. But families rearing them don’t treat the worms, they ring to say ‘it’s losing weight’ and eventually, the animal dies.
“One parent rang to say the hog was losing its spines and her son had a strange rash.
“I recognised it as ringworm. She wanted rid of the hedgehog immediately. This was a wild animal being kept in a bedroom with electrical lighting and possibly a TV.
“Hedgehogs are sensitive to light and sound so this was a totally unnatural and stressful habitat for it.
“When they are admitted here, the hogs are nearly always ill.”
Yvonne’s long-term goal is to open a small hospital incorporating a hedgehog clinic and catering for other wildlife including birds of prey, badgers, foxes and seagulls.
To donate see the Facebook page or visit hedgehogrescuedublin.com.