A Cornish woman has converted her garden shed into a safe haven for sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, rehabilitating them until they’re well enough to be released back into the wild. Tracy Sargent, from Porthleven, does not make a penny from the operation, but she does so because of her unwavering love of as she calls them, hedgies.
Tracy has over 18 months so far rescued more than 160 hedgehogs. Her shed de ella has capacity for 11 but she wants to be able to expand so that Porthleven Harbor Hedgies Rescue can look after even more hedgehogs in need.
Tracy said: “This isn’t a business or charity funded operation. It’s a self-funded, non-profit rescue and I work to fund the rescue. I’m lucky enough to get wonderful donations from followers and supporters who give donations to keep the rescue going.
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“Everything is done in my own time, it is my choice to do so but I have no holidays, no weekends away, it’s all for my love of hedgehogs. I need to extend to meet demand, more and more hedgehogs are coming in sick and injured. I need to expand the rescue shed to accommodate more hedgehogs, with more working and storage space.”
Tracy moved to Porthleven four years ago from Launceston where she was born and raised. She describes always loving hedgehogs, but the whole rescue project starting somewhat by chance.
She said: “We started noticing hedgehog poo in the garden so set-up a wildlife camera and left out approved food and shallow bowls of water. The camera showed so much activity so my partner made a hedgehog feeding station and nesting box.
“We saw more and more hedgehogs coming in so my partner built me six nesting boxes/feeding stations. We then started noting hedgehogs coming in during the day and lying in the sun which is one sign of illness. I knew they needed help so got them into a local rescue. It was at this point I thought I wanted to do more to help them so started researching and then did a hedgehog first aid course in the care and rehabilitation of hedgehogs at Vale Wildlife Hospital in Tewkesbury. I got my certificate and it all went from there.”
Tracy had already contacted her local vet who offered support and her partner kitted out a 6x8ft shed with insulation and boarding which acts as the rescue centre.
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She said: “I’ve had excellent support and couldn’t continue without it. People have been so wonderful supplying me with lots of donations, from food, newspapers, puppy pads to handcrafted items I can sell to raise money. A few weeks ago I rang my vet to pay off a £227 bill to be told somebody had already paid it. I have no idea who it was but I was blown away with such an act of kindness.
“The hedgehogs that come into my care are often seen out by day looking lethargic, wobbly, dragging their back legs, sunbathing, trapped in netting, wounds that are bleeding, with flies around them or being attacked by birds. These are all signs of a hedgehog in need.”
Tracy spoke of how female hedgehogs are now giving birth or have already had their first litter. “Mums do take a break from the nest during the day but they will be seen walking with purpose or with nesting material in their mouths,” Tracy advises.
“If someone isn’t sure if a hedgehog needs rescuing then it’s best to call a hedgehog rescue immediately and to act on the advice that’s given.”
Tracy explained how when hedgehogs arrive in her care, they are either taken to my vet if they are injured or bleeding, or if they are sick from internal parasites she tests their poo under the microscope to diagnose and then treats them accordingly.
She added: “They stay with me usually anywhere from three weeks to three months, depending on what they are being treated for. Once they are fit and healthy they are released back to the area they were found if safe to do so. It’s very important to speak to the people who find the sick hedgehog and to ask them questions as it gives me a clearer understanding of the circumstances which of course plays a part in the hedgehogs care, treatment and plan for release.”
Tracy says it’s vital that if hedgehogs are seen at night they are left alone unless they are clearly injured or bleeding, they are nocturnal creatures and come out at night to forage, find a water source and a mate.
Describing her love for hedgehogs, Tracy says: “They are Britain’s best loved mammal and a gardener’s best friend. I’ve always taken a keen interest in them. They are beautiful, have wonderful characters and are intelligent creatures but they are now listed as vulnerable to extinction so I wanted to do more to help them thrive.”
For anyone wanting to help hedgehogs, Tracy’s advice is to let them into their gardens as all they need is a small gap and so many are killed on the roads.
She said: “Link your gardens up with your neighbors garden, shallow bowls of water are crucial, as so many come into the rescue dehydrated all year round.
“If you can offer a bowl of wet cat or dog food or bowl or kitten biscuits then that would be great. An overgrown area would offer them protection and shelter but also attract the insects they like to feast on.
“Please be careful when carrying out gardening activities and always check overgrown areas first. Please make your garden’s safe, raising netting, making ponds safe, providing a ramp for them to escape, checking bonfires before lighting and please do not use chemicals.”
Tracy has just admitted a female hedgehog with three one week old hoglets found in a black bin bag destined for the dust cart had they not been found.
You can find Porthleven Harbor Hedgies on Facebook and Instagram and support the expansion plan fundraiser here