The Behaviour and Survival of Rehabilitated Hedgehogs (Erinaceus Europaeus)
Abstract:Full 'rehabilitation' of sick and injured wild animals should include restoration to the wild. Few attempts have been made to discover the fate of released 'rehabilitated' animals, a significant omission in terms of animal welfare. They may die, unable to find adequate food or nest sites in unfamiliar places. They may be ostracized or even attacked by wild resident conspecifics.
Eight 'rehabilitated' hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) were released into farmland and radio-tracked to monitor their movements and nesting; they were also weighed frequently. Three wild hedgehogs caught on site were studied in parallel.
Only one animal remained close to the release site throughout the eight week study. The rest scattered, perhaps seeking more familiar terrain. One animal died, possibly not having fully recovered from its original disorder. Of the seven others, three survived at least seven weeks, but two then met with accidental deaths (drowning and road kill). Contact was lost with four animals, but circumstances suggested that they were probably still alive at least five weeks after release. There was no evidence of negative interaction with local wild hedgehogs nor any indication of difficulty with foraging, nesting or finding their nests again. Body-weights were generally maintained or increased.
It is concluded that rehabilitated adult hedgehogs can probably cope well with release.