Released, Rehabilitated Hedgehogs: A Follow-up Study in Jersey
Abstract:Thirteen over wintered juvenile hedgehogs (six male, seven female) were released in an area of farm land and gardens on Jersey, Channel Islands. Six (three of each sex) were originally from the same area, the rest came from other parts of the island. They were radio-tracked and monitored regularly for 6 weeks to investigate survival and especially whether 'site-native' animals and those from elsewhere differed in respect of their propensity to disperse widely following release. All animals survived at least 4 weeks and 10 were known to be alive after 6 weeks. The fate of the others is unknown, but there is no reason to believe that any of them suffered an early death.
Male hedgehogs used new nests more frequently than females. All remained within 400m of the release point for at least a month, some were still within 200m 6 weeks post-release. Five hedgehogs dispersed, travelling at least 400m from the release point. Four of these were males, including one recaptured 5.2km away. Dispersal seemed to be more related to sex than origin. All animals lost weight initially, but most stabilized after 2–3 weeks; proportionately more weight was lost by larger animals. None was seen to use supplementary food put out for them, despite weight losses, and no aggressive interactions with wild conspecifics were noted. Despite all the animals being naïve juveniles, with little or no previous experience of life in the wild, none were killed by road traffic. Positive conclusions from previous studies concerning the success and welfare implications of releasing hedgehogs after care in captivity are confirmed.