This morning, I spent the best part of an hour rescuing this hedgehog from certain death.
I was working in the shed when I heard a strange sound coming from a corner beside a big bale of hay. Not sure of what I might find, I gingerly took a peek and was horrified to discover this poor hedgehog completely entangled in plastic netting from the outside of the bale. He was covered in netting and hay on all sides – if he hadn’t been grunting I would never have found him.
I ran to get my gardening gloves and a sharp knife and set about trying to free him. The netting he was caught in was still attached to the bale. He had obviously twisted himself around a number of times, trying to escape, and had created a thick rope of plastic strong enough to hold a human in place, never mind a tiny hedgehog. It took me several minutes to cut him and his entanglement free of the bale so that I would take him outside to the daylight. He didn’t struggle but did continue to grunt.
Outside on the grass, I patiently started cutting the fine plastic threads away from his spines. Some pieces were wrapped around his body a number of times, others were threaded through his spines like some sadistic lacework. For the most part, the plastic was so embedded that I had to use the point of a sharp knife between individual spines to slowly tease them out. The hedgehog fell silent as I worked and I was worried that I was already too late. There had been a strong smell of urine and poo at the site where I’d found him, so it’s likely he was there for some time, slowly starving to death. But then occasionally he would flinch, tightening his spines to protect himself before slowly relaxing again. He was most skittish when the knife came close to his face, so I removed most of the threads there my hand. A small few remained after I was finished, but I just didn’t want to use the knife there if it was alarming him.
By the time I was finished, he was completely still – I had to watch for several seconds for any signs of life. I had seen a wildlife video recently that said dog food was the best option for sick hedgehogs, so I collected the dog’s food and water dishes and set them beside him. I checked on him every ten minutes or so, but he didn’t seem to have moved. Then, suddenly, he was gone. I looked around the garden, but couldn’t find him. I even looked back in the shed to see if he’d gone back to what would otherwise have been a perfect nesting spot, but there was no sign. (While he was recovering I had gone in and removed all the plastic netting so there was no chance of a repeat with a hedgehog or any other animal.) I can only hope he has gone to safer territory. Bon chance, mister hedgehog!