Groton: Wildlife ‘hedgehog man’ sharing his home with the creatures

Richard Bates, of Groton, with Stinky and Stench that he has nursed back to full heath.

Richard Bates, of Groton, with Stinky and Stench that he has nursed back to full heath. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A WILDLIFE enthusiast from Groton has become accustomed to sharing his home with prickly house guests.

Richard Bates has just nursed two hedgehogs back from the brink of death to a fighting weight of around 800g each. When he first encountered the pair - which he has named Stinky and Stench - they weighed just 300g and 425g respectively.

He said the smaller of the two would never have survived if it had been left in the wilds. The 46-year-old, who runs a property and ground maintenance business, has rescued several of the spiney native mammals during the past two years, and he has become known locally as the “hedgehog man”.

He said: “The first hedgehog I took in was one I found when I was out walking my dog with my wife. We saw what we thought was a rat but then realised it was a small hedgehog. I knew it shouldn’t have been out during the day so I took it home and sought advice on what to do. Since then, I have learned as much as possible about hedgehogs and people have started bringing them to me when they find one.”

Mr Bates said he wanted to help protect the species, which is now listed as endangered in the UK. He added: “They are just such vulnerable creatures and you often see them run over in the roads and no-one seems to care. They actually do a lot of good in gardens because they eat slugs, beetles and caterpillars, and it is a myth that they pass on fleas to cats, dogs or people. Humans have ruined the hedgehogs’ habitat so we owe it to them to do what we can to help them survive.”

His latest charges gained their names because although they look cute, Mr Bates insists that they are “high maintenance” and quite smelly. He contintued: “Apart from keeping them fed and watered, they need cleaning every day and have to be checked regularly so it isn’t easy to care for hedgehog.

“But if anyone finds a hedgehog that is out during the day time between the beginning of November and the middle of March, then there will be something wrong. Either its hibernation will have disturbed or it will be unwell so intervention in such cases will undoubtedly give a hedgehog a better chance of survival.”

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He advises anyone who finds a hedgehog in such circumstances to seek advice from a vet in the first instance. He continued: “Highcliff Veterinary Practice were really helpful when I took Stinky along to them. They looked after him for a week and only charged for medicines. People who are interested in finding out more about hedgehogs can also get advice from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk”

The society provides helpful tips on minimising the potential hazards posed to hedgehogs such as garden ponds, swimming pools, cattle grids, bonfires and slug pellets.

The organisation advises people to give hedgehogs fresh water but never cow’s milk. They have produced a leaflet “Caring for Hoglets” giving tips on rearing young hedgehogs.

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