Vicky offers a helping hand to hedgehogs in need
Two-and-a-half years ago she set up a hedgehog rehabilitation centre, little realising her home would soon become a drop-in centre for almost every needy hedgehog in Yorkshire.
Now, after being forced to give up her full-time office job because of the growing hedgehog workload, Vicky is appealing for voluntary and financial help to continue caring for them.
Her new lifestyle began when she found a confused hog in the grounds of her former workplace in Huddersfield.
“He was out during the day and any hedgehog out in the day needs help because they are nocturnal. I struggled to find anyone to look after him,” she recalls.
“I got it checked and look after him myself and released him after caring for him over the winter. I couldn’t release him during winter because there is no food around and once the temperature drops below five degrees they start hibernating.”
After taking a course in the care of hedgehogs she registered with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and can now find herself inundated with public calls for help.
“Last year I only had 30 all year but this year has been a bad one for hedgehogs because of the wet conditions and parasites.”
This week the number of hedgehog house guests at her home in Scarr End Lane, Dewsbury, reached 98.
Plastic cages are stacked from floor to ceiling in what used to be the sitting room; the sofa and chairs are long gone.
In fact, Vicky and her partner Steve are now forced to stand up to eat their meals because the kitchen is also dominated by hogs and there is nowhere to sit.
There are 62 cages in the sitting room, as well as some incubators for the tiniest animals and there are another 18 cages in the kitchen.
The house is also home to six cats, a dog, a ferret, four rabbits and, in the garden, 11 chickens and a cockerel.
On entering the house, the smell of hedgehogs and their food can be overpowering but Vicky and Steve are used to it.
They are also more or less getting used to the feeding and cleaning regime for the hedgehogs – which begins very early.
“I usually get up at 2am or 3am and start cleaning them out and doing their medication and feeding the little ones; they need feeding every two hours,” says Vicky.
“I stay up til around 6.45am and then go back to bed for a couple of hours while Steve goes to work.
“I get up again at 8.30 and start where I left off. They can be scruffy little critters so they do need cleaning out a lot.”
It is hard work for no pay but she loves saving lives and releasing them into the wild.
“I really enjoy it. They are just so endearing, aren’t they? When I was a kid I used to see an awful lot more than you see today. There are concerns that they could all be gone in the UK by 2050.”
Though she loves caring for them, the food bills are mounting and the workload is fast becoming too much to handle.
She is appealing for volunteers or fundraisers to get in touch.
Caring for the hogs over winter will cost around £50 per animal just in food, she says.
“I daren’t even think about the cost.
“We are pretty much broke at the moment. We did a fundraising collection and raised £200 which helped a lot.
“We go through about 25 tins of dog and cat food a day which costs between 39p and 69p a can. The little ones eat 12 cans of gourmet cat food a day which costs 42p per can. And I get 2kg a week of milk replacer for puppies which is £26 a tub. You cannot give them normal milk because they are lactose intolerant.”
Most of the hogs she takes in would have died if left outside and she has a survival rate of around 80 per cent.
She has no regrets about her new life, however, and is determined to continue the work.
“It’s amazing how hedgehogs take over your life. When people ring up I have to drive across straight away, particularly if the hedgehog is little. The people I meet are caring, lovely people.
“I would urge people not to turn their backs on hedgehogs. If you see one during the day, pick it up and pop it in a box and call someone.
“I want to get other people interested and make sure hedgehogs survive as a species.”
Contact Oggles rescue and rehabilitation centre on 07954 138853.