Endangered hedgehogs find a true friend in former nurse Tracy

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A former nurse from Prestatyn who has turned her attentions to the prickly problem of one of Britain’s most endangered garden creatures is to open a new hedgehog hospital in her back garden.

Tracy Pierce runs Hedgehog Help Prestatyn and currently has 27 hedgehogs on her books, four of them at the Small Animals department at Llysfasi College, near Ruthin, and three with a foster carer in Prestatyn.

Her fund-raising efforts have been hampered by the pandemic lockdowns but her finances have been bolstered by a £350 donation from law firm Swayne Johnson where her daughter, Sarah, is a solicitor.

She is tending to 20 at home, helped by her valued volunteers, with the most recent arrival last week, a female from Kinmel Bay, weighing just 350 grams, half the size she needs to be to hibernate for the winter.

Tracy said: “In the wild they will eat some slugs and snails which is good for gardeners, but their diet is very wide and includes insects, worms, bugs, beetles and frogs. To supplement their natural diet, I find they do very well on kitten food and biscuits.

“I am quite well known and have had hedgehogs brought to me from across North Wales and into Cheshire but these days there are also groups in Gwynedd, Anglesey and in Flintshire.

“They do seem to get into all kinds of trouble, stuck down drains or trapped in litter – I once found a litter of hoglets in a bag of garden rubbish and no sign of their mum.

“Hedgehogs brought to us are weighed, checked over for injuries, warmed in the incubator, given fluid injections and very important we examine their poo for internal parasites and treat accordingly. Once fit and well they are returned to the wild, which is where they need to be.

“I’m very grateful to Swayne Johnson because it will help me kit out the new shed – lockdown restrictions have made it impossible to fund-raise through talks at village halls and charity sales.”

Swayne Johnson have offices across North Wales and in Chester and Director Lynette Viney-Passig said: “We’ve been delighted to help Tracy with the fantastic work she is doing with these iconic little animals.

“We have a strong tradition of supporting local charities and good causes and last year set up a special Swayne Johnson Charity Fund to make it easier for applications to be made to us for help.

“The aim was to enable us to identify local charities and those serving North Wales and Cheshire and it has worked very well and already we have identified a number of worthy recipients and are looking forward to receiving more enquiries.”

Nationally hedgehogs are in crisis and the numbers of these shy, little nocturnal creatures are estimated to have fallen by 90 per cent in the past 50 years.

Tracy’s current guest list seems impressive but last winter she had 46 at her home in Ffordd Penwylfa with another 40 out with carers – many of them former nurses like her.

Changes in how we live are taking a terrible toll with fences and walls replacing the privet hedges that allowed hedgehogs to roam easily and their now isolated communities are increasingly vulnerable to disease and internal parasites as well as shortages of food.

Tracy set up Hedgehog Help Prestatyn four years ago and she said: “A lot of things we humans are doing are having a devastating effect on hedgehogs so if we don’t look after them now then we could lose them.

“I first became interested in them when I saw one eating the bird food that had spilt from the bird table in the garden and I started making hedgehog boxes and people would bring me poorly ones.

“But I found that even my experience as a nurse wasn’t very useful in treating hedgehogs, so I registered as a carer with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and through them I went to the Vale wildlife hospital to do a Basic Hedgehog Care Course which taught me a lot.

“In the past 12 months we’ve dealt with about 400 but they’re tricky animals to turn round and get better. If you see a hedgehog out in the day 99% of the time it is in trouble so timely rescue is the difference between life and death.

“We are so lucky to have people who help, including a fantastic local vet and the electrician who is wiring up the new shed, labour free.”

For more on Swayne Johnson, including how to apply to their Charity Fund, go to http://www.swaynejohnson.com/ and for more on Tracy’s work go to http://hedgehoghelpprestatyn.org.uk/