As you can see from the Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue website, we rescue all native wildlife, but by far the animal we see the most of is the hedgehog. Baby hedgehogs come to us throughout the year; we rehabilitate them here in pre-release runs and, when they are ready, we work with homeowners to soft release the hedgehogs—as babies or adults—in their gardens.
The Soft Release Procedure
If an adult hedgehog comes to us with a relatively simple injury and is healthy in other ways, we release them back to the area they came from and soft release isn't always required. On all other occasions, we only use soft release. We have found this to be successful and to greatly benefit the hedgehogs and to increase the chances of hedgehog populations thriving.
Our soft release programmes are quite strict; over the last 30 years we think we have come up with a solution that benefits the hedgehogs and puts their well being first. Not all locations and gardens are suitable for soft release. You would need to contact us to arrange a site visit prior to an installation so that any issues can be resolved at this stage. You will have to attend one of our release courses and sign a release contract with us to follow guidelines and rules.
The house that you create for the hedgehog needs to be completely dry inside and free of damp. This can be achieved in many ways - if you have an existing house, we can advise you how to modify it to achieve the standards needed. You need to ensure the bottom is slightly off the ground to prevent the damp coming up through the floor. The roof needs to be waterproof and weatherproof.
We create our own heavy metal hedgehog houses but it is very easy to modify existing houses that you may have. Very few of the ones you can buy on the high street are suitable, so please contact us before you make any purchases. Please make sure you have attended our course and spoken to our hedgehog officer about this.
The house must not be disturbed once the hedgehogs have started to use it. They must feel completely safe in their new surroundings if they are going to thrive.
Soft release runs need to be a minimum of 6ft x 6ft and 6ft high. It is incredibly important that human contact is kept to a minimum. The mesh needs to be 1inch mesh or smaller - the floor also needs to be covered in mesh.
The hedgehog house is placed at the back of the run, it must be protected from weather extremes. A small access for the hedgehog to get in and out needs to be put in at this stage, but obviously made secure. In order to protect it against the elements, we recommend using reed screening for the roof or growing climbing plants.
Inside the run you will need a large bowl, probably 2ft in diameter, that has pebbles inside and water. Flower pot trays with low lips are the most successful and hardiest ones to use. This will ensure that in hot weather, the water will not totally dry up during the day.
We use dry food in the runs as it smells less and attracts less interest from other wildlife. Feeding must always be done during the late evening. Once they have access out of the run, we recommend you feed in other areas in the garden and use a varied diet. Please do not over feed - we know that hedgehogs prefer their natural diet and they will forage for food even when being fed.
Once the run has been situated, we will ask you to soft release 2 hedgehogs. Once they are settled in your run they will be given access to the small access door and will slowly, over a period of time, relocate to the surrounding areas. You will need to purchase a trap camera to monitor the frequency of visits to the run. We have had hedgehogs remain in the run for over a year and have several litters even though they are free to go. The success of the soft release programme is based on the hedgehogs being safe.
Once your hedgehogs have fully vacated the run, we would look at releasing another 2 hedgehogs and going through the same process again.
Whilst some people may be concerned at how complicated this procedure is, we must remind you that the goal is to release these hedgehogs successfully and the hedgehog must come first. We have found this to be the most successful way - we soft release all our wildlife and we have a high success rate.