Hedgehogs need Norwich foster carers

People in Norwich were today urged to become 'foster parents' to needy hedgehogs after a Helleson shelter became full to capacity.

The Norwich Hedgehog Rescue charity, based in Middleton's Lane, is currently looking after more than 80 of our prickly friends and desperately needs a helping hand.

Charity founder Claire Williamson said: 'For the first time ever the hedgehog hospital is full. We have 50 young hedgehogs in a heated shed and a further 35 in our double garage.

'We receive referrals from the local vets, The RSPCA and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, as well as people who find hedgehogs in their gardens.

'We have had so many referrals and in order to accept any more we need foster carers to step forward.'

The charity is appealing for at least 20 foster carers to offer a temporary home to a hedgehog this winter.

Ms Williamson, who works to care for the prickly creatures, gave up her full time job as a childminder in July to focus and devote more time to the hedgehogs.

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She said: 'Spring was late this year, meaning Norfolk hedgehogs haven't hibernated this winter. Their weight needs to be 650 grams before they can hibernate. The sharp frost makes it nearly impossible for them to find food. The other day we had one brought in which weighed just 200 grams.'

Foster carers need to provide food and water for the hedgehog and clean the carrier every day. Norwich Hedgehog Rescue can provide the food.

Ms Williamson first became interested in fostering hedgehogs in October 2008 when she looked after one of her own.

The hedgehogs only need to be cared for until April, when they are released back into the wild.

The hospital receives no regular funding and so relies on volunteers and fundraisers to survive. Five volunteers currently work part-time during the mornings feeding and cleaning the hedgehogs, while Ms Williams looks after them during the evenings and overnight.

Ms Williamson is supported by her family including her partner Adam and two daughters Alicia, 13, and Evie, three, who help when they can.

She added: 'Evie loves to help. She wants to go out and feed the hedgehogs as soon as she wakes up. People don't realise that the hidden cost of caring for the hedgehogs is huge.

'On top of the food, each hedgehog has its own pet carrier which needs to be cleaned every day. We then have to pay the environmental health service to take this away.'

The charity has also received donations from Pets at Home, which donated �1,000 and The Darren Huckerby Trust, which donated �300. They also hold garden sales and fairs to raise further funds.

Norwich Hedgehog Rescue is holding a Christmas Fair from 2pm to 4pm this Saturday at Hellesdon High School. Ms Williamson will be handing out information to anyone who is interested in fostering a hedgehog.

If you are interested in fostering a hedgehog, contact Claire Williamson on 07884 418943, visit norwichhedgehogrescue.tripod.com or join the Facebook group Norwich Hedgehog Rescue.

Have you given up your job to devote your time to charity? Call Lucy Wright on 01603 772495 or email lucy.wright@archant.co.uk.