Five young hedgehogs have ventured into the wild at Center Parcs Woburn Forest after being nursed back to health at a local hedgehog hospital.
Willow and Bobby, aged three months, were amongst the prickle of hedgehogs who were encouraged to discover the natural habitat within the forest. After being nurtured back to health at local Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital, the hoglets now have a few months to settle in to their new home before the impending colder months and hibernation.
The UK hedgehog population has dropped from a healthy 30 million to barely one million, with diminishing habitats mainly to blame.
With numbers falling by more than 95% over the last 50 years, venues such as Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital are needed to look after those hedgehogs found by the public either orphaned, injured, sick or underweight and return them to full health.
The hospital has worked closely with Center Parcs since 2015 when Woburn Forest was recognised as an official hedgehog release site. The site was chosen due to the fantastic natural environment and the care Center Parcs rangers take in ensuring the habitats are kept in perfect conditions for the animals living there, which includes maintaining grasslands, creating dead wood habitats and providing a wide array of wild spaces.
Hedgehogs usually hibernate from mid-autumn through to mid-spring and while in hibernation their fuel supply comes from the fat stores they have built up over the summer. The five juvenile hedgehogs released today have been nursed back to health by the hospital to ensure they are healthy enough to build the stores needed to keep them going through the winter period.
Natasha Ennew, Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital manager, said it was a bittersweet day as staff had become attached to them.
“But we’re excited for them to discover the world,” she said.
“We’ve managed a hedgehog rehabilitation programme for the last 25 years and working with Center Parcs Woburn Forest allows us to offer a safe haven for the baby hedgehogs released from the hospital.”
Lucie Vicentijevic, conservation ranger at Woburn Forest, said: “The winter months are just around the corner and we need to look at ways to help the wildlife in our forest. For a long time Center Parcs has taken great steps to protect the forests and wildlife where it operates, conducting ongoing surveys into the animal numbers and ensuring their natural habitat is protected.
“Caring for the hedgehogs is just another part of our ongoing activity, but with the species under such threat it’s a mission that we take very seriously.”
Center Parcs Woburn Forest has a team of 18 rangers in charge of enhancing the biodiversity of the woodland and protecting the habitats of the animals that live there, from owls and birds to lizards and bats. These rangers will work closely with Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital over the winter months to ensure as many baby hedgehogs survive these months as possible, working with volunteers, animal keepers and Shepreth Trustees.
For more information on how Center Parcs works to protect their wildlife, visit blog.centerparcs.co.uk