A dedicated Great Hale woman has saved the lives of a staggering 367 hedgehogs - with 37 prickly ‘patients’ now taking over her bedroom.
Tracey Stevenson, 47, set up her rescue operation Hedgelina’s Home for Hogs six years’ ago after finding a sick baby ‘hoglet’ on her patio.
She now rescues sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs and nurses them to health before releasing back into the wild. To date she has successfully treated and released 367 hogs - saving 200 of the animals last year alone.
With a high number of 37 currently in care, Tracey is temporarily sleeping on the couch while the hogs are housed in cages in her bedroom. She is also waking several times throughout the night to feed the young hoglets.
Speaking to the Standard about why she has dedicated herself to helping the prickly creatures, the married mum-of-two said: “If you have ever seen the pitiful face of a poorly hedgehog, you will understand why I started the rescue.
“The hedgehog population is in rapid decline. They face danger at every turn - from loss of habitat due to building, through the overuse of slug pellets in domestic gardens, right through to death from internal parasites picked up in their food.
“The majority of injuries I see come from dog attacks or strimmers. I urge every gardener to check long grass and hedgerows before strimming. I have seen some very traumatic injuries from strimmer incidents.”
As well as rescuing the hogs, Tracey visits people’s gardens to advise them on how to create a good habitat for the animals, and to remove ticks from their bodies. She also takes her miscroscope out on rescues to provide on-site checks to determine if hogs need to be taken in for care.
“I do not take in any hog unless absolutely necessary, and my microscope plays a big part in deciding this,” she said. “All hogs that come to me are tested for parasites, and treated accordingly with the correct drug protocol as set by Vale Wildlife Hospital in Gloucestershire.
“One of the most common, and most dangerous, issues for hogs is fly strike, particularly in late summer/early autumn. If a hedgehog has an injury, or is ill, and lies out in the open by day, flies will lay eggs on the hogs. These eggs hatch rapidly, and the maggots eat their way into the hedgehog. Once inside, they feast on the poor creature, literally killing it from the inside out.
“It is absolutely vital that any eggs or maggots are removed immediately, and thoroughly, before treating the hog any further. It is still not always possible to save the hedgehog, unfortunately.”
Tracey’s hog-saving efforts saw her nominated for a North Kesteven District Council’s community champions award earlier this month.
Her nominee praised her work, noting: “She often sees heartbreaking cases, and sometimes has to deal with members of the public who are very challenging, and she does all of this with a smile, always putting the hoggies first.” They added: “Tracey is the only person who rescues hedgehog’s in the North Kesteven area, she travels far and wide to take in needy hogs, making her a completely unique asset to our community and a true ‘one in a million.”
Speaking about the nomination, Tracey said she was ‘stunned, but humbled’, adding: “My reward is always the release of healthy hogs - that’s my aim, my ambition, and my return for all the hours I put in to caring for them.”
Long-term Tracey would love to have a large shed or log cabin in her garden that she can convert into a dedicated hospital and rehabilitation centre for the hogs.
In the short-term, people can help by donating funds, chicken-flavoured cat food, fleece blankets or kitchen towels. To help, call 07899 748930.