The end of a very positive hog story
Everywhere you look now, animals are going about the serious business of bringing new life into the world.
A local farmer I follow on Twitter is tweeting videos of the interior of his barn owl nestbox, where to date four eggs have appeared underneath a surprised-looking mother.
A female blackbird has been hopping precariously around the edge of the garden pond to collect moss, and on the way to the Rollo Centre,I had to drive around a pair of farm geese that were mating noisily in the lane.
Sadly though, my rescue hedgehog Milligan didn’t survive his winter hibernation. I wasn’t too worried as he hadn’t woken by the end of March last year, but when Pat said all but two of the trust’s 50-plus hogs were up, I decided to check him.
I lifted the box lid and gently moved some of the neatly woven bedding material of straw, which I’d provided, and the leaves and grass from the garden, which he’d dragged in himself. All I came up with was more bedding – no hog.
I thought he may have found somewhere else to sleep so I went on a search under the shrubs and dried-out winter plants along the garden wall. Still nothing.
I finally returned to the box, and a more thorough investigation revealed conclusive evidence of Milligan’s passing. The air hole at the back of the box had been enlarged by persistent gnawing, and there was a small, pointy skull, attached to some vertebrae: all that was left of Milligan.
There were no signs of a struggle, as they say on Vera; his slow hibernation heartbeat must have simply stopped altogether, and he died all snugly wrapped in his leafy bedding. Later, a rat may have smelt his decaying body, widened the air hole and gradually taken him away.
But this is the end of a very positive story for Milligan. If he hadn’t been brought to the trust, he would have wheezed himself to a suffocating death with his lung infection, which he managed to recover from with daily medication.
In the recovery room, he was noted for his prodigious appetite and consequently extra large size.
He was legendary for totally trashing his cage, leaving a bombsite of upturned bowls, soiled newspapers and smeared walls for the volunteer unlucky enough to clean his cage out.
On release, Milligan had two years pootling about in my garden, enjoying his meaty pet food and mealworms every day, wandering through the flower beds in search of worms, and on warm summer evenings enjoying a doze in the undergrowth.
In his own way, he also gave something back to his human rescuers; in the two years he was with me, he thrilled many children and adult visitors who had never seen a hedgehog close up, and in talking about Milligan and animals more generally, they perhaps learned something about wild creatures they might never have otherwise.