Hogs at Large

Open House: Spring awakening for its inhabitant, April 2020

When our hive shaped wooden compost bins finally rotted away we replaced them and I took the still sturdy solid tops and placed them in the undergrowth of the garden’s woodland corners. One shelter gathered autumn leaves and may have provided some shelter to small mammals but the other, hidden in denser ground cover, provided the desired result; hibernation lodging for a hedgehog. With the winter inhabitant awake and departed the image above shows its snug nest of moss, grass and leaves. Via phone and over-the-wall conversations we learn there was a recent adult hedgehog death at Southridge while on the hill eastward towards the village, a half dozen fields away, the remaining sow in residence at Overcrags barn has produced a litter, much to the delight of the farmer’s wife who supplements the adult’s diet with catfood. No sightings in our garden so far but I have spotted their tell tale spraints about the place.

Two of the female triplets released at the corner house, May 2016

I need to backtrack on this story…In May 2016 we were gifted three female hoglets; abandoned orphans discovered in the playground of a primary school in Newcastle by the headteacher, the sister of an artist friend. Gina – who specialises in animal paintings – lovingly cared for the triplets, hand weaning them for weeks before we adopted them. Released in the garden they promptly scattered. One decided to stay put however, domiciled in one of the aforesaid shelters, and from time to time we spotted what we believed were the other two at night in and around the general vicinity. As that summer came to a close, much to our dismay, the resident fell victim to a nocturnal hit and run death on the road. Two other young hogs (we presumed the remaining pair) had by this time settled in to overwinter in Overcrags barn. Last spring (as related here previously) our friends & neighbours at Oldstead were delighted to discover a litter in their garden.

Our ‘Summer of 16’ resident

So, as you see, the presence of this iconic creature in the immediate area remains good with potentially more gains than losses. Nationally the population has plummeted; down from an estimated 30 million in the late 1940’s to around 1 million now. Fortunately, due to growing awareness and practical action by government, conservationists, farmers and householders the little creature’s fortunes have at last started to turn. For example, new cattle grids have an inbuilt escape ramp for hedgehogs. One significant effect of the current lockdown has been the huge decrease in road traffic and that in turn will, for this year at least, boost the population not just of hedgehogs but of badgers, otters, rabbits, hares, toads and frogs as well.

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