By James Somper and Harriet Whitehead
A poorly hedgehog who lost his spines due to stress is now on the road to recovery – thanks to daily massages.
The hedgehog, affectionately named Bear, was brought into the Cuan Wildlife Rescue Centre in Much Wenlock, Shrops, this January by a concerned member of the public who at first didn’t know what the spineless creature was.
Centre manager Fran Hill, normally looks after birds at the centre but took Bear into her care as a special case and discovered the tiny mammal’s spike-free look had also been caused by a mite infestation.
But thanks to daily back rubs and aloe vera treatment, Bear’s spines have now grown back and it is hoped the juvenile hedgehog will be returned to the wild this summer.
Fran, 52, said: “I’ve worked for Cuan for 10 years and have seen probably six or seven bald hedgehogs in that time, but never one as bad as this.
“We’ve had some in the past that have lost 65 to 70 per cent of their spines but Bear had lost about 97 per cent.
“It was really heartbreaking.
“But now he is doing well, eating well.
“I’m absolutely delighted – although my massaging fingers need a rest.
“I am hoping once the weather improves a little bit he will be able to go out.”
“He isn’t having massages any more because that would be quite painful for me now.
“But he is still having the occasional bath because his skin was was so exposed for so long it had got a little damaged.”
Bear was brought to the centre by a worried woman who had found him in her garden in Madeley, Telford, this winter with severely damaged skin.
Staff believe that Bear went into hibernation with an ear mite infection which took hold while he was hibernating – causing him stress and leading to the spines falling out.
Fran previously said: “He was brought by a member of the public who at first wasn’t sure what he was.
“We can only assume he went into hibernation and had these ear mites which took hold. When hedgehogs get stressed they lose their spines.
“I think that prematurely brought him out of hibernation which added to the stress.
“He must have been so cold as well.”
Megan Morris-Jones, who founded the rescue centre almost 30 years ago, has recently stepped down but still offers help to some animals at her home.
Fran said Bear could continue some of his rehabilitation there, in a more natural environment, before he is ready to return to the wild in May or June for the beginning of the summer.
She said: “We’re going to go there to make sure he’s doing all of the ‘hedgehoggy’ things he should be doing, like catching his own worms.
“For a while he has had everything handed to him on a silver plate.
“We have to make sure he’s ready before he goes back out there.”