Burntisland Hedgehog Haven: A year of helping Scotland's wildlife

It’s been a busy 12 months for one Burntisland couple who have set up a hedgehog rescue centre in their home.
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Sharon and Andy Longhurst have created Burntisland Hedgehog Haven in a bid to help ill or injured hedgehogs recuperate before returning them to the wild.

From what started as helping one or two of the creatures in their spare bedroom, the charity has grown and the husband and wife now have the capacity to look after 21 hedgehogs at any one time.

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Sharon and Andy began the charity after discovering there was a need to help the animals, whose numbers are in decline, and that there was no where nearby.

Sharon and Andy Longhurst set up Burntisland Hedgehog Haven in their own home back in March 2023.Sharon and Andy Longhurst set up Burntisland Hedgehog Haven in their own home back in March 2023.
Sharon and Andy Longhurst set up Burntisland Hedgehog Haven in their own home back in March 2023.

Sharon, 47, explained: “We found a couple of hedgehogs in the garden that needed help and the SSPCA were very busy at the time. This was on two separate occasions.

"We knew they needed medical care, so we drove them to the wildlife centre in Alloa ourselves. That started the ball rolling and I thought ‘wait, we could do this’.

“Not everyone has got the transport to go to Alloa. If they can’t get medical care straight away then the hedgehog has no chance.

"So I learnt as much as I could about hedgehogs.

Sharon Longhurst, of Burntisland Hedgehog Haven, with one of the hedgehogs that came into their care.Sharon Longhurst, of Burntisland Hedgehog Haven, with one of the hedgehogs that came into their care.
Sharon Longhurst, of Burntisland Hedgehog Haven, with one of the hedgehogs that came into their care.
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"At the time Wormit Hedgehog Hospital was closing down. Sandy Black was looking for someone to take over in the area so I got in touch with him. I said I’m in Burntisland but I’m really keen to learn what to do. He helped us a lot and gave us some of his equipment, and that’s how it all began.

"We’ve taken in 111 hedgehogs in the last year. We officially took in our first one on March 7, 2023."

"When we first started we had them in the spare room upstairs and started taking a few in,” Andy, 58, explained.

"As we were starting to get busier we were having to say sorry, we can’t take the hedgehog, we haven’t got the room.

HufflePuff needed some care from the charity.HufflePuff needed some care from the charity.
HufflePuff needed some care from the charity.
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"We’ve now created a space for the hedgehogs in our converted garage. It used to be a play room for the kids, but now the kids have grown up and we’ve kitted it out for the hedgehogs.”

And to help with any capacity issues, Burntisland Hedgehog Haven is part of the Scottish Hedgehog Rescue Association with other hedgehog rescues around the country who work together to make sure the animals can receive help where required.

Sharon, who is also a lollipop lady in the town, said: “It’s a good network for sharing advice and knowledge, as well as being able to help each other out and take in hedgehogs if others are full.”

The number of hedgehogs in their care at any one time varies and their reasons for being there differ too.

Sparkle gets weighed.Sparkle gets weighed.
Sparkle gets weighed.
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Some come in with injuries, such as wounds from strimmer accidents or dog attacks, while others are suffering with the likes of round worm, lung worm and fluke or are covered in ticks.

There are also those young ones who are unable to build up enough fat reserves to hibernate and struggle through the winter.

"If people see a hedgehog out in the day, the should contact us and we can try to see what’s wrong,” explained Sharon.

"You shouldn’t see one out during the day and if you do, something is wrong.

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"Sometimes people will see one out during the day and leave it and then they see it again the next day, but by the time we’re then called it’s likely too late.

"As soon as someone sees one out in the day they need to act.

Snuffles getting back outdoors.Snuffles getting back outdoors.
Snuffles getting back outdoors.

"These are a prey animal and their natural instinct is to hideaway. They definitely don’t sunbathe.

"The one exception will be a mum with babies who will be out and about collecting nesting materials. She may be out during the day, but she’ll be on a mission and you may see her with materials in her mouth for the nest. She won’t be lying around in the open."

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Sharon and Andy, who works as a bus driver, have the support of a vet who assists in the medical treatment of the hedgehogs and their aim is to be able to treat the animals and return them to their natural habitat as quickly as possible.

And as long as it’s safe to do so, the creatures will be returned to the same area where they were found, ideally released in a garden where food, water and shelter can be supplied should they need it.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about hedgehogs, so we’re trying to help educate people and get the message across,” Sharon continued.

"They don’t sunbathe, they shouldn’t be out in the day. People often ask what to feed them – we always recommend kitten biscuits. No milk, no meal worms and no bread.”

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As well as caring for the hedgehogs, it’s been a busy year for the couple in terms of fundraising – but they are thrilled with the support they have received locally.

"We’ve had so much support from the community in Burntisland. It’s been absolutely amazing,” said Sharon.

"Everyone has been so generous. Starley Hall School have been fantastic. The did some fundraising for us and we bought an incubator with that money.”

"It’s been great,” said Andy, “The kids have had the opportunity to learn about the hedgehogs, after all they are the next generation to look after them.

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"We were also one of the local causes to receive Co-op funding, which we’re going to use to get a couple more incubators.”

And their hard work has also seen them nominated for awards at the Animal Star Awards 2024. Burntisland Hedgehog Haven is a finalist in two categories – volunteer rescue of the year and animal charity of the year.

The role they are playing in helping Scotland’s hedgehogs is hugely important to them.

“We like to give them a chance,” explained Sharon, “but obviously we take our vet’s advice.

"Sometimes you have to make hard decisions.

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"Everything we do is in the interest of the hedgehog. The health and the welfare of the hedgehog comes first.

"It’s so good to see them back out and we try to get them back out as quickly as we can.

"It’s a rewarding job, but it can be heart breaking as well.

"We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support. It’s just been amazing, thank you.

"It’s so lovely how many people do care about hedgehogs. They need all our help with them in decline. That’s one of the things that spurred me on, I had the thought that we can’t lose them.”

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