By far the most common reason for a hedgehog to be out in the day time is because she’s extremely sick, and has been so for a while, and this is the last desperate act of a dying animal, going into shock, trying to get warmth from the sun.
Purpose: Desperate to get warmth
Position: Always out in the open. On the lawn (or close to your house in winter, often on your doorstep, trying to get to the residue warmth of your house), on the pavement or road (tarmac holds the sun’s heat well, so sick hogs will choose to walk on or lie on the road), in a clearing.
Behaviour: Out in the open, away from shade and cover. May be running fast, but directionless (sign of pain), running in circles (neurological damage or ear infection), wobbling (severe dehydration), still (curled or on side), or walking seemingly normally, but aimlessly.
Action: THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. PLEASE TAKE TO A HEDGEHOG RESCUE IMMEDIATELY.
The short summer nights of June and July don’t have enough hours of darkness for mums and mums-to-be to forage sufficient food to sustain their growing needs, so they will extend the night by staying up after sunrise and getting up before sunset, and occasionally coming out during the day.
Purpose: Desperate to get food/water/bedding.
Position: Height of summer ONLY. Always keeping to shade and cover as much as possible.
Behaviour: These hogs will keep under cover as much as possible and be moving with a goal in mind, so will cover any open ground quickly and in a straight line, staying in the shade if possible. Once they have what they need they will go back under cover immediately.
Action: None needed. Always ensure there is clean water, refreshed morning and night, available in a shallow dish (a terracotta plantpot saucer is an ideal depth, and heavy enough not to tip). Providing a dish of cat food each evening at dusk will help her and her babies stay healthy, and will save her having to come out in the day.
During August and September juveniles (born in May/June) will be leaving mum and striking out on their own for the first time. They are particularly vulnerable as natural food and water is in very short supply now, and they haven’t the reserves to withstand starvation or thirst for any period. If they aren’t lucky enough to find a garden that provides food during the night, they will become desperate and severe hunger will drive them out to search in the daytime also.
Purpose: Desperate to find food/water.
Position: These youngsters will still keep to shade and cover as much as possible, but will come out in the open, scouring the ground for food. Behaviour: They will look as if they are on a mission, and will be actively searching for food or drinking from any water source. They will be weak, so will occasionally stop to rest behind a plant or under a bench, but will always try to be under cover and out of the sun as much as possible.
Action: If this behaviour is observed please place a dish of water and a dish of cat or dog food near to the hedgehog, then go indoors and leave her in peace - no photos/filming. If you are unsure, ring a hedgehog rescue for advice, we’re always happy to help.