Hedgehog Day Wheel-A-Thon 2011

These hedgehogs and their owners celebrate Hedgehog Day by raising money to help all pet hedgehogs.

The hedgehogs are in their wheels and ready to roll! Well, they will be come February 2, which is Hedgehog Day to many hedgehog owners.

“I’m sure you’re thinking that February 2 is Groundhog Day,” said Linda Woodring, vice-chief volunteer officer of the Hedgehog Welfare Society. “Over in Europe, it started as Hedgehog Day; and it was whether or not the hedgie saw his shadow by the light of the moon since they’re nocturnal. When the settlers came to the United States, there were no hedgehogs, so the groundhog got the gig.”

That explains Hedgehog Day, but what about the wheels? In the wild, hedgehogs can travel miles in one night foraging for food. Although pet hedgehogs don’t need to travel very far to get their food, they still need exercise; so many owners provide their pet with an exercise wheel.

About 10 years ago, Woodring said that members of the Hedgehog Welfare Society were trying to think of an annual event to raise money, and they noticed that many charities raise money by running. Hedgehogs love to run in exercise wheels, so the Wheel-A-Thon was born.

“This year we have 15 teams entered,” Woodring said.

Teams consist of a hedgehog (or hedgehogs) and its owners. Each team collects pledges for their hedgehog’s run on Hedgehog Day. “It’s a flat pledge, so even if someone has a hedgie that’s not into wheeling, it doesn’t matter,” Woodring said. This year, the home states of participating teams include Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland. There’s even a team in Canada.

Woodring said the money raised helps the Society do rescues and fund research on diseases that specifically affect hedgehogs, such as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome and jaw tumors.

She also mentioned an extraordinary circumstance that occurred in 2010. The Hedgehog Welfare Society helped with a rescue of about 700 hedgehogs, which were seized along with about 26,000 other animals from an animal wholesaler in Texas. The Society helped care for the hedgehogs during the court proceedings and, after the hedgehogs were turned over to them, the Society transported them around the United States and Canada. “I’m happy to say homes were found for all of them,” Woodring said.
“Normally we don’t have rescues on the scale of Texas,” Woodring said, “but under normal circumstances we help find forever homes for hedgehogs that are either rescued from bad situations or have to be relinquished by their owners for various reasons — can’t afford, kid lost interest, etc.”

How much will the running hedgehogs in this year’s Hedgehog Wheel-A-Thon raise? “Hopefully we’ll raise at least $1,500,” Woodring said, “but with the economy the way it is, who knows.”

The Hedgehog Welfare Society is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation, so it’s a nice option for people looking for a tax-deductible way to benefit pet hedgehogs.

For more information about the Society, check out its website. And follow the latest news and Wheel-A-Thon updates at the Society’s Yahoo group.

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