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Hedgehog Rescue and Hibernation

Hedgehogs getting ready for winter Pixabay free image

Hedgehog rescue and hibernation weights are a passion of mine at the moment. It all started when we realised we had 5 hedgehogs visiting our garden.

Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. Hibernation is complicated. It is often a perilous energy conservation strategy. It is not just ‘going to sleep.’

In sleep, all bodily functions remain nearly normal but in hibernation, the metabolism is almost at a standstill. During hibernation, hedgehogs drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.

Look Out For Hedgehogs

Those hedgehogs visiting your garden over the next month will be trying to get as much body fat built up as possible. As a result, they will be ready to hibernate. Therefore please do keep providing food and water for your visiting hedgehogs.

Please note that hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and ordinarily will not be out and about during daylight hours. If you do see one, there is every likelihood that it is in some kind of difficulty and may require professional assistance.

As with every rule, there are always exceptions and if the hog that you’ve spotted looks very active and busy please try to observe before intervening. Don’t forget that we are dealing with live, wild creatures and each case will be different.

Hedgehog house stage 1

My Design Tips For Hedgehog Houses

Why not consider building a lovely hedgehog house for them to overwinter…!!! Find a couple of old 12 bottle wooden wine crates, attach a 15x13x30cm tunnel to keep out cats and other predators.

John's homemade hedgehog house

Fill the house with hay/leaves, place it in the corner of the garden and cover with logs/leaves – they’ll find it – JOB DONE!!!

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How Big Do They Need To Be To Survive Winter?

Hedgehog at winter weight ready for hibernation

Sadly, Hedgehogs who are less than 600 – 650 grams by the end of October are too small to hibernate and are unlikely to survive the winter. However, here in the South, if it remains mild this can be stretched on into November.

Once we have a frost, any hogs under 600g will be in trouble. If you see a small hedgehog after October it is in serious trouble. You can help it in its desperate hunt for food to increase its weight. Only by being heavy enought can it hibernate and survive. By November all it’s natural food is declining.

Underweight Hedgehogs Need Help

These hedgehogs must be rescued and over-wintered by a suitably equipped hedgehog rescue/carer. If you should find such a hedgehog pick it up and place it into a high sided, escape-proof box.

Fill a hot water bottle or a pop bottle with hot water and wrap it in a towel. Place the towel-wrapped hot water bottle or pop bottle in the bottom of the box and pop the hedgehog in next to it. Place another towel over the hedgehog and close the box – be aware, hedgehogs can climb out of boxes!

British Hedgehog Preservation Society

If you are ever worried about the health or welfare of a hedgehog, please call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 and they will be able to give you advice, and put you in touch with a local rescue center if necessary.

Hedgehog Rescue and Hibernation – Oct 2019

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