Hedgehogs & Hibernation

Hamworthy Hedgehog rescue are back to give you some autumn advice on all things “hedgehog”.

Hibernating or just sleeping? 

Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. Hibernation is a complicated and often 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.

Building up fat reserves

Those hedgehogs visiting your garden over the next month will be trying to get as much body fat built up as possible. This is so that they can be ready to hibernate – so 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. It may require professional assistance. As with every rule, there are always exceptions; 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.

How do I know if a hedgehog needs help? 

It is generally considered that 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.

Any small hedgehog that you see out after October is in serious trouble, and will be desperately looking for food to increase its weight in order to hibernate. This will be difficult because its natural food is declining.

How to help a hedgehog in trouble

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!

Then phone us (Hamworthy Hedgehog Rescue) on 07587 925476, or alternatively call the BHPS on 01584 890 801 for details of your local hedgehog rescue.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *