Hibernation...

As the winter arrives many hedgehogs will be looking for safe places to hibernate in your space. If you are intending to do any work over winter in your garage, sheds, man caves and outbuilding please check for them before you start. A hedgehog woken from hibernation will be unlikely to get back to sleep without care. Relocating is also not an option. The hedgehog has probably chosen that spot as it fulfils its hibernation needs for the long sleep. It may have successfully hibernated last year in that space and doesn't have a backup plan. Many hedgehogs die during hibernation because their chosen site isn't suitable so please take care over this period when relocating and moving garden waste and clearing areas. Their hibernation site must be safe and secure to give the sleeping prickly ball the best chance and garden waste to a hedgehog could be the perfect location. Please contact us or your nearest rescue if you find one in a deep sleep for advice. 

All the above have been hibernation sites 

Hedgehogs can survive well in extreme temperatures but cannot survive without food. During the winter months, hedgehogs’ natural food sources start to disappear. Some of their food sources such as earthworms, ladybirds, invertebrates and caterpillars have gone into various states from pupa to chrysalis to dormancy themselves! The answer for the hedgehog is to hibernate this typically happens between October and April.

In the preceding months throughout the Spring and Summer, hedgehogs will be more active and will busily hunt for food to increase their fat stores in order to survive the winter. It is vital to their winter survival, that they are able to find enough food during this time.

Grace’s Five Point Charter advocates natural planting to encourage the slugs and bugs that feed Grace indirectly. After all, Grace is known as a gardener’s best friend for a reason! You will want her to rid you of your garden pests! Hedgehogs foraging for a natural diet in a well stocked garden, are independent of humans and able to survive when people move house or go away on holiday. However, if you do choose to feed your visiting hedgehogs and they are dependant on you, it is important to continue to do this over the winter, even if you don’t see them for long periods.  

All the above have been hibernation sites 

Our studies show that hedgehogs may not hibernate if they are being fed, or they may only partially hibernate. They can wake up during this hibernation for short spells. We see young juvenile's staying awake during hibernation season. They do not have the fat reserves to hibernate. They often appear unaffected by the extreme cold providing and only providing they have a safe and dry accommodation and have access to food and unfrozen water.  The standard recommended weight for juveniles to survive winter hibernation is 450g. We  would like to see a hedgehog at around 600g for a safe hibernation. 

We think it is vital that these semi-hibernators have access to food if they do wake up. They will remember that you offer them food, and they will come to you to get it!

During hibernation, their heartbeat slows from 190 to 20 beats per minute and their body temperature drops dramatically to match that of their surroundings to conserve energy for the long sleep. It takes a lot of energy to get their heart rates back up to non-hibernating levels, and to raise their body temperature back to normal. If they are unable to find food in this time, there is a real chance that they will not survive the winter. Like us, hedgehogs need a variety of food in order to keep healthy, so if you do choose to feed them in your garden, you must bear this in mind. In the same way that we would get deficiencies if eating only apples every day, hedgehogs will struggle to stay fit and well if they are fed just one brand of food. It is very important then, that if feeding, you continue to offer a wide variety of food. Over the hibernation period, it is a good idea to buy smaller bags of food, and mix up brands and flavours so that the hedgehog is getting a broader range of nutrients. A hedgehog that is unable to eat is a hedgehog doomed to a slow and certain death. Whether you feed in your garden or not, all hedgehogs and the wider wildlife population require a fresh supply of water to be constantly available. It is important that you check regularly, that your water bowl isn’t  frozen. A ping-pong ball placed in it to blow around in the wind can help to disturb the water surface enough that it may not freeze or a a pet heat pad can be used but needs checking regularly 

 In arid climates, hedgehogs may respond to the extreme conditions and reduced food availability by undergoing a similarly dormant state called aestivation.  

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