Hedgehogs have always hibernated in and around October and up until a few years ago you could set your clock by them. We used to see one litter of hoglets a year and a few months of hibernation- that has now changed.
In September and October hedgehogs will be looking for safe places to hibernate in and around your homes and gardens. They can hibernate under fallen trees, under sheds, in wood piles and infact any other undisturbed space they fee safe in. Hedgehogs have probably already had hoglets in a safe space in your garden or have already rested there already themselves so if you are intending to do any work over winter in your garage, sheds, man caves and outbuilding please check for hidden nests before you start and please consider making any change gradual. Planting trees and shrubs and creating havens in an existing garden is always the best way forward for all wildlife.
A Grace woken from hibernation will be unlikely to get back to sleep without help and care. It takes a hedgehog around 20 minutes to wake from hibernations and it uses a lot of energy. Once awake, Grace will need energy to get back to sleep and she will need to find a new location. Her natural food has gone and water can be frozen, it doesn’t look good.
Grace has probably chosen that place to hibernate as it fulfils her needs for the long sleep. She may have successfully hibernated last year in that space and doesn't have a backup plan.
Many hedgehogs die during hibernation because they are unwell or their chosen site isn't suitable, so please take care over this period when relocating and moving garden waste and clearing areas f you garden. What may look like rubbish to you could be prime real estate for a hibernating Grace.
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 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.
Please contact us or your nearest rescue if you find one in a deep sleep for advice, please do not relocate.
Hedgehogs can survive in extreme temperatures but they cannot survive without food, and this is the real reason that they hibernate. During the winter months, a 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 and are off the menu for Grace. The answer for the hedgehog in times of famine is to hibernate. 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.
Hedgehogs do not usually regulate their weight well and are known to over-eat and when you are going to sleep for several months you need to make sure you have good reserves.
Grace’s Five Point Charter advocates natural planting to encourage the slugs, bugs and invertebrates that feed Grace. After all, Grace is known as a gardener’s best friend for a reason! You will want Grace to help rid your garden of unhelpful bugs!
Hedgehogs foraging for a natural diet in a well stocked garden mean they 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 a good idea to continue to do this over the winter, even if you don’t see them for long periods they may come back .
All the above have been hibernation sites
Our studies show that some hedgehogs do not hibernate. It maybe climate change, it may be availability of food or evolution but what ever the reason some hedgehogs just don’t sleep. They can sleep for several days at time and they can wake up during this ‘hibernation time’ for short spells. . Some are appearing every few days other sleep for a week at a time and some for several weeks. Please go to our hedgehog 365 page for more details
We now see young juvenile's staying awake during the hibernation season. They do not have the fat reserves to hibernate. They often appear unaffected by the extreme cold providing they have safe and dry accommodation and have access to food and unfrozen water. The standard recommended weight for juveniles to survive the winter hibernation is 450g. We would like to see a hedgehog at around 600g for a safe hibernation. Weight how ever is not everything just like humans they come in all shapes and sizes.
Hedgehogs 365 & Autumn Babies
We think it is vital that these semi-hibernators and youngsters have access to food throughout the winter. They will remember that you offered them food in the summer, and they will come to you to again! We are advising through our Hedgehog 365 campaign that if you feed in the summer then you should consider feeding in the winter.
We receive many calls about autumn babies that are unlikely to reach the solid weight to hibernate. If you are regular feeders of hedgehogs in your garden we would ask you to monitor the youngsters. They do not have to hibernate so long as suitable food, water and dry accommodation is available to them then they can continue to thrive. We would like to see hedgehogs remain in the wild and urge caution at collecting late healthy babies and bringing them into a rescue. All wild animals live and learn and the best place for a wild animal to learn is in the wild.
If your young hedgehogs are healthy please consider feeding and providing a dry places for them to rest. We are always happy to take in underweight and ill hedgehogs during the winter period but if they are healthy juveniles and they can remain in the wild with your support it will stand them in much better stead. Last year we saw several cases of underweight hoglets surviving the winter in the wild and not hibernating at all, this was with the support of kind humans who fed daily.
As more and more hoglets are born later in the year it would be good to help them adapt to this increasing and permanent change to their life style. Please phone us or your nearest rescue for advice before you move any wild hedgehog - learning in the wild is the best lesson for their longevity.