01 Nov 3 ways to help hibernating hedgehogs
Autumn has landed! It’s time to get cosy with extra blankets, hot drinks and warming food. I always think of this desire to snuggle up on cold nights as a kind of human hibernation.
Of course, we’re not the only ones with hibernation on our minds at this time of year. During October and November, hedgehogs will be bulking up on food and looking for a safe place to hunker down until the weather warms up again in the spring.
The numbers of hedgehogs in the UK has declined over the last few years, so they could do with a bit of support. Here are three ways we can all help our prickly pals get a restful winter sleep.
Check all bonfires
Wood bundles, leaf piles and compost heaps are ideal places for hedgehogs to hole up. That’s why my first bit of advice is to please check them. Especially those bonfires! If possible, try and build or re-site a bonfire on the day you plan to light it. Only set fire to bonfires from one side as this leaves an escape route if you missed anything when checking.
Create gaps in fences
Making gaps in fences helps hedgehogs get about. Did you know that they can move up to one mile in a night? Cutting a hedgehog-sized hole in a fence is a fun and simple activity to do with children – just as long as the adults are responsible for any sharp tools. The ideal hole is 13cm – that’s roughly the same size as an adult’s hand with a thumb up. So, let’s give a thumbs up for hedgehogs and use it to create the perfect route in and out of your garden.
Put out the right foods
Hedgehogs are true hibernator, and by that I mean they don’t really go to sleep. Instead they drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of inaction where they can store energy, but all other activity is impossible. Hedgehogs can survive in this state by living off fat stores built up over the summer. This means that eating enough before hibernation is vital and having an extra food supply can be important. Follow these DOs and DON’Ts to create a nourishing menu of delights:
- Hedgehogs like cooked meat – just make sure it’s bone-free and cut into tiny pieces that they can chew with their small teeth. Cat/kitten biscuits or tinned puppy/kitten food is also a good option, but not fish.
- Don’t leave out milk and bread as their stomachs can’t cope with these foods. Did you know they’re lactose intolerant?
- You can also feed hedgehogs chopped peanuts (not salted or flavoured) as well as sultanas and raisins.
- Hedgehogs love to munch on slugs and snails too, but if you’ve left out slug pellets they might eat them or eat the slugs and snails that have eaten the pellets, which is dangerous. If you want to put down a pesticide, try ground coffee grains which are both natural and hedgehog friendly.
- A shallow dish of water is all that a hedgehog needs to drink.
Sometimes hedgehogs will move between nesting sites once during hibernation, which means you still might spot them over winter. And when it’s mild hedgehogs can remain active right into December. They’re also nocturnal, so if you see one during daylight hours it might be hungry and searching for food.
Visit our Hampshire Countryside Facebook page to share your fence hole pics or to let us know if you’ve spotted a hedgehog.