It’s been a very busy year as the unusual weather patterns have led to a lengthy breeding season. Extending far beyond the traditional May/June period, baby hoglets have been brought in to the rescue well into August and now the second litters will be appearing. If past years are anything to go by we can expect third litters in October/November too. Because of this increased activity we make no apology for repeating the plea to put food and water out in your garden all year round. And keep an eye open for little hogs out during the day as Mum may have come to grief. Dried food is easier as it doesn’t attract flies in the summer or freeze in the winter but you can use wet food when practical. There is a useful leaflet ‘Feeding a hedgehog’ available to download from our website – www.snuffles-rescue.com/ Fact Sheets.
The hedgehogs will start to hibernate once the night temperature has dropped to below 5 deg.C for several nights. They need plenty of leaves to make a nice cosy nest for the winter so please don’t sweep all yours up and put them in the compost bin. If you can, make a nice pile in a corner, preferably sheltered from the wind and rain – or leave piles of dust extracted hay in suitable areas. Sheds with a decent gap underneath seem to be popular with many hedgehogs for overwintering.
Hibernation is not going to sleep but slowing the metabolism down to the minimum to conserve energy. The heartbeat slows from 190 beats a minute to around 20 and a breath taken only every few minutes. Body temperature drops from around 35°C, to 10°C so the hedgehogfeels cold to the touch and appears dead. If you do accidently disturb one in the winter please do not assume the worst and dispose of it but leave well alone, repairing the nest as best you can. Interestingly, if the temperatures drop too low the hedgehog actually briefly revives and moves to build a new, thicker and warmer nest, rather than adding further insulation to the existing one. So that pile of leaves or hay is essential!
Bonfire night can be stressful for animals but hedgehogs face the gravest danger if they nest under one. Far safer to store the wood and build the bonfire at the last minute, not days beforehand. If you have to build early then lift all sections with poles (not spades/forks to avoid injury) look and listen for signs of life before lighting, or construct a reasonably high barrier around the base (e.g. small gauge chicken wire on wooden stakes). Finally, please remember to check that shed/greenhouse doors are shut before dusk. Hedgehogs have been found overnighting inside open outbuildings (one in a bag of compost!) but if you shut the door the following morning and don’t open it for several days you can imagine the fate of any animal trapped inside.
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