Hibernation is one of the most dangerous times a hedgehog will experience in an urban environment. Hedgehogs eat as much as possible during the autumn months so they can store as much fat as possible.
Food availability and temperature will determine when hedgehogs hibernate. As a general rule, however, their hibernation tends to begin when temperatures decrease and stay low. In the UK, this tends to encompass the months of November, December, and January, although it can oscillate depending upon location.
You can help them prepare for hibernation by providing food and giving them a safe place to stay during the colder months. If you’re wondering how to attract hedgehogs to your garden, there are a few simple steps you can take to help them thrive all-year-around.
NOTE: Before forking over any compost heap or setting fire to piles of leaves or similar during bonfire parties, you should always carefully check to see if any hedgehogs are present.
What Happens During Hibernation?
For a hedgehog to hibernate, it needs to weigh a minimum of 600 grams (around 21 ounces). Anything less and it won’t be able to survive hibernation. Should you happen to find a hedgehog weighing less than 600 grams (or looking very small) between October and March, it’s advised that you take it to a specialised vet who can help it get healthy. You can also contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice.
When hibernating, hedgehogs stop being warm-blooded animals so they don’t use too much energy. The ideal temperature of the surrounding environment for their hibernation is 5℃ - if it gets too high, hedgehogs’ blood flow increases and stored fats are used up.
A hibernating hedgehog’s skin becomes cold to the touch and its movement stops. The heart rate drops from around 190 to approximately 20 bpm and the breathing stops during long periods of time. Additionally, blood and major organs change chemistry to prevent using too much of stored fats.
Where Do They Hibernate?
You’re likely to find hedgehogs hibernating or living in areas such as:
- Old rabbit burrows
- Compost heaps
- In tree roots
- In piles of wood
- Under sheds or hedges
A hedgehog house must be compact, dry, and sheltered, as it helps to insulate and retain hedgehogs’ body heat. It also helps to keep them safe from predators such as badgers or foxes. And they can also be lovely additions to your garden!
What Do Hedgehogs Eat?
The natural food sources that constitute hedgehogs’ diets are:
Hedgehogs are also opportunistic eaters, and they’ll gladly eat cat biscuits, meat-based dog or cat food, and special hedgehog food. This special food was made in collaboration with hedgehog rescue centres to make sure it provides the proper nutrition. You can rest easy and know that it doesn’t attract any flies and you can easily reseal it for future use.
NOTE: Do not feed bread or milk to hedgehogs, as they can’t digest it and it’s very harmful.
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