Help for Hedgehogs coming out of Hibernation

Hedgehog OP Wildlife Area, waking up last year, low weight.
Photo Credit: Andrew Chan
Photo credit: Andrew Chan
Rehabilitated Hedgehog sleeping during soft release into OP Wildlife Area

“Hedgehogs are in serious decline in the UK but putting further obstacles in their way when they wake from the dangers of hibernation is easily avoided with a little knowledge and caring. Please take the time to make your garden more hedgehog and wildlife friendly there is lots of info from  organisations on the internet or check out Pledges for Hedgies page” (source: Willows Hedgehog Rescue).

Late March and April is when Hedgehogs begin to wake from their winter hibernation. The Hedgehog Street website describes hibernation as follows “during hibernation hedgehogs are not really asleep, instead they drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.” Further “While in hibernation the hedgehog’s fuel supply comes from the fat stores it has built up over the summer. Eating enough before hibernation is vital and this is when supplementary feeding can prove important to hedgehogs.”

When the hedgehog wakes, it can have used up one third of its body weight – appearing weak, wobbly, and disorientated as a result. It’s vital that hedgehogs can access freshwater as a priority as they wake. Next they need food (see: waking hedgehogs Willows Hedgehog Rescue)

Also in March and April, Hedgehogs are at great risk in the garden, when according to Willows Rescue Centre in Bromsgrove “Hedgehogs are admitted to rescue centres with soft tissue injuries from strimmers and garden forks, factured bones from spades and forks. The injuries are often horrific with operations needed and long periods of rehabilitation. A number of the admissions will be put to sleep straight away due to the extent of the injuries. Sad, when you think that the animal has managed to survive the rigours of winter lowering its metabolism to near death in order to survive only to be seriously injured by human activity.

It is easy to avoid most of these situations.

  • Check before you clear, cut back or carry out work on any shrubs or bushes.
  • Check first before putting a spade or fork into the compost heap.
  • Check under sheds or any structures in the garden before removing them if you are replacing them- hedgehogs like to nest in that gap under garden sheds and patio decking.
  • Check before you mow or strim the grass.

Check with a torch, a gloved hand, your boot or gently with a stick. Gently poking and tapping a hedgehog may slightly annoy it but it will mean that you don’t injure or possibly kill it.”

To make a feeding Station

A feeding station will help stop cats or foxes stealing the Hedgehog’s food the instructions that follow were taken directly from The Hedgehog.

Build  or buy a small feeding station or house to put the food into that will only allow hedgehogs to get in.

This will also help keep the food, especially biscuits dry in the rain and prevents it freezing in the winter.

Put the water OUTSIDE the feeding station. ( In freezing weather put water inside the feeding station)

The quick, cheap and easy way:

  • Get a plastic storage box about 12″ wide by 18″ long (or bigger)
  • Either use it with the lid on, or turn the box upside down. Cut a 4″ to 5″ hole ( about a large fist size) in one of the short ends.
  • Tape around the cut-out hole
  • Hedgehogs can be messy eaters, so put plenty of newspaper on the floor of the box
  • Put the food at the opposite end so a fox or cat cannot put their long arm in and pull out the food
  • Put a brick or heavy weight on top of the box, to stop it being knocked over or the lid pulled off.
  • If cats or foxes still try to get in, then place the box about 6″ away from a wall as shown in the last 3 pictures (with the entrance facing towards the wall)

You should end up with something that looks like this:

Photo credit: The Hedgehog
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