Hibernation is one of the most dangerous times for a hedgehog in the urban environment. In warm weather they have no problem finding sufficient food but as the weather gets colder the insects on which they feed, become scarcer and more difficult to find. The hedgehog can use up more energy looking for food than it gets from eating what it does find.
Hedgehogs hibernate to bypass the cold months when food becomes scarce. If the weather is warm and food is put out for them every night, some hedgehogs do not feel the need to hibernate and will stay active all through the winter. Eating enough before hibernation is vital and this is when supplementary feeding can prove important to hedgehogs. They can also be upset by a warmer spell of weather and will wake up and perhaps go for a forage for food.
Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. During mild winters hedgehogs can remain active well into November and December. Hibernation is more than just sleeping for a long time. They can be seen wandering about, however right up until Christmas or even after, especially if the hog has not managed to collect enough food to see itself through the winter.
Hedgehogs tend to live in the outskirts of wooded areas, it should also be no surprise that hedgehogs are often found living in hedgerows mainly as they are full of nice juicy bugs and critters and provide protection from harsh weather.
During hibernation the hedgehog stops being a warm blooded animal since this uses up too much energy. Its body temperature falls to match that of the surrounding environment. However, the surrounding temperature of the hedghogs must not be below freezing (the ideal temperature in the nest for successful hibernation is about 5º c) and if it rises too much, the animal’s blood flow will increase and start to use up too much stored fats.
There are a few considerations that hedgehogs will make when choosing the best place to hibernate (hibernacula). A suitable hibernation site should be dry, sheltered, compact (to help insulate and keep in what little body heat they have) and safe from predators such as foxes but mainly badgers. In the roots of trees is one of many good hibernation home for a hedgehog.
Think about how you can make your garden a little more hedghog friendly;
- Maintain your hedges but don't cut them down!
- Make compost heaps
- Pile up wood to form stacks
- Don't fill in old rabbit burrows
- Try to leave small gaps under sheds
Make sure to leave out a bowl of water and if possible some Hedghog Food or cat/dog jelly based food.
Hedgehogs don’t have to hibernate, Indeed the hedgehogs taken into care due to injuries or being under weight, do extremely well and are all the more fit and healthy for missing it. We home lots of hedghogs in these situations here at Hornbeam Wood Hedghog Sanctuary over the cold seasons in the UK.