During the autumn months hedgehogs are busy fattening up ready to hibernate through the winter, when their food supplies are scarce.
Hibernation seems to be triggered by a period of continuous cold weather. The hedgehog will find a cosy place to curl up, such as under a wood pile (this is why it is imperative to check before lighting bonfires). They will make a nest of dry leaves to keep them insulated. During hibernation their body temperature drops to that of their surroundings, bodily functions and breathing slow right down so that they are in a state of torpor. They often wake up during the winter and come out looking for water and snacks, so it is important to keep providing supplies. They will use their fat reserves to increase their metabolic rate to wake up.
To successfully hibernate and wake up again it is thought that hedgehogs need to weigh at least 650g. This is problematic for late litters, known as autumn juveniles. They just haven’t had the time to gain the weight. If there is a mild winter and people are providing a food source they may be okay. However, a cold snap could trigger hibernation and they may never wake from it. If you spot a small hedgehog, or if you see any sized hedgehog out during the day, you need to contact your local rescue. If possible grab a pair of gloves and a box and capture it. Your local hedgehog rescue will care for these little hedgehogs and get them up to weight. If the weather is mild enough they may be re-released, but they might have to be cared for through the winter.
Regular readers will be familiar with the hoglet triplets that have been delighting me throughout the summer.
I am pleased to say that these three are all weighing over 800g, more than enough fat to see them through!
Having ascertained the hog is of the correct plumpness, they may be released to continue with their business.
However, at the end of the summer two younger and smaller hoglets appeared.
Having captured them and weighed them, it was clear that they were at risk.
They were placed in a plastic box lined with newspaper with a cosy fleece to snuggle in. Water and cat food with mealworms was provided for them.
As they are probably siblings they did not seem to mind each other’s company. They trashed their new home in minutes! The water bowl was jumped about in, food smeared everywhere, more poop than a small creature should produce was generated. The smaller one also worked out that by standing on top of the other (feet must be immune to prickles) it could push its nose through the bars of the lid and slide it over. A brick was hastily put on top of the lid. It was time to hand them over to the specialists. Sasha Norris runs the local wildlife rescue centre and she sent one of her dedicated expert hedgehog carers, Jacqui to come and fetch them. Jacqui has done a wonderful job looking after them, they have both gained around 200g in a week. I will keep you updated with their progress.
Please support your local wildlife rescue. These wonderful people devote so much time and energy to helping our little wild friends and rely upon charitable donations.