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Research in the 1970s by Britain’s foremost expert on hedgehogs, Dr Pat Morris (formerly of Royal Holloway, University of London), revealed a direct link between hibernation and climate: hedgehogs came out of hibernation up to three weeks earlier in the South West of England compared to Scotland. Furthermore, in East Anglia, hedgehogs similarly spent longer hibernating than in the London area or South West. This marked difference in hedgehog hibernation patterns across the UK shows a general trend of prolonged inactivity in proportion to the coldness of the winter.
Dr Morris explains: “Age, sex and weather all appear to influence the timing of hedgehog hibernation. For example, young animals may remain fully active into December, no doubt seeking to develop sufficient fat reserves to ensure survival during subsequent hibernation. Also, adult females that have had late litters or may still be lactating will need to feed intensively before hibernating, causing them to be active for longer than adult males. However, mild weather can also delay hedgehogs entering into hibernation or elicit premature awakening, impacting on the creature’s fat reserves and breeding times and consequently affecting the long-term survival of the species.”
Both the 2012 & 2013 Hibernation Surveys' have been fantastically popular, with over 6,000 people taking part, and over 90,000 hedgehog sightings logged. This makes it one of the largest datasets about hedgehog activity ever collected.
Map of hedgehogs sightings submitted in 2012 and 2013.
All of this data is slowly improving our understanding, both of the yearly cycle of hedgehog behaviour, and the national distribution for this species. Long term datasets are needed when analysing climatic trends in behaviour - this is why we are repeating the survey this year.