Hedgehog hibernation

Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. 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. 

A leafy bed by Hedgehog Champion Sheen Sinclair from East Sussex

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. Research has shown that each individual is likely to move nesting sites at least once during this period and so can sometimes be seen out and about. During mild winters hedgehogs can remain active well into November and December.

Hedgehogs lie on their side during hibernation (photo by Hedgehog Champion Sue Mace from Swindon)

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 will my hedgehog wake up?

Hibernation is a flexible strategy, so the time that hedgehogs emerge depends on lots of things including the weather. 

BTO Garden BirdWatch hedgehog sightings 2010 - 2014

From the graph above you can see that there is a significant increase in hedgehog sightings during March, representing the period when the bulk of UK garden hedgehogs emerge from hibernation.