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Weight and rescue question please

Home Forums Hedgehog signs and sightings Weight and rescue question please

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    Am very lucky to have had regular hogs visitors throughout the summer, with at least one of the hog houses occupied at various times. There are two feeding stations in the garden plus a large shallow ground-level birdbath (amazing how much water hogs need to drink!). As a result of all this activity our dog goes on a lead for all nighttime excursions, and I have for the past few nights spotted an autumn juvenile.
    I’ve caught him and weighed (430gms), he looks bright eyed and healthy. My instinct is to leave him alone and keep an eye, especially as the weather in this corner of the world is still very mild – we are consistent and generous with feeding (mix of kitten kibble, spikes dry, v small amount mealworm and sunflower heart, even smaller amount of sultanas!)

    Would you also leave alone?

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    Hi Willowtree

    The recommended weight needed for hibernation is 450g, but that is for a fair bit later in the year. It sounds as if the little one there will have plenty of time to put on at least the extra 20g needed. It depends on the weather a bit, but it probably isn’t until about November that the weight becomes more important. I would leave him alone and as long as he looks as if he is growing, I would let him live a wild undisturbed hoglethood.

    Glad to hear you keep your dog on a lead for night-time excursions – very wise.


    Hi Nic,
    Thanks for your reply .
    I’ll keep a eye on him – we have a night vision camera which is a huge help. little chap was still wandering around the feeder at 5 am so fingers crossed he’s bedded down somewhere in the garden.


    The ideal minimum weight to give a hog a chance of successful hibernation is 650g. This article by Dr Toni Bunnell in response to the MailOnLine’s recent story about whether or not we should feed hedgehogs in the run-up to hibernation makes very interesting reading. Dr. Bunnell is a hedgehog rescuer/rehabilitator and has been collecting data for over 27 years.

    The West European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), that exists in the UK, is in a state of critical endangerment. It is not merely the catastrophic decline in numbers over the past few decades, but the rate of decline, that is giving cause for concern. The reasons cited include the decrease in available food, the invertebrate population having fallen by 45% in the past 35 years. It is well established that, in order to survive a spell in hibernation, a hedgehog needs to achieve a minimum prehibernation weight and percentage of body fat, in particular brown fat that is slow to metabolise. Analysis of some of the data I have collected, during the 27 years I have spent running York Hedgehog Rescue, revealed that, in order to have a realistic prospect of surviving hibernation in the UK, a hedgehog needs to be a minimum of 650g, with a rounded end (sphere-shaped).That is, a satisfactory weight for its size. As invertebrate food becomes ever scarcer, it is more and more important for people to support their local hedgehog population by supplying food such as cat biscuits (e.g. IAMS), but not peanuts or dried mealworms. In the UK hedgehogs typically hibernate between September and April. However, sudden falls in temperature have been known to trigger short spells of hibernation during the summer months (Bunnell, personal observation, plus countless reported incidents from other rescues in the UK). It is important to remember that it is not necessary for hedgehogs in the UK to hibernate in order to ensure their survival. Indeed, on the North Island of New Zealand, where winter temperatures are significantly higher than in the UK, the same species of hedgehog does not hibernate at all. Hibernation is purely a product of environmental circumstances. The single biggest trigger for hibernation is a sudden fall in temperature and not, as often erroneously proposed, the lack of availability of food. I have repeatedly come across statements from people saying that they are reducing the amount of food given to hedgehogs in their care, in an attempt to force them to hibernate. This is foolhardy and entirely wrong. It will not trigger hibernation but merely starve the hedgehog concerned, thus preventing it from reaching a weight that would allow it to survive subsequent periods of hibernation necessitated by a drop in temperature. In addition, once the onset of hibernation has been triggered, hedgehogs do not hibernate continuously; rather they exhibit a behaviour known as periodic arousal. They emerge from hibernation intermittently, for varying amounts of time, during which they forage and eat. This allows them to replenish their reserves. They will then lapse into hibernation once more, until triggered to emerge again. This process can be repeated several times during the course of the winter months. A sample of hibernation data that I have collected over the past 27 years is given in the chapter on hibernation in my book: Rescuing the Disappearing Hedgehog:…/rescuing-the-disappearing-hedgeh…/ Various factors come into play when determining the time of onset of hibernation for individual hedgehogs. These include the weight/size relationship, age of the animal, and temperature change. Nowhere in this equation does food availability feature regarding the onset of hibernation of hedgehogs. In conclusion: THERE IS NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER OF WITHDRAWING FOOD. IF YOU WANT TO HELP HEDGEHOGS IN THE UK, SUPPLEMENTARY FEED THEM ALL THE YEAR ROUND. Thank you for reading this. Please share far and wide.

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    Please also see
    which recommends 450g as the minimum weight for a wild hedgehog to hibernate.

    As conditions vary in different parts of the country, please contact your local rescue for advice if there is a very small hoglet around when the weather starts getting cold.


    Thank you all.
    Be assured – if it starts to get cold and hoglet hasn’t got up to a good weight he’s got 5* winter accomadtion booked in with us!


    hi similar question really i got a hog tonight which weighs 350g. It seems healthy enough and eating but im thinking it may struggle to get upto weight in time especially if we get a cold spell.I am Just looking for someone to agree with me really (or advise otherwise) as im thinking i should fatten him up in an old guinea pig cage in my spare bedroom and then look to overwinter him if needed or ideally i can release him into one of my hedgehog houses in my garden assuming the weather is mild enough and he has got upto a decent weight in time. I could then keep offering food and water in my feeding station once released.

    Alternatively i could take him to my local animal rescue but hopefully i could do it all myself.

    I have looked after and fattened up a couple of hogs in the past and also taken a couple of injured hogs to my local rescue in the past but they were bigger and it was later in the year so this is a little different to what i have dealt with in the past.

    Any advise would be welcomed thanks

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    Hi rookiethegooner

    Please ask your local rescue for advice, if you are unsure, but I think it is far too early to start taking hoglets in for over wintering. There were small hoglets here until the end of November last year. They put on weight very quickly and I imagine the little one there should have plenty of time to put on the necessary extra 100g needed, especially as, presumably, you are supplementary feeding and it is eating well.

    It is far better for a hoglet to grow up wild, and much nicer for it, rather than being cooped up in what, to it, must seem somewhere alien.

    Please see

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