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Hedgehog hibernation: all the facts

13th November 2018

As winter is nearly here, hedgehogs will be starting to think about hibernation – some may have started already!

What is 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.

Those hedgehogs visiting your garden over the next month will be trying to get as much body fat built up as possible so that they can be ready to hibernate, so please do keep providing food until you start to notice that the food stops being taken, or gradually less and less is eaten – then you can gradually stop putting food out altogether.

Where will my hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs aren’t fussy. A log pile, under your shed, in a compost heap or manmade hedgehog house can all provide a safe place for hedgehogs to nest in over winter.  If you want to make your own hedgehog house in time for winter, download our instructions here.

Do hedgehogs sleep the whole time?

Hedgehogs will be relatively inactive over winter, especially when temperatures drop very low. However, on milder days it is possible that hedgehogs can wake up early and look for a quick bite to eat before returning to slumber.  Research also shows that during the hibernation period, hedgehogs can move between nests every few weeks, and even use nests built by other ‘hogs.

So what should I do while hedgehogs are hibernating?

It’s not necessary to put food out all winter however, we do recommend providing water all year round.  In Autumn, food can continue to be left out as long as it is being taken, and then gradually reduced. Then during the winter on very mild days, or when you notice hedgehog activity in your garden, you may want to put some food out for a short time until it gets cold again.  Just make sure to never disturb a nesting hedgehog, so avoid opening up the hedgehog house or clearing the garden or leaf or log piles as they may have some sleeping ‘hogs inside!

Who should I call if I am worried about a hedgehog?

If you are ever worried about the health or welfare of a hedgehog, please call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 and they will be able to give you advice, and put you in touch with a local rescue centre if necessary.

I hope this helps to answer some of your hibernation questions!