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Hibernation FAQs

11th November 2019

It’s that time of year again when our prickly friends are going into hibernation for the winter months…

When do they hibernate?

Hedgehogs hibernate during the winter, so usually from late October/November until March/April, with specific times depending on when the weather becomes cold enough.

Are they asleep?

Hibernation is not actually sleep, it’s a state known as torpor. This is where the hedgehog reduces its body temperature and processes, in order to save energy. This allows hedgehogs to survive while their insect food prey is in short supply.

Where do they hibernate?

Log piles, leaf piles, compost heaps, under your shed, in a hedgehog house… Somewhere that’s dark and hidden with a cold, stable temperature. Once they’re hibernating it’s best not to add or remove any nesting materials, as they need specific conditions to hibernate.

Photo by Hedgehog Champion James Wilson

Do they wake up during hibernation?

Hedgehogs do occasionally awake from hibernation during periods of milder weather in order to forage for food. It can be dangerous for them to wake up unexpectedly though, so make sure to be careful of any disturbance like loose pets or gardening.

Should I feed them during winter?

It’s a good idea to put some supplementary food out during milder weather, or if you see any active hedgehogs. More info on winter feeding can be found HERE.

Should I try to keep them warm?

Hedgehogs don’t need to be warm to hibernate, in fact they drop their body temperature down to match the environmental temperature. This lets them save the energy they would have used on trying to keep warm. It also means they don’t move around and eat as usual.

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.

Is there anything I can do to help them?

  • Make sure they aren’t disturbed. Be mindful if you need to clear your garden or shed as there may be a hidden hedgehog.
  • At this time of year you can also make your garden hedgehog friendly using our Top Tips, in preparation for when they’re active again in the spring.
  • Supplementary feeding during milder weather, to help any active hedgehogs.

Are they hibernating or dead?

Of course when a hedgehog is in hibernation, it will be very still and usual signs of life such as breathing will be almost undetectable. If a hedgehog is in hibernation, it will be tucked away in it’s nest, curled up in a ball, and involuntary reactions will remain. By that we mean you could very gently touch the hedgehog’s spines and if it’s alive you’ll see a slight ripple of the skin and spines in response to this. If a hedgehog is out in the open and looks to be hibernating, it has either sadly died or it’s extremely unwell, in which case you can call BHPS for advice.

Find out more about hibernation HERE.