Hedgehog, photo by Peter Mallett

Hedgehog season

Tuesday 24 October, 2017

This time of year you may see hedgehogs and be concerned if they need help and if so what to do. Time is of the essence – little hogs can die very quickly of hypothermia, so action is needed straight away.

Any hog under 600g will not make it through the winter – they are too small to hibernate, so will starve or freeze. Little ones, roughly the size of a tennis ball or just bigger are especially vulnerable. Here is what to do:
  1. Put the hedgehog in a high sided box or small animal carrier
  2. Give it a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel – if you don’t have a hot water bottle, then a plastic milk bottle or glass bottle filled with warm water is fine; if you don’t have an old towel, newspaper will do!  Direct heat is essential to stop hypothermia – a warm room is not enough.  Make sure there is space for it to get off the bottle if needed and keep the bottle warm – don’t let it go cold.
  3. Offer a small amount of meaty (not fishy) cat or dog food and fresh water.
  4. Keep the box somewhere warm and quiet – NOT a garage or cold shed.
  5. Ring for help or take the hog to the nearest animal sanctuary for help. Vets are often not able to offer the care that little hogs need, so an animal sanctuary is much better. Ring us on 01603 598333 for local contacts or get in touch with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
If the hedgehog has breathing difficulties, many ticks, fly eggs or wobbles when it walks, it is very sick indeed and needs to be taken to a sanctuary as soon as possible.

What is an autumn juvenile hedgehog?

Autumn juveniles are around in September. These are hedgehogs which are old enough to have left their mother but are still too small to hibernate, usually they are from a late litter.

What is hedgehog hibernation?

Hibernation is a period of deep sleep where the animal’s metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Hedgehogs begin to find nest site in October for hibernation in November. Hedgehogs then emerge from hibernation in March.

Why are hedgehogs declining?

Hedgehog, photo by Hilary TateThere are two types of hedgehog, the rural and the urban and unfortunately both are declining. The main reasons for the decline of the rural hedgehog are fragmentation of habitat. Their natural habitat is the edge of woodland and hedges are a perfect substitute. However, larger fields with fewer hedges and increased road building fragment the hedgehog habitat. Fragmentation means hedgehogs may find it difficult to cross boundaries between these isolated islands and small populations can become lost. Other factors such as decreased food due to pesticides may also be affecting hedgehog numbers.

Urban hedgehogs are also declining as a result of habitat loss. Property development and increased numbers of paved gardens means there are less fields and gardens that are suitable for hedgehogs.

Read more about hedgehogs, including fun facts and related questions on the Hedgehog Species Profile

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