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Miranda Hodgson

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Have your hedgehogs gone into hibernation yet?

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 19 Nov 2010 at 04:02 PM

There are fewer signs of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) about now that the weather is cooling. But, you say, they are nocturnal, so how can you tell there are fewer about if you don’t often see or hear them anyway? Not many people are going to be sitting outside on a cold November night waiting for sight or sound of hedgehogs. There are a couple of easy ways you can find out, without needing to go out in the dark. If there are gaps under the garden fences, these serve as tunnels for hedgehogs, so they can travel from one garden to another.

Once those gaps start to fill up with leaves and no longer appear trodden, then the hedgehogs have probably gone into hibernation. Next, look at the lawn and pathways in your garden – there will be the usual debris: fallen leaves, bits of bark thrown about by blackbirds, lumps of soil from who knows where, bird droppings and, finally hedgehog droppings. Hedgehog droppings are generally black, roundish and have obvious bits in them; these are mainly the wing cases and other body parts of beetles and other insects, which make up a large part of a hedgehog’s diet.

There is a lady I know in this town who takes very great care of the hedgehogs in her garden. Every year, in late autumn, she looks out for young hedgehogs and, if she can, she catches and weighs them. If they weigh less than about 600g (approx 1lb 5oz), the hedgehog is underweight and is less likely to surivive until spring. In that case, she will put the hedgehog in a box lined with newspaper, with food and water provided, bring it indoors and call St Tiggywinkles, which is one of the UK’s largest wildlife hospitals. A short time afterwards, someone will come and collect the hedgehog and take it to be cared for until spring, when it will be released back into the wild. There are other wildlife organisations that provide the same service and ask no payment for it either.


A shop-bought hedgehog house


Unfortunately, hedgehogs can’t get into our garden because it has walls around it and there is no way for them to get in or out. It would be great to have a hedgehog house, and to think of one or more of them settling into a pile of dry leaves for the winter, safely tucked away from the weather, but that won’t happen in this garden. I still look out for them in the gardens of friends and family and it’s good to know that they are being cared for. 


A hedgehog house made from a bucket and some straw


Useful hedgehog links


St Tiggywinkels

Hedgehog Rescue

British Hedgehogs


Wild About Gardens


sue1002 said:

That's a shame the hedgehogs are not able to get into your walled garden.  We had hedgehogs in the garden last year but I haven't noticed any this year at all.

on 19 Nov 2010 at 05:21 PM

asj said:

Miranda - can you recommend a shop-bought house that I could put in my garden (must be catproof)?  I would like to feel that some little hog or hogette could find a safe home for the winter!

on 19 Nov 2010 at 05:28 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Hope your hedgehogs are still around, Sue!

asj, there are some good hedgehog houses here: - don't know how cat proof they are, but I wouldn't think many cats would take on a hedgehog. Too prickly!

on 20 Nov 2010 at 10:08 AM

asj said:

Thanks Miranda!

on 20 Nov 2010 at 10:59 AM

richardpeeej said:

Interesting write-up Miranda I haven't seen nay hedgehogs or signs of hedgehogs in our garden although we have plent of spaces below our wooden fences if they wanted to come in. I have seen one or two scurrying on the paths in the village in the evenings when I cming home from my various walks ;-)

on 20 Nov 2010 at 01:45 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

If you put out a dish of water at ground level, that may well attract a hedgehog, Richard. The hedgehogs that visited our old garden always went straight for the dish of water on the patio.

on 21 Nov 2010 at 11:26 AM