I HAVE mentioned before about the hedgehog survey that The Wildlife Information Centre which I manage is carrying out. People can submit any sightings online or by submitting a postcard. The survey was started in 2011 so we are in the second winter of it and what had surprised me is the number of hedgehogs that are spotted during the winter months, even in the depths of winter.
Although they hibernate, exactly when they start to hibernate and also when they become active again depends on several factors, not just the weather. It can depend on the size of the hedgehog, where this is its first hibernation and whether it is male or female can all influence when they become active.
If they are not big enough or they become active at the wrong time of year they are in danger of not making it to through until spring, unless they are lucky enough to be given a helping hand.
The Trust certainly has its hands full with the number of hedgehogs it is looking after this winter. This is only a personal view but I think our topsy turvy seasons are playing a bit part in that. A wet summer, which can make finding food difficult, followed by a winter with fluctuating temperatures, is not good news for hedgehogs.
So it is possible that you might just spot a hedgehog at any time of year. If you do see one in your garden or spot signs that one has been around then you could help them through winter by putting out a dish of water and some meat based dog or cat food. Do not put out milk or fish based cat food for them.
Hedgehogs will be especially thirsty at this time of year so if you have a garden pond make sure there is an escape ramp or some netting that a hedgehog can use to get out if it falls in whilst trying to drink.
If you see a hedgehog wobbling or out and about during the day then these are bad signs and it is worth having the hedgehog checked out. Carefully lift the hedgehog and pop it in a high sided box. It needs to be high sided as they are excellent climbers! Have a covered hot water bottle in the box as well as a dish of water and some meat based dog or cat food, if you can. Then contact the Trust. The hedgehog will probably need to be looked after until spring comes.
If the hedgehog seems a good size and in good health it could be that it is just out and about and moving to a new hibernation site. Whatever the case whether it is in need of care or not please also let The Wildlife Information Centre know that you have spotted one as these records give an indication of hedgehog distribution and can help target conservation work if required. You can log sightings online at www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk or if you spot one of the hedgehog survey postcards you can fill that in and pop it in the post. If the sighting is outwith the area covered by the centre then the record will be passed on to the appropriate organisation.
Phone HQ on (01289) 302882 or visit our website at www.swan-trust.org to find how to email us about non-urgent matters.