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The Hedgehog Year. All About Hedgehogs in Your Garden
By Ark Wildlife
12th September 2013
Hedgehogs are a native of the UK and our only mammal covered in spines. They can be found in gardens across most parts of the country but have sadly suffered from a declining population for many years. They are however, easy to help and knowing a little more about hedgehogs and their lifestyle makes it easy to create a hedgehog friendly garden.
During January most hedgehogs should be hibernating and although they may wake for short periods of time during their hibernation, it is unlikely that they will choose to move unless they have been disturbed or the weather has turned extremely mild.
Hedgehogs are inactive
Much the same as January with the hogs remaining in their respective hibernacula as their natural food is still unavailable to them – should you see a hedgehog out and about during February, especially during the day, it’s highly likely to be in need of assistance.
Hedgehogs are mainly inactive
Hedgehogs will now be starting to emerge from hibernation having potentially lost 1/3 of their body weight during their rest. Extremely thirsty and hungry, food and water are the priorities. With their natural food still scarce due to the slowly rising temperatures – now is the time to provide food and fresh water of an evening to help them prepare for the breeding season.
Hedgehogs emerge hungry and thirsty
The majority – if not all of the hedgehogs are now active and still building up the body fat lost over the winter. They will be scouting for suitable nesting sites (as well as potential mates) and we can continue to help them by providing supplementary foods as well as artificial habitats where a more natural option is unavailable.
Hedgehogs highly active in the garden
The mating season now begins in earnest. If you hear loud snuffling and grunting noises at night in the garden, it may be hedgehogs mating. The male circles round the female, sometimes for hours, trying to persuade her to mate. After mating, the male leaves, taking no part in rearing the young.
Hedgehogs actively looking for mates
About four weeks after getting pregnant, the female gives birth to a litter of up to 6 or 7 hoglets, and whilst they are too small to leave the nest, Mum goes out foraging of an evening and returning to feed her young.
Height of hedgehog breeding season
Once the young hedgehogs reach three to four weeks old they begin to join their mother on her foraging trips, quickly learning what is good to eat but still returning to the nest to take their mother’s milk as well.
First hedgehog young emerging
Now the youngsters become independent of their mother and wander off on their own adventures. As hedgehogs live solitary lives, they are unlikely to encounter their siblings again.
Peak in number of road kills as independent young seek new gardens
Mature females may have mated for a second time and thus repeating the events of the last couple of months, however, with their natural diet becoming scarcer in the autumn, late litters will struggle to gain the fat reserves necessary for hibernation and may require human intervention for survival.
The month autumn orphans may start to appear
As the colder weather takes hold, mature hedgehogs will continue to feed as much as possible and begin building their nests in preparation for their winter hibernation.
The need to gain weight and feeding is at its peak
November – December
Most hedgehogs will have begun to hibernate during November and will normally remain in this state until March of the following year.
During mild winters hedgehogs may remain active late into December
With changes in weather noticeable in recent years, many wild animals naturally adjust their behaviour accordingly. delaying hibernation or breeding to the rhythm of the seasons.
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