It’s not news that our hedgehogs are struggling. Estimated numbers of around 30 million in the 1950s fell to estimates of only 1.5 million in the 1990s. Studies suggest that numbers may have declined further by as much as 40% in the last decade.


Climate change may be contributing to hedgehog litters being born later and urbanisation is reducing the hedgehog’s natural food supply. This is leading to many young hedgehogs not being big enough to survive hibernating in their first winter.


How you can help


  • Put food out for any visiting hedgehogs. Meat flavoured cat food of either the loaf or chunks in jelly types is best, with some crunchy cat biscuits added for dental health. There is no need to add anything else like mealworms, dried fruit or peanuts as is sometimes suggested, as these can cause nutritional and dental problems.

  • Monitor the size, shape and weight of visiting hedgehogs during Autumn and Winter. In order to survive hibernation, hedgehogs must have sufficient fat reserves otherwise they will essentially starve while they sleep. It’s often said that hedgehogs must weigh X amount (usually 450 – 600g) to hibernate but in reality, it’s a little more complicated. A large hedgehog might be underweight at 600g. In this case body shape is also important as shown in the image below (credit Toni Bunnell)

 


  • Be alert for any hedgehogs which are sick or injured. Weight is a good basic indicator of whether a hedgehog can survive hibernation but also be aware that hedgehogs showing any of the following signs are likely to need help

•    out during the day

•    staggering or wobbling

•    heavy parasite burden (such as ticks or fleas)

•    visible wounds or spine loss

•    looking thin i.e. significantly longer than they are wide or thinner round the back end


If you are concerned about a hedgehog’s well-being, regardless of its weight, please contact a hedgehog carer to discuss your concerns and they will advise whether the hog needs to be brought into care. 


You can find rescues in your area by putting your location into the search facility at directory.helpwildlife.co.uk. If you are unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, you can contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will give you advice and support.


Please help spread the word about how to help hedgehogs in Autumn by sharing our advice poster which you can find at – helpwildlife.co.uk/posters/AutumnHogs