Many female hedgehogs have late litters and the young from these litters are known as autumn juveniles. These hedgehogs are old enough to be away from their mothers, but are too small to hibernate or survive on their own.
From around mid September onwards please be on the lookout for small hedgehogs that may be visiting your garden. If these autumn juveniles do not gain enough weight before the cold weather arrives they will probably die.
They need to weigh at the very least 450g, preferably 600g, in order to have sufficient fat reserves to survive hibernation.
If the hedgehog weighs much under 600g when the weather starts to become cold it is vital to intervene immediately.
From October onwards any visiting hedgehog weighing under 600g should be rescued, whether they are out in the day or night. In many cases they are found to be losing weight despite eating well and appearing bright and healthy, due to the quantity of internal parasites they are burdened with. They must be rescued if they are to survive.
Please pick up the hedgehog using gloves or an old towel, and place in a tall cardboard box or recycling box etc. to stop it escaping and weigh it with kitchen or postage scales.
In Brackley and the surrounding area we are on call 24 hours a day to examine/collect any small hedgehogs that are found.
If you live outside the Brackley area you are welcome to bring your casualty to us, please telephone to arrange. If you are not in the Brackley area please contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 for details of your local hedgehog carer.
If you need to keep the hedgehog for any length of time prior to collection you may provide a meat based dog food and a small bowl of fresh water (but remember, not milk!) If the weather is cold and hypothermia is suspected (an indication of hypothermia is the hedgehog wobbling as it walks), place the hedgehog on a well wrapped hot water bottle. Keep a towel draped over the hedgehog to keep the heat in. It is vital that the hot water bottle is kept warm, as if it’s allowed to go cold it will draw the heat away from the hedgehog.
From November onwards we like to examine all hedgehogs that are still out and about. In some cases they are very healthy, and released immediately to carry on their business. We mark them with a spot of tippex on their prickles, to avoid examining the same individual repeatedly. There are not many hedgehogs wandering around in the winter though, most stay very close to their nests, only waking once or twice during the entire winter, unless something is wrong.
So how big is a 600g hedgehog? Well the average adult is around 900g, so we are only looking for slightly small hedgehogs that look just like adults. The only way to be sure is to weigh the hedgehog.
The problem explained in further detail – hedgehogs mainly eat caterpillars and small insects. In October, November and December there are no caterpillars. Hedgehogs are forced to eat slugs, which contain the lungworm parasites. The more slugs a hedgehog eats the more unwell it becomes, until it begins losing weight, despite eating well. Hedgehogs must hibernate to avoid this period of unhealthy food. Any that cannot hibernate will die. The majority die in their nests, but some are found out in the daytime, crawling around under bird tables, or being pecked by crows. Why can’t they hibernate? Hibernation is a process of slowing down the metabolism almost to a standstill. Body temperature drops from 37 degrees down to just 1 degree, heart rate and breathing virtually stop, in a bid to save energy. Any hedgehog weighing over 450g can enter hibernation, and most will do eventually. During hibernation hedgehogs use stored reserves to stay alive. The problem comes when it is time to wake up from hibernation. This process involves using stored body fat to heat the blood circulation and muscles back up to working temperature. Roughly 20% of body fat is needed for a hedgehog to wake itself from hibernation. Any that do not have sufficient reserves of body fat are stuck in the coma of hibernation, aware of their demise, but unable to do anything.
Please help find this years autumn juveniles. They can be attracted by placing a small pile of crushed peanuts next to a patio window with a light shining on the pile, or by using one of our cctv camera kits. They come in the evening, around 6 or 7pm. Put peanuts out every day, when the wind changes others will be drawn closer to you. Eventually they will find your peanuts, and will keep returning for more until you rescue them.
Do not be tempted to keep feeding a juvenile that you have attracted in your garden. If that was the best thing to do we would be suggesting it. Most are ill and require medication. Many are losing weight, despite eating well. Do not take the chance.
Over wintering – rescued hedgehogs do need to be cleaned and fed once recovering. This can be done within the community. A quiet outdoor shed or garage is in most cases more than adequate. Heat/electric are not needed. Please get in touch if you would like to help 07528 119416.