What to do if you find a hedgehog this winter
The shy British hedgehog, whilst listed as an endangered species, is still a frequent nocturnal visitor to many of our gardens.
Seeing these prickly creatures going about their business is wonderful, yet it's important to realise that sometimes hogs may need some extra help, especially in the winter when food is scarce.
If there are hedgehogs in your area, do please keep a keen eye out and follow the hedgehog care guides below...
Make your garden hedgehog friendly
Hedgehogs will happily dine on slugs, snails and other garden pests, which is why they have long been known as 'the gardener's friend'.
Protect your friendly local hedgehogs by banishing toxic slug pellets, insect killers and other garden chemicals that put them at risk of harm.
You can attract hedgehogs into your garden by giving them an area to 'nest' in, preferably a pile or two of leaf litter and logs left 'wild' in a quiet section of your garden. An artificial hedgehog home will also do the trick: this can be as simple as a piece of board rested up against a wall or alternatively you can buy a purpose-built hedgehog home.
Cover any drain holes, as hedgehogs can easy stumble down these, and if you have a pond, leave a brick or two at the side so any hedgehogs that take an accidental dive can clamber out.
When collecting wood for a bonfire, move the wood pile on the day as a hedgehog may have sheltered there overnight.
If you're having an outdoor clear out, do poke through waste piles for hedgehogs and other wildlife so they don't end up trapped in the compost bin or a skip. Gently prod through your compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking them over. Check for hedgehogs before using lawnmowers or strimmers, paying particular attention under hedges where animals may rest.
Put fruit netting away after use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled.
If you accidentally disturb a hibernating hedgehog
Around the end of October, hedgehogs like to cosy up for the winter beneath tree roots, in piles of wood, in garden waste or under sheds. They emerge from their nests around mid-March.
It's very easy to mistake a hibernating hedgehog for a dead one, as the hedgehog slows down most of its body's activity in order to conserve energy. They curl into very tight balls, feel stone cold to the touch and hardly seem to breathe at all.
If you discover a hibernating hedgehog, gently replace the nest around it and leave it be. The hedgehog will wake up at some point and move to a new nest.
If you see a hedgehog walking around in the daytime
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so for one to be moving around in the daytime indicates that something may be very wrong. A common problem is hypothermia, which hedgehogs can be suffering from even if the day appears warm.
Hedgehogs are very docile creatures, so don't be afraid to put on some gloves and gently pick it up. Wrap a warm (not hot) hot water bottle in an old towel and place it in the bottom of a cardboard box or your kerbside recycling box if you can't find an alternative. Put the hedgehog onto the hot water bottle, cover the box with another towel or old blanket and put it somewhere dark and quiet.
Call your local RSPCA centre or hedgehog rescue for advice on how to proceed.
If you see a very small hedgehog during the winter
Some hedgehogs, born late in the year, don't put on enough weight in autumn to allow them to hibernate. Depending on the hog's weight and the weather forecast, the hedgehog may need supplemental feeding in order to see it through to spring.
If you're concerned about a hog's wellbeing, do crate the hedgehog as detailed above and call your local RSPCA centre or hedgehog rescue for advice.
Want to find out more about caring for hedgehogs?
Hedgehog Street is a brilliant campaign spreading the word about hedgehog conservation. Take a look at their website for loads of information and sign up for a free information pack!