One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Gill's Hog blog
Hedgehogs breed between May and September but the time of greatest breeding
activity is in May and June. They reach sexual maturity in their second year.
Rather strangely and possibly unwisely they attempt a second litter around
September and these are less likely to do well as they have to put on an enormous
amount of weight to survive the winter. Mothers too may feel compelled to hibernate
if temperatures drop sharply and/or food supplies are scarce, and this will leave a
number of abandoned hoglets who may need help.
Hedgehogs under 450g are unlikely to survive hibernation, but they may not
hibernate at all and this is where humans can assist in their survival.
In recent years I have had hedgehogs visiting my feeding stations throughout the
year , suggesting that they do not ALL hibernate perhaps because our winters have
become very much milder., or perhaps because I am lucky enough to live where
there is lots of natural shelter and food on tap.
Now is the time to be very cautious if you are moving leaf piles, thinking of having a
bonfire, clearing hedges, or considering your final garden tidy and getting those
When threatened hedgehogs do not have a fight or flight response, they simply form
an impenetrable ball, but this is no match for a garden strimmer or brush cutter.
Please then, start your strimming at a height of six inches, or walk through the area
to be strimmed before you start.
Hedgehog nests that are disturbed rarely fair well. The mother hedgehog may
abandon or kill her babies when she fears predation of her young. It is not a matter
of simply relocating the family.
If you see a hedgehog out in daylight it is generally in trouble but one exception to
this is a nursing Mum who may venture out to get a little extra food or gather some
bedding. She will be moving with purpose and does not need to be caught.
Any other hog out in the day, needs the assistance of a rescue. A faecal example will
need to be examined under a microscope so please don't think you can easily
rescue them yourself.
In October/November people begin to worry about hoglets who may not make a
weight that will allow them to hibernate successfully (over 450g). Here at the Palace I
receive hedgehogs that have been gathered up at night because the finder, with all
good intentions, believes they will perish if not overwintered in a rescue. Whilst this
may well be the right decision, PLEASE do not rush to take this course of action. It
may be that it can be successfully supported where it is, in the wild where it belongs..
Hedgehogs are very easy to interfere with and interfere we do. If a hedgehog is out
at night and you feel it is too small (smaller than a mango) and the weather is mild,
please offer food, water and shelter (with warm bedding) and give the hedgehog a
chance to gain weight whilst remaining wild. Weight gain can be rapid if plenty of
food is made available.
Living the whole of winter in a small wooden hutch or plastic box must be pretty
miserable for a wild, nomadic animal and so if we can support them to thrive whilst
remaining wild that should be out first course of action.
Of course if they are out in the day or appear to be struggling it is right to intervene. If
it is after dusk it should be done when all factors are taken into consideration:
Are they safe where they are?
Can I offer shelter, food and water?
Can I monitor them?
Is the weather reasonably mild?
Are they alone or with a mother?
I am simply asking that when we intervene we do so with consideration for what is in
the best interest of the animal. It can be a difficult decision and if you are not sure
you must of course err on the side of caution. An animal that is hard wired to be
wild should not, in my opinion be kept in a small container for months on end unless
it is really necessary. If you are not sure please call a rescue who will be happy to
Please remember that rescues only have a finite number of spaces and we
would always rather they were full of animals needing treatment, not just feeding up.
A list of available Yorkshire rescues can be found here: www.yorkshirehedgehogs.co.uk
Gill, has until very recently run a busy and successful hedgehog rescue. She now devotes her
time to raising awareness, offering advice, and writing articles about our beloved European
One Voice for Animals UK has a rescue directory of almost 300 organisations that need support. If you enjoyed this blog, head over and find your local rescue and make a donation