Wildlives Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
As it gets colder, around October-time, the hedgehog will make itself a cosy nest and hibernate. It will sleep through the bad weather and wake up sometime around March or April, as it gets warmer and there is more food about.
If you accidentally unearth a hibernating hedgehog, simply cover it back up and leave it there.
Although it is convenient to speak of hedgehogs 'sleeping' during hibernation, this is not exactly true. Hibernation is more about conserving energy than sleeping. During hibernation, the hedgehog's body temperature will drop dramatically, and this economical use of energy allows it to survive throughout the colder months.
Whilst it is hibernating, the hedgehog survives on reserves of body fat built up during the year. It follows that it must be a good weight, in order to be able to survive hibernation. A hedgehog ought to weigh at least 600 grams before it goes into hibernation.
If a hedgehog has not reached a good weight by the time temperatures have dropped enough for it to hibernate, this will not prevent it from hibernating. It will go into hibernation but - not having the required reserves - will die as it sleeps.
It is the temperature that determines when the hedgehog goes into hibernation. Thus, if a hedgehog is brought into the Centre in October - weighing, for example, 200g - it must be kept warm in order to prevent it from hibernating. Once it has undergone a full course of treatment and we can be sure that its lack of weight is, indeed, its only problem, Wildlives may foster it out to a member of the public who has the necessary time and facilities. We do this because, otherwise, the hospital becomes full of perfectly healthy, albeit underweight, hedgehogs, and there is no room for those that are really sick.
The idea of fostering is simply that the hedgehog will be kept in a warm place and well supplied with food. A garden shed or garage will usually be too cold - so ideally, we look for people who are able to keep the hedgehog inside the house, or who have some other heated outbuilding. Even aside from the matter of accomodation and the cost of food however, fostering a hedgehog is quite a considerable responsibility. Cute though they are, they are dirty little creatures, and need cleaning out twice a day.
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