Understand hedgehog emergence

Hedgehog conservationist Henry Johnson tells you everything you need to know about the spring emergence of our prickliest mammal.

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Hedgehog
© Ann Chapman

 

When do hedgehogs wake up?

Mostly in March and April, with males active first. So far climate change doesn’t seem to have changed emergence dates. But Scottish hedgehogs used to stir later than those in the south and these patterns appear less distinct.

Are warmer winters bad news?

Not necessarily. But variable winter weather is an issue for hedgehogs, since they use fat reserves going into and out of hibernation and there’s very little natural food to top up reserves. Severe cold isn’t a problem – the species lives as far north as the Arctic Circle.

What about flooding?

No one has studied this, but hedgehogs could be badly affected by flooding if it happens quickly, or over winter. Animals trapped in nests would struggle, though hedgehogs are good swimmers and have buoyant spines.

Do hedgehogs roam far?

Farther than you’d think – on average 1–2km a night, and a viable urban population needs at least 90ha (900,000m2). That means access to hundreds of gardens, hence the importance of linkages and corridors.

How I can I help hedgehogs?

Food is the first thing on a hedgehog’s mind in spring, quickly followed by sex. Put out meaty pet food and water for the early risers. Sow an area with wildflowers to boost insect food for hedgehog families later in the year.

 

Henry co-ordinates the UK’s leading hedgehog conservation project. Find out more at www.hedgehogstreet.org.

 

 

 

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