Hedgehogs in Europe start their hibernation between November and January, sleeping through to spring. Hedgehogs build a hibernation nest or spend the winters in man-made hedgehog boxes, but some struggle to find a place to sleep when the cold sets in. Many animal shelters become inundated with rescued hedgehogs from gardens, but it can be difficult to tell if a hedgehog needs help or if it should be left alone.
When to leave alone
- The hedgehog is in the nest
- The hedgehog has built a nest in your shed or garage
- Young hedgehogs are alone in the nest
Let sleeping hedgehogs lie and don’t remove young from the nest unless you are 100 per-cent sure that their mother is not returning. Do keep a close eye on the nest and if the babies are alone for more than a couple of hours and are calling for their mother, place the entire nest in a box and head straight for your local vet or wildlife centre.
When to intervene
- The hedgehog is out during the day
- The hedgehog is asleep away from its nest
- The hedgehog is clearly wounded
- Young hedgehogs have been orphaned
A hedgehog in distress needs to be taken inside and placed in a cardboard box. A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel is a prefect heat source (but will do more harm if it goes cold), and the hedgehog should be given a towel or fleece to hide under. But the box somewhere quiet and offer it some cat or dog food before phoning your local animal rescue centre.
If you do see a baby hedgehog alone or in trouble it’s always best to keep watch for a while before rescue, especially if the baby is in the nest. Orphaned hedgehogs need immediate care from a specialist.
DO NOT feed a hedgehog milk. Wet cat or dog food is perfectly fine, and should be offered to the hedgehog if your local animal centre is closed for the night.
Image from flickr.com/photos/idhren