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Hedgehogs, Their Habits, Hibernation And Happiness
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Hibernation of the Hedgehogs, these spiky mammals hibernate for up to 6 months of the year, depending on weather conditions, they do this simply in order to survive, as the cold weather sets in their usual foods aren't as available as were in the summer.

During hibernation the metabolism of the hedgehog falls dramatically, meaning they burn much less fat enabling them to go through the winter without food or water, their body temperature will drop to as low as 10 degrees (normal temp 35 degrees) this is the hedgehogs energy conservation strategy, and it works.

In autumn the Hedgehogs will start to think about hibernation and begin to collect their house materials, such as bracken, straw, hay, leaves and plants. If they can find a structure, man made or natural that contains the shelter and protection they require they will choose to settle there, often fallen log piles, and brushwood provide good insulation for the hedgehog to set up camp.

Although hedgehogs are well equipped with up to 6000 spikes, and an admirable sense of smell and hearing their eyesight is very poor and this can be hazardous when confronted with an enemy. Their diet consists of slugs, earthworms, beetle caterpillars snails, bees, small birds and the occasional egg if their lucky to find such a treat.

Hedgehogs become very vulnerable during hibernation from disturbance and weakness. Urban foxes being a main predator of theirs, with the number of foxes increasing rapidly so is the decline of hedgehogs. The fox will ambush the hedgehog on sight, knowing the hedgehogs reaction is to curl up into a ball, the fox will then wait until the hedgehog believes its safe to come out, first popping out its two hind legs to make a move and thats when the fox will snatch it and pull it in.

These prickly creatures can live for up to 5 years and grow up to 30cm, but with their species in the UK in decline its important we help them to survive the long winters. Gardens are a perfect home for hedgehogs, containing the right materials suitable for nests, such as compost heaps, log piles and under sheds. If you want to encourage hedgehogs into your garden then heres a few ides you could try,

Get a cardboard box and cut out one side of it, place this upside down, preferably south facing and hide under a hedge or heap of compost, hedgehogs have soft feet so try and line the box with hay, saw dust or shredded newspaper for comfort, cover the box with a plastic sheet to keep in dry and then camouflage with twigs and leaves.

For a more sustainable shelter make the above out of wood and and create a tunnel leading into the box, then completely cover the nest with soil and leaves, creating a canopy over the den. Hedgehogs can become ill if they do not locate food or water, so a bowl with water and a plate of nuts, raisins, bird or cat food placed near the snuggery will inspire the hedgehog to settle in your garden.

If you do come across a sick or injured hedgehog its crucial you help it, its likely to die if you dont, if it looks hurt, is stumbling or some of its spines are missing, pick it up and place it in a box with a towel for warmth, a bowl of water and food (see above) Also hedgehogs rarely come out in the daytime, especially in the sunlight so if you see one acting out of character, its probable that it needs help. Societies like the RCPCA or local vets will adise you further if you need it.

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