Different animals hibernate at different times of the year. Each species has a different way of doing this; however, how does an animal know when the time is right to hibernate?
The temperature has a lot to do with hibernation and - when the temperatures cool - animals such as Hedgehogs, prepare for hibernation.
So how does this all work? Well, hibernation is different from regular sleep. The self-induced torpor results in a decreased metabolism and a dramatic drop in body temperature.
When a Hedgehog hibernates, its body temperature drops that low it nearly matches the outside temperature – its heart rate will slow down from 190 beats a minute to around 20 beats a minute, with one breath being taken every few minutes, so this enables the hedgehog to save an enormous amount of energy. Which is why, at this time of year, animals preparing for hibernation need to build up their stores of fat.
So how can you help your local Hedgehog? As autumn nights draw in, Hedgehogs are looking for a safe, snug place in which to spend the winter.
First of all, allow your garden to become a little messy – even if it’s just a far corner as too much tidiness will not help them. Leave piles of logs and fallen leaves – Hedgehogs will use these for bedding.
Encourage them to your garden with our fantastic ‘new’ Hedgehog house. Choose your site carefully. The house should be up against a bank, fence or hedge. Put some shredded newspaper and clean dry grass inside but don’t overdo it as they prefer to gather their own bedding.
Pile twigs around and over the box to make a small dome then cover this with dried grass, stones, earth, and leaves until the box is hidden. To avoid cold winter winds ensure the entrance to the house is south-facing.
Now, most importantly, leave the box alone and with luck, you’ll attract a prickly visitor to spend the winter months in your garden. If your house is a success then the occupant may be a female and have her babies there in the spring.
Go on; help a hedgehog hibernate this autumn/winter.