When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs in Britain do not usually hibernate before November, and the latest they hibernate is January. They stay in hibernation until the spring.

Here are some facts about hedgehog hibernation.

  • Only three British animals hibernate: the bat, the dormouse and the hedgehog. Snakes and lizards become inactive during the winter months, but they don’t truly hibernate.

  • Hedgehogs hibernate when their main source of food – insects – becomes more scare in the winter months.
  • During hibernation the hedgehogs metabolism drops very low. Its heartbeat drops from 190 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute, it breathes in and out once or twice every few minutes, and its body temperature drops dramatically. The hedgehogs fat reserves keep the hedgehog alive.
  • If the temperature drops below 1 degrees C, a hibernating hedgehog will suffer from frostbite, and may even freeze to death. Hopefully before this happens, the hedgehogs body starts to shiver and its heart rate increases, causing the hedgehog to wake form hibernation ans seek a warmer nest.
  • If hedgehogs to do not put on enough fat before they hibernate, they will not make it through the winter.
  • In the spring, when hedgehogs come out of hibernation they are a third lighter than they were and they are very thirsty.
  • Hedgehogs wake several times during their hibernation, but they won’t leave the nest (called a hibernaculum) unless it gets too cold and they must seek a warmer spot.
  • The nest is about 50cm wide.
  • Very ocassionally, male and female hedgehogs may share a hibernating nest.
  • Hedgehogs don’t always hibernate. If it’s a mild winter, and insect supplies are still sufficient to sustain the hedgehog, there is not need to go into hibernation.

What next? Discover more hedgehog facts.

Do badgers eat hedgehogs?

Although badgers in Britain prefer to eat a diet of earthworms, slugs and underground grubs, when these foods are in short supply, they will eat hedgehogs.

Badgers are omnivores and they will also eat toads and frogs, mice, voles, young birds, small rabbits, eggs, and even small lambs when other food sources aren’t available.

Badgers will eat nearly all of the hedgehog, but they leave the skin with the prickles attached.

Some people believe that the increasing badger populations in Britain is responsible for the recent decline in the hedgehog population. While it is true that badgers will eat hedgehogs and compete with them for food (earthworms and slugs), the fall in the number of hedgehogs is also closely linked to the loss of hedgerows, an important habitat of the hedgehog.

Many of the hedgehog rescue centres around Britain are reluctant to release hedgehogs back into the wild in areas that have high badger populations.

In addition to badgers, in some parts of Europe weasels and wild ferrets will eat hedgehogs, and the Eurasian eagle owl often east hedgehogs, silently tracking them down at night before they have a chance to roll into a ball.

What next? Click the links to learn more about hedgehogs and badgers.