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found a hedgehog – what now?

A guide for animal friends: how to effectively help hedgehogs in winter

In autumn, food for hedgehogs becomes scarcer, and hibernation lies ahead. If you want to help hedgehogs survive the cold season, it is vital to be well informed, because not every hedgehog needs our support and sometimes it can do more harm than good.

Hedgehogs and hibernation

Hedgehogs are protected in all European countries and may not be captured or removed from their environment. Sick, injured or orphaned animals are exceptions. Should you find such an animal, contact a vet with wildlife expertise in order to get specialist advice and discuss what to do next. 

From mid-November to March, hedgehogs go into hibernation. They reduce their body functions to a minimum. With the energy reserves they have piled up by eating, they can survive for up to half a year without food. Hedgehogs that weigh half a kilogram or more before hibernation have a very good chance of survival. 

Always watch a hedgehog first

Usually, hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. But weak, injured, sick or parentless hedgehogs sometimes show themselves during the day and might need support to survive. Weak animals should not be removed from their natural environment. Immediate aid is possible, for example, by feeding the hedgehog. Make a feeding spot in a protected area of your garden.  

There are very few young hedgehogs that are really abandoned. Mother animals sometimes leave their litter alone for several hours while they go off in search of food. An apparently abandoned young animal should always be closely observed before being taken into care. 

Hedgehog protection begins in your garden

Not only hedgehogs, but other wild animals as well are happy when part of your garden is left uncleared, and the compost heap upturned between October and March. Heaps of twigs and leaves, as well as hedges and shrubs provide refuge and protection from the wind and weather. Leaf vacuums and blowers, lawnmowers and other devices should be used with care – they can lethally injure small mammals and birds.

Besides gardening work, the architecture of house and garden is full of hidden dangers for hedgehogs. A few helpful interventions can be very effective: cellar windows and ventilation shafts should be protected by bars or mesh, steps can be made more easily climbable for hedgehogs by using bricks to build intermediate steps. A wooden board in the pond will guarantee that a hedgehog can safely get out of the water.