European hedgehogs in the UK , like me, often hibernate throughout winter. We hibernate to avoid the harsh, cold weather that winter brings, whilst also not having the burden of hunting for food when it's really scarce. We feed as much as possible during the summer and autumn then, in around October we build our nests of (mainly) leaves and grass to snuggle down in and hibernate.
Us hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. During hibernation we're not really asleep in the way you would be at night; instead we drop our body temperature to match our surroundings and enter a state of 'torpor'(deep inactivity). This allows us to save a lot of energy and get through the long, cold winter months when food is hard to find. It does however slow all our other bodily functions, which makes normal activity impossible.
"What do I do if I disturb a hibernating hedgehog?" I hear you ask... If you do come across one of my friends hibernating, please try to carefully replace the nest material you disturbed. It's fairly likely the hog will come out of hibernation so please ensure you leave it some food [see What Hedgehogs Eat for feeding advice] and more importantly water so it can quickly replenish it's used stocks and get back to hibernating again.
When do Hedgehogs Hibernate?
Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. Research has shown that each individual is likely to move nesting sites at least once during this period and so can sometimes be seen out and about. During mild winters we can remain active well into November and December, especially if food is abundant.
What Our Bodies Feed On
While in hibernation our fuel supply comes from the fat stores we spend so much effort building up over the summer and autumn. Eating enough before hibernation is vital and this is when supplementary feeding can prove important to us... thanks in advance for the tasty grub!
When we come out of hibernation we'll be really hungry, but in particular thirsty. Please ensure you're ready for us when we reappear - thanks a bunch!