Wildlife watch Help our spiky friends sur­vive win­ter

Hamilton Advertiser - - FAIRHILL -

Scot­tish Wildlife Trust’s Falls of Clyde Wildlife Re­serve as­sis­tant ranger Jenny Mann would like to tell read­ers all about prickly lit­tle friends... Over the past 10 years, the UK’S hedge­hog pop­u­la­tion has de­clined by about a third, but it’s not too dif­fi­cult for us hu­mans to help boost the health, and hope­fully pop­u­la­tions, of our spiky neigh­bours.

One of the eas­i­est mea­sures is to pro­vide sup­ple­men­tary foods through­out the sum­mer and just be­fore hi­ber­na­tion be­gins.

Hedge­hogs are one of the UK’S only‘true’hi­ber­na­tors, and from Oc­to­ber to March each year they en­ter a state known as‘tor­por’.

Dur­ing this time, hedge­hogs will lower their body tem­per­a­tures to match their sur­round­ings in or­der to save en­ergy, and while they are not asleep in this state, their bod­ily func­tions will be very slow.

Dur­ing hi­ber­na­tion, the hedge­hog will live off the fat stores it has built up dur­ing sum­mer, so ex­tra food sources will en­sure our hedge­hogs are ready for a cold win­ter.

The best thing for this is a meat-based pet food, full of pro­tein and fats.

Re­cent stud­ies have shown that meal­worms, a once-pop­u­lar feed for hedge­hogs, can ac­tu­ally be detri­men­tal to their bone health – so it’s best to steer clear of th­ese in the fu­ture.

Once the fat stores have been built up and the tem­per­a­tures start to drop, hedge­hogs will be­gin look­ing for a hi­ber­nac­ula (their hi­ber­na­tion nest).

This is nat­u­rally within a thicket of dead wood or piles of leaves and com­post. How­ever, they will also nest in ready-made hedge­hog homes like those built by our young Wildlife Watch­ers last week­end.

Dur­ing our work­shop, we built three houses, com­plete with a hedge­hog-sized tun­nel and packed with hay to keep our spiky res­i­dents cosy through the win­ter months.

The houses were also given a green roof of soil, moss and veg­e­ta­tion to fur­ther in­su­late the hedge­hogs in the depths of win­ter.

With habi­tat loss oc­cur­ring all over the UK, build­ing a cosy hedge­hog home is a great way to of­fer them shel­ter through the colder months, but you shouldn’t be alarmed if you see one or two wan­der­ing around dur­ing Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

This is nor­mal, es­pe­cially in milder win­ters, and most hedge­hogs will move to a dif­fer­ent nest­ing area at least once dur­ing the hi­ber­na­tion pe­riod.

New House ‘This­tle’the hedge­hog tries out one of the hedge­hog houses made by young Wildlife Watch­ers and rangers at the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Re­servePic­ture by Laura Preston

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