The mystery of the disappearing hedgehogs

Hi - I put down bowls of dried mealworms and bowls of a nut/seed mix with the occasional raisin for the hedgehogs.  All Summer long they've been coming to my garden and bringing their young - it is not an exaggeration to say that there were often 5 or 6 in my little garden  at any time throughout the night.  Suddenly, a couple of nights ago, they have all stopped coming.  I have not even had one for the last two nights.  Is this normal behaviour?  It feels too early for them to be hibernating?  I am wondering if it is a natural phenomenon or whether something else might have caused it - for instance their route being blocked somewhere or (god forbid) someone putting down some poison somewhere?  Thanks image

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  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    I think that the family will have split up in the normal course of things and so scattered.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    It's definitely not too eary to start hibernation. I'm in Warwickshire and some hedgehogs have been tucked away for some time now.

    It also partly depends on individual hedgehogs, and how much weight they've put on during the Summer. Hedgehogs need a certain mimimum weight to last through the Winter, Mature hedgehogs will be heavier than young ones, so are able to go into hibernation earlier.

    It's probably been a good year for fattening up on slugs.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 43,759

    My hedgehogs are still visiting the feeding stations, but they're also beginning to gather up leaves etc in potential hibernation spots.

    No-one knows if you've done your housework, but everyone knows if you've done your gardening !
  • LunarzLunarz Posts: 93

    Thanks everyone - it's a relief to hear that it's not too early to hibernate and we have definitely had some very cold nights here recently so perhaps that is it.  Definitely a good point that the family groups will have split up too.  They are definitely fat enough as well having visited my garden all Summer - what with all the mealworms, seeds, nuts and raisins, some of them were huge last time I saw them.  We also had lots and lots of males making the snorting noise trying to get the females to mate with them all Summer, so perhaps my garden was more like a pick-up joint for hedgehogs, and now the ladies don't want to breed anymore, the men don't both coming any more image

  • Hi Lunarz, even if you think the hoggies are no longer visiting please keep putting out food & water. This time of year there are Autumn juveniles who need to gain sufficient weight in order to hibernate properly and survive. They need to be approx 650g. Some hoggies will possibly start hibernating around now but many will wake throughout the course of winter and will need to find food easily. Dry cat biscuits, chopped peanuts, sunflower hearts, mealworms etc rather than meat as this will stay fresher for longer, also ensure the watererbowl doesnt freeze over.

    As  Alina says, the family will no doubt have split up by now as hoggies are solitary creatures. Try leaving an area of your garden wild and provide twigs, straw etc for them and they could very well use the area to hibernate.

    I currently have 3 hogboxes in my garden, 2 have had a hoggy in for the last few weeks and the 3rd will no doubt be discovered soon as it has only been in situ for a couple of days. image

    On another note, if you are building a bonfire, please either build it during the day it will be lit, or ensure you can check inside before lighting as this is an attractive site for hoggies to sleep and many hoggies die each year this way image

     

  • LunarzLunarz Posts: 93

    Thanks kitiekat - I will carry on putting a couple of bowls of mealworms and seeds/nuts out throughout the winter and if they are still there untouched in the morning I will give that stuff to the birds and put another load out at night again.  I had heard that they can temporarily get up if it gets warm in winter and have a quick bite!  I did try and build a hedgehog house between the shed and the fence - I put a load of upturned logs at the edges and covered the top with large bin bags and covered the whole thing with soil.  I even sealed up the gaps in the fence with silicone but I haven't had a single hedgehog go in there - even if I put mealworms at the entrance.  Perhaps it is because I put straw in it and they don't like it?  Or perhaps they have better places to sleep as there are a lot of fields and natural hedgerows quite nearby.  What do you use for your hogboxes?  Do you buy them bespoke?

  • Hi Lunarz,

    We've been leaving extra piles of peanuts on the grass for the hedgehogs all summer, it started because we noticed 3 of them hoovering up around the bird feeding station one night, we've had up to 5 that we've spotted at any one time, we made the decision last week not to put extra out now because it's getting a bit chilly in the evenings now and they maybe should be at least thinking about tucking themselves up for the winter. Working oon the theory that whilest theres still a high enery source of food freely available they might think twice,

    Over the last couple of weeks the little ones have been spotted in the garden as we got home from work, around 6.30ish, we took it as a sign they where squeezing in as much as they can before hibernating. We haven't seen them at all this week. and there have been no little "presents" left on the lawn for us!..... although Horatio, the original big one was crashing around and bulldozing his way through the undergrowth last night without a care in the world, but I suspect it won't be long before he's tucked up too!

    If there's a warm spell we'll add some extra out for them to get them through but as a greneral rule of thumb it's going to be a slug only diet from our garden with the occasional spillage from the bird table, assuming the cheeky squirrel doesn't get there 1st!

  • Now is not the time of year to stop putting out food for hedgehogs to make them think about hibernation.  They need it now more than ever if they are to put on weight.  Small hedgehogs seen out should be caught and weighed.  If they weigh less than 650g they need to be taken indoors, put in a warm box and given catfood and water and then got to a hedgehog carer as soon as possible.  They are unlikely to survive the winter on their own.  Its also worth knowing that slugs are not great fiends of hedgehogs are they contain a parasite than can be fatal to hogs.  That is why 'good food' is vital.  Cat biscuits are easy to provide.  Put in a covered area, slab on bricks would do they keep dry and it keeps the cats/foxes from eating them.  Water should always be available, they get very thirsty.

  • sotongeoffsotongeoff Posts: 9,806

    I would never argue what someone with the name "hoglady" writes but am interested in a couple of points

    First the slug one-we are encouraged not to use slug pellets as hedgehogs are supposed to eat the poisoned slugs- despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary-now you tell us that eating slugs will harm the hedgehog anyway-but that too seems to fly in the face of what everybody tells me-so perhaps you can explain a bit more?-I have to say this is news to me

    How do they cope without us feeding them and is us feeding them such a great idea anyway-surely it all about fending for themselves?

    Secondly-is it really wise to catch hedgehogs all sounds a bit traumatic for what is basically a wild animal and a young one at that-should we be interfering to that extent in nature?

    As I say I am not disputing -just would like a bit more information

  • We used to have a lot of hedgehogs in the garden, whole families, but it is very rare now to see any evidence of them, in fact when I do see their calling card it is such a big event. What did hedgehogs feed on before man decided they needed help., the use of pesticides and loss of habitat is one of  the biggest threat to them and the fact that everyone wants privacy in their gardens, the use of fences has blocked their natural pathways. We have cut a hole in our fence that leads to scrub land at the side and back of our garden, but still very few hedgehogs.

    Chris.

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