Why are you still awake? Rise in Hedgehog sightings due to late start to winter

25 Jan 2017 | No. 2017-01

Active Hedgehogs were being seen in gardens well into December, according to reports from the British Trust for Ornithology’s weekly Garden BirdWatch (BTO GBW) scheme. Volunteer Garden BirdWatchers reported more Hedgehogs in November and December than in previous years.

Before the onset of winter Hedgehogs are busy foraging for earthworms and insects to gain plentiful fat reserves. These reserves are crucial for surviving during their hibernation, which is normally from November to March. However, timing of hibernation varies between individuals and depends on weather conditions. This year results from Garden BirdWatch show that more Hedgehogs were active later in the year than usual, likely as a result of mild weather.

July to September is the peak of Hedgehog activity in gardens when young hoglets can also be seen, but activity declines steeply with the arrival of winter. However, this November Garden BirdWatchers recorded Hedgehogs in 4.1% of gardens, which is nearly double the average (2.4%) and the sightings remained higher than normal in December. This pattern is most notable in the southern and eastern areas of the UK where temperatures were milder than elsewhere in November. The Met Office also notes that the December mean temperature was 2.1°C above average (1961-1990), which is likely to explain the increase in Hedgehog activity this winter.

Now that it’s January and we are experiencing colder weather, it is likely that most Hedgehogs are hibernating, potentially making use of compost heaps or piles of brushwood in gardens. If you do see a Hedgehog out in the cold weather, it could be sick. For more information on the common diseases that affect garden wildlife please visit: www.gardenwildlifehealth.org. If you are concerned about a Hedgehog that you suspect may be sick or injured, please contact your local veterinary surgeon, The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS): www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk, or an experienced local wildlife centre, such as the RSPCA :www.rspca.org.uk.

Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch at the British Trust for Ornithology said, 

We know that gardens are a useful resource for Hedgehogs, which are a nationally declining species. The long-term weekly data collected through BTO Garden BirdWatch allows us to monitor the fortunes of Hedgehogs and other wildlife in gardens and assess changes. It will also tell us whether they emerge early or late this coming spring.”

Henry Johnson, Hedgehog Officer at People’s Trust for Endangered Species added, 

“There are lots of small, easy things you can do to improve your patch for hedgehogs – visit HedgehogStreet.org for free advice.”

If you enjoy watching wildlife in your garden, why not take part in the Garden BirdWatch. To take part please visit www.bto.org/gbw, or get in touch by emailing gbw [at] bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050 (Mon-Fri 9am-5:00pm).

Contact Details

Claire Boothby
(Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:00pm)
Email: claire.boothby [at] bto.org ()
Kate Risely 
(Garden BirdWatch Organiser)
Office: 01842 750050
9am to 5:00pm
Email: kate.risely [at] bto.org ()
Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:00pm)
Mobile: 07585440910 anytime
Email: press [at] bto.org ()

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference January 2017 - 01.

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview. Office:01842 750050.

Notes to editors

  1. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over 40,000 birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org
  2. Garden BirdWatch survey is run by the BTO carried out by around 13,000 volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK, who report sightings of birds and other wildlife on a weekly basis throughout the year. We are indebted to them for their support. To take part in the survey: www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw
  3. Garden BirdWatch results are freely accessible to view on our website: www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/results
  4. Garden Wildlife Health is a collaborative project between Zoological Society of London (ZSL), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  Garden Wildlife Health is funded by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Government through the Animal & Plant Health Agency’s Diseases for Wildlife Scheme Scanning Surveillance Programme. The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Universities Federation for Animal Welfare also provide funding for GWH.
  5. Hedgehogs are declining in the UK and as of 2010 has a Hedgehog population of less than 1 million, compared to 1.55million in 1995. This figure is reported in the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015, compiled by the Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species: www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk
  6. People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society have been formally collaborating on hedgehog conservation and the Hedgehog Street campaign since 2011.  Hedgehog Street is the only nationwide campaign that empowers garden owners to create hedgehog-friendly neighbourhoods. Over 41,000 volunteer ‘Hedgehog Champions’ are registered through the Hedgehog Street website. The website includes various free resources to empower local volunteers, such as instructions on how to make a hedgehog house, a downloadable A-Z guide of hedgehog-friendly gardening tips, and The BIG Hedgehog Map, a central hub for mapping hedgehogs and hedgehog holes.

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