Now the months are getting colder, we’ll soon be greeted by frosted-over cars, icy pavements and wanting to hibernate ourselves! Britain has some stunning wildlife, who unfortunately don’t have the luxury of going indoors to central heating. Some animals are increasingly becoming endangered species, with some struggling mostly through the Winter, luckily there are some small things we can all do to help them stay safe and warm through the Winter!
These small, cute creatures are sadly decreasing year on year and facing endangerment. With woods being cut down for new houses to be built, and more people opting for a low-maintenance garden, these little animals struggle to find enough food and shelter in most conditions, let alone through the Winter.
November is the most common time for a hedgehog to go into hibernation. When these animals hibernate, they don’t necessarily sleep and sleep through the entire Winter, it’s quite common for them to wake up every few days to forage for some more food. Some hedgehogs won’t have collected enough food to be able to hibernate, and will roam the streets in search for some food.
What hedgehogs are always in search for is FOOD. In order to hibernate, hedgehogs need to have stored enough fat to allow them to get the rest they need in a warm shelter through Winter. You can buy hedgehog food from many garden centers and online too. If you want to be some food more conveniently, they can eat cat or kitten biscuits as well. They can normally eat dog food, but this isn’t advised through the Winter as it will freeze and cause other problems for them.
Like all of us, hedgehogs can easily get hydrated, especially in cold weather and after a long forage for food. The best thing to give hedgehogs is water, in a very small, shallow bowl or plate.
In order to survive hibernation through the Winter, hedgehogs must be 600 grams in weight. If you see this little fella near your house or garden, you can very gently pick it up using an old towel, take it inside and weigh it. This must be done very carefully, ideally in a darker room. If they weigh less than 600 grams, this can be reported to The British Hedgehog Preservation Society who can be found here.
The last, and one of the most important things a hedgehog needs over Winter is SHELTER. Hedgehogs are good at finding cosy spots among fields and woodland areas, but if we all provided a small space for these animals, we’d know they’re much safer and can be fed and monitored. There are many ways you can shelter hedgehogs, read here for how to make a hedgehog house, or simply leave out an old cardboard box, fill it with twigs and leaves and place it under a tree or a bush. Hedgehogs like lots of shelter, so even log piles are good at protecting these animals.
Independent and majestic, birds have the benefit of wings to allow them to migrate over the Winter and escape the colder climates, however, some birds stay here and brave the British Winters. Birds can generally take care of themselves, but as our climate is changing, there are some small things we can do to keep these birds thriving.
Investing in feeders is always a good idea to ensure birds have constant access to food. Hopper or tube feeders are best at keeping food dry through wet weather, and they dispense the food as it is eaten. Find a sheltered spot on the ground where you can scatter seed for ground-feeding species such as sparrows, towhees, juncos, and doves. Fat balls or suet are also great things to feed birds through winter.
Provide water for these little animals. Filling up a bird bath is still worthwhile in the Winter, birds still need to drink water and have a bath occasionally. To prevent the water from freezing over, place a small ball such as a ping pong ball in the bird bath, letting the wind move the ball around to prevent it from freezing!
Consider making a wind breaker. You can buy these or make them, and they are ideal for sheltering birds from cold, icy blasts and even snow blizzards in the middle of Winter. This can simply be made from a couple of medium sized sheets of plywood, lightly dug into the ground. You’ll see this dramatically reduce the amount of wind through certain parts of your garden.
Considering letting off fireworks?
Guy Fawkes night is widely enjoyed by us Brits. However, this can usually disrupt a lot of our wildlife unnecessarily.
People often use Bonfire night as a way to burn up all of the spare grass, leaves and sticks in their garden. This is fine, but be very careful when you’re moving piles of greenery like this. If it’s been left there for a while, the chances are, small creatures would have found themselves a home that you’re about to disrupt. Hedgehogs especially might be very well hidden in these piles, so be very, very careful when deciding to set it on fire.
Dogs are another animal that usually feel the negative effects of fireworks. Although domesticated and safe at home, the sounds of fireworks can be very distressing for dogs. If you have dogs or have neighbors that have dogs, re-consider letting these off in your garden. It’s always safer to watch this at a professional fireworks sow than to add extra stress on our pets.
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