In autumn, the food supply for hedgehogs becomes scarcer and hibernation is imminent. If you want to help hedgehogs survive the cold season, you should get plenty of information. Because not every hedgehog needs our support.
Normally, hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. But weak, injured, sick or orphaned hedgehogs sometimes show up during the day and may need support to survive. There are very few young hedgehogs that are actually abandoned. Mothers sometimes leave their litter alone for several hours while they forage for food. An apparently abandoned hatchling should always be closely observed before being taken into care.
Weak animals should not be removed from their natural environment unless they are young, very small, or obviously ill. Immediate help is possible, for example by feeding the hedgehog. Set up a feeding station in a sheltered area of your yard away from other animals like cats.
What to feed a hedgehog:
- Protein-rich food – a mixture of high-quality wet cat food (at least 60% meat content, without sauce, jelly or similar) and cooked, minced meat (chicken, turkey, ground beef)
- Egg – Eggs are particularly popular with hedgehogs as scrambled eggs: Fry the scrambled eggs in a pan without spices, but with a little vegetable oil – until firm
- Always have a shallow bowl of water ready
What NOT to feed a hedgehog:
- Under no circumstances should a hedgehog be fed fruit or milk. This can lead to severe digestive problems and even death.
- Commercial hedgehog dry food is not recommended and should not be the main diet. Hedgehogs’ natural diet consists of fewer carbohydrates, and weak hedgehogs are better off eating protein-rich food.
Hedgehogs are one of the most endangered species and, according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, may not be taken from nature. An exception are sick, injured or orphaned animals.
Hedgehogs hibernate from mid-November to March. The bodily functions are reduced to a minimum. With the help of their devoured energy reserves, the animals can survive for up to six months without food. Hedgehogs that weigh 500 grams or more before hibernation have a very good chance of survival.
Not only hedgehogs, but also other wild animals are happy if part of the garden is not cleaned up and the compost is not rearranged from October to March. Heaps of brushwood and leaves as well as hedges and shrubs also offer the animals shelter and protection from wind and weather. Leaf vacuums/blowers, lawn mowers and other equipment must be used with caution – they can fatally injure the animals.
In addition to the garden work that needs to be done, the architecture of the garden and house can also pose a risk to hedgehogs. A few small tips can make a big difference here: Cellar windows and ventilation shafts should be barred, any steps that may occur can be made passable for hedgehogs by building intermediate steps with bricks. A board in the pond ensures a safe exit from the water.
According to the Nature Conservation Act, anyone who takes care of an injured or weak hedgehog is obliged to contact a qualified hedgehog agency as quickly as possible. This will then decide whether the animal needs medical attention or can be released back into the wild. If further care becomes necessary, this will be arranged by the hedgehog specialist department.
The Hamburg wildlife station offers assistance here.