Despite recent storms sweeping across the UK, the temperature has actually been milder than usual for this time of year. As a result, an animal rescue charity has found that many hedgehogs haven't completed their hibernation period because they think spring has already arrived.
Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service (WRAS), based in East Sussex, usually cares for around 300 hedgehogs during the winter months. But this year, many of the hedgehogs have been released back into the wild early having woken up from hibernation prematurely.
The charity's founder, Trevor Weeks, believes that hedgehogs are confused by climate change. He told the Daily Mail: "Until we get to the spring it's difficult to know what's going to happen. We are in uncharted territory – I have not known weather like it.
Milder winter temperatures followed a late-starting autumn in 2019 which saw many hedgehogs produce a second litter of hoglets pre-hibernation. This can be dangerous because the baby animals often don't have enough time to fatten-up in time for the winter months, leaving many at risk. "October, November and December were busy for baby hedgehogs," says Trevor.
Back in December 2019, this lead to one charity finding multiple hedgehogs that were too weak to hibernate and thousands of hoglets were rescued just before Christmas. Sadly, this was down to a lack of food and resources caused by the uncertain weather.
The charity has also revealed fears over non-hibernating hedgehogs being poisoned by parasites found on bugs that thrive in mild weather. Usually, hedgehogs hibernate from October right though until April, but the change in their behaviour has meant they are eating foods they normally wouldn't (such as the bugs, for example).
Read more on hedgehogs:
- How to make a hedgehog house
- 4 signs you have a hedgehog in your garden at night
- How to make your garden a haven for wildlife throughout winter
- Here's how to save hedgehogs during the heatwave
"If this is the pattern of things to come, we could be seeing major change in how hedgehogs exist in the UK," Trevor continues. "I think we should be worried about it because it's such a dramatic change.
"Fingers crossed it doesn't have too much of a negative impact. The next few months are going to be quite critical."
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