Hedgehogs are small animals that find solace in and around the human habitat. They are friendly animals that eat anything that appeals to them, but, they prefer to have live insects in their feed. Hedgehogs are one of the animals known to enjoy sleeping a lot but are nocturnal animals. The topic of their hibernation is up for discussion in this piece.
So, to the question, “Do Hedgehogs hibernate?” Yes, they do. Hedgehogs hibernation is the period hedgehogs go into inactivity. The scarcity of food makes hedgehogs sleep rather than move around. In most cases, during hibernation, hedgehogs just roll into a hard ball throughout the period. All they do is breath and hope the hibernation period ends soon rather than later.
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Why Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?
One might wonder why these small animals hibernate, well the reason is not far-fetched. For hedgehogs, hibernation is far beyond long months of sleeping. It is the period where their food is scarce and the weather gets too cold.
Hedgehog hibernation centers around two main factors: scarcity of food and the cold winter. These two factors almost always lead to hibernation. You will most likely find hedgehogs rolled into hard balls and with little or no movement.
Just before the hedgehogs go into hibernation, all they do is search for food. That food is what they rely on as fat during the hibernation period.
What Time of the Year Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?
Hedgehog hibernation is closely associated with cold weather. So, hibernation can start as early as October or November and reach well into late March. During warm winter, hedgehogs might not go into hibernation until around December. So, the hibernation really depends on how cold or warm the temperature is.
Whenever we have a warm winter, hedgehogs might be seen around. They will most likely be looking around for food to store as fat- in preparation for hibernation.
What Happens in Hibernation?
When hedgehogs go into hibernation, quite many events occur. And you can call them odd events. Hedgehogs are warm-blooded animals, however, in hibernation, the opposite is the case.
The body temperature of hedgehogs in hibernation falls to match that of the surrounding environment. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say hedgehogs reduces all energy-consuming activities. These include internal activities, during hibernation.
Since activity is reduced, you won’t see hedgehogs roaming about during this period. In fact, they drop their heart rate to around 20 beats per minute.
However, hedgehogs don’t sleep throughput hibernation period. They wake once or twice to look for food and get back as soon as possible.
How Do You Tell If a Hedgehog Is Hibernating and Not Dead?
When hedgehogs go into hibernation, they will roll into hard balls without showing the head. Often time, people take this position to mean that the hedgehog is dead. However, you might find out that the opposite is the case.
When you find a hedgehog in this position, there are a few things to do in other to find out if it is dead or in hibernation. You can:
• Put a small mirror in front of his nostrils and look for fog in the glass. If fog appears, you can be sure that the hedgehog is in hibernation. Be careful not to conclude too soon if you don’t see any sign. Because breathing gets reduced, the fog sign might not be effective.
• You can also listen to some soft snore from the animal. Of course, snoring means it is alive
• You can also stick it with gentleness using a pin, you should get a reaction if it is alive.
Do Hedgehogs in Captivity Go into Hibernation?
Hedgehogs kept as pets can go into hibernation! The reason is that again hibernation is linked primarily to cold weather. So if the cage or house where the hedgehogs are kept get too cold, you can have pets in hibernation to look after.
The hibernation of pet hedgehogs will be partial, but, if care is not taken, you will only let your pets waste away and die. So, in other to avoid hedgehogs in captivity go into hibernation. Ensure the temperature of their cage is well above 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Big Should a Hedgehog Be to Survive the Hibernation Period?
In other to ensure that a hedgehog completes the hibernation period without complications leading to death. It is advisable that it weighs up to 600 grams before going into hibernation. Such body mass will ensure that the hedgehog has a good body fat resource to see it through the long sleep.
If you find a hedgehog with a lower body mass, you may need to take it to a wildlife hospital for overwintering. Else, if it goes into hibernation, it might not wake up again.
Do Not Move a Hibernating Hedgehog
It is possible that you find a hedgehog hibernating in an unsuitable place. Out of a good heart, you might be willing to take the hibernating hedgehog to a better place. Such a wonderful act! However, you will be doing the hedgehog more harm than good.
In your attempt to move it, you will get it disturbed and that uses up its valuable body fat. So, as much as possible, do not move a hibernating hedgehog.
Should you by accident disturb a hedgehog that is hibernating. Gently cover it up and perhaps leave some food and clean water beside it. So that when it wakes up, it finds food to eat before getting another spot to continue its hibernation.
Hibernation Is Not Necessary
Oh! Yes, hedgehogs do not have to go into hibernation. Hibernation is a dangerous activity or inactivity that could lead to death. So, whenever and as much as possible, discourage hedgehogs hibernation.
The major reason for hibernation is the scarcity of food and cold weather. So, if you take care of these two factors properly, hibernation will not be a requirement.
So, if you keep hedgehogs as pets or come across them in your garden, ensure none of the two factors is in play.
What to Do If Your Pet Hedgehog Shows Signs of Hibernation
The symptoms of hedgehogs’ hibernation can range from your pet being cool to the touch, becoming lethargic to the point it may not unroll, wobbly on its feet if it later unrolls. And you could also find out that there is a decrease in appetite or complete refrain from eating.
When any of the symptoms occur, you might be having a hedgehog going into hibernation, so what should you do? An immediate treatment you can give to the animal is warming. Warm the hedgehog immediately but very gently.
Then afterward, take it to a veterinarian you trust.
Long Term Treatment
After you must have taken your hedgehog to the vet for treatment, don’t stop there like nothing ever happened. There are steps you must take to ensure your hedgehog never falls into hibernation again. some of them include:
• Increase the temperature of its cage and if possible, monitor the room temperature day and night for fluctuations
• It is important that you maintain a regular day and night light cycles. If the cage’s position faces sunlight, that may be all that you require during the day. However, if the temperature inside the cage is below or barely around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t hesitate to heat up the room.
• Avoid human grade heating pads. It turns off after a certain period of time.
• Food is important! Get food near your hedgehog and clean water at all times. However, be mindful of its diet, you don’t want an obese hedgehog to deal with.
When Hedgehogs Wake Up from Hibernation
By the time winter is giving access for spring to begin, hedgehogs will also be waking up from hibernation. So, around March, you will most likely see those small animals in your gardens. by this time, a hedgehog will have lost about half of its body weight.
Hence, they will wake very weak and disoriented. They will appear drunk and their first priority will be water.
So, as soon as there is a movement or presence of hedgehogs in your garden. It is important that you leave some freshwater and food around the garden throughout the period.
The first couple of days after waking up is a time of danger for the hedgehogs. So, if you plan on clearing your garden, ensure to check thoroughly for hedgehogs so you don’t injure them.
And when injuries occur as a result of an accident, don’t hesitate to take the hedgehog to the nearest vet for treatment.