Cold snap: RSPCA fears for chances of survival of underweight hedgehogs this winter
RSPCA expresses concern about the number of underweight hedgehogs and their ability to survive in cold weather.
This winter could be particularly hard for hedgehogs, as new RSPCA data from England and Wales reveals that the numbers of the iconic creatures admitted to its wildlife centres have already topped 2020 figures.
By mid-November this year, the number of hedgehogs taken into care by the animal charity’s four wildlife centres (1896) was already more than the total for the whole of last year (1883 in 2020).
In 2020, the RSPCA received more than 6,000 (6202) calls from people worried about sick, underweight, injured or orphaned hedgehogs. There were 110 calls from Berkshire and more than 150 from Hampshire.
Hedgehogs born late in the year often do not have enough fat reserves to survive the long winter hibernation without some help. They'll have to forage for longer to find enough food – often during the day – and that’s often when they are spotted by concerned animal lovers determined to help them.
The decision whether or not to intervene with a hedgehog depends on how much they weigh during early winter and whether they are healthy or not.
As part of its online hedgehog advice for the public the RSPCA recommends that if the hoglet weighs less than 300g (about the size of an apple), then it will need specialist care to survive the winter. Learn online how to capture and transport the animal to a rehabilitator.
The advice to take them to a rehabilitator also applies to hedgehogs of any size that are sick or injured, or seen out during the day during cold snaps
If a juvenile hedgehog weighs between 300 and 500g after mid-October, they probably won't have enough weight to see them through the winter so may also need help. The RSPCA recommends following the British Hedgehog Preservation Society advice for autumn juvenile hedgehogs which describes how to help them over winter.
If the hedgehog weighs over 500g and is only seen out at night, it should be healthy enough to hibernate as normal in the wild. They'll be foraging for food overnight so if you can, keep providing food in the garden as this will help them to put on even more weight before hibernation. Hedgehogs will often wake up from hibernation and forage for food at least once during winter, so providing food in the garden throughout winter will also help.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: "The RSPCA received 51,000 calls last December, that’s one call every minute. We received one report of an abandoned animal every hour and took 70 rescue animals into RSPCA care every day.
"As we were in lockdown last year, we expect these figures to rise this Christmas. We’re asking people to Join the Rescue this Christmas to help bring animals to safety this festive season.”
Rescue teams will be out in all weathers this winter, rescuing animals from abuse, neglect and suffering.
To Join the Christmas Rescue and help RSPCA rescuers be there for the animals in need, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/rescuexmas