Article: Hibernation

To us here at Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue autumn is a quieter time. Most of our orphans are released or are in the last stage of soft release

and we get the chance to re-organise. Hibernation is just around the corner now and we are checking which of our occupants are ready. With so many creatures hibernating it is a real issue.

One thing I love though is “no flies”. The flies that have literally bugged us all summer have disappeared and we can now keep the door open in the rescue without them driving us mad! I know we need the flies, nature and balance and all that stuff but just every now and then I wish they weren’t here!

Along with the loss of bugs and flies and most things that crawl about is the loss of a food supply for many creatures. So what do they do? The clever creatures hibernate. Unlike man who tries to fight the elements using much more energy than our planet can sustain, the creatures that have no food simply sleep until there is some. How fantastic would that be!

This month sees the early sleepers nest down for the winter. Bats are few and far between now as their main source of food is all but gone. They hibernate in lofts, under roof tiles, tree hollows and even curtains. They don’t chew or build nests and cause no damage. Loss of habitat and food supplies has seen a dramatic drop in bats with 25% of the world population under threat – we really need to buck up.

Our wonderful hedgehogs are looking hard for a nice dry bed for the winter as their food source is also fast disappearing. No food and cold will cause hypothermia and then death if these spiky friends don’t create their hibernacula fast.

Hedgehogs have declined from 30 million in the 1970’s to just under 1 million in 2000 and by 2025 they could be extinct the UK. Loss of habitat can’t simply be blamed for this sharp decline. We know hedgehogs prefer urban areas to woodlands, so what is happening? Slug pellets can be scientifically blamed for a big part of this decline. As a friend once told me, there is no such thing as a little bit of poison. It’s just like being a little bit pregnant! Slug pellets kill and that poison gets right into the food chain. If you want hedgehogs back, keep your garden free of poisons.

Song thrushes, hedgehogs, slow worms, frogs, toads and grass snakes are all victims of the blue pellets as all of them eat slugs. My garden was full of these species as a child. I don’t use slug pellets and other chemicals and my garden is fine. We plant hostas in our hedgehog runs and they are totally bite free so it works.

The more slugs you kill with these poisonous chemical pesticides the more predators that feast on the slugs you kill. When the slugs then have no predators, they will come back with a vengeance.

Hedgehogs weighing under 650g should not be released and we will over winter them to give them the best possible chance at survival.

Please be careful through these next few months if you are working around the house or in the garden because wildlife hibernates in the strangest of places.


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