Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Protect Wildlife in Winter; with the Unseasonably Warm Winter Weather, Many Animals Haven't Gone into Hibernation. Hannah Stephenson Finds out How We Can Help Vulnerable Wildlife

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Protect Wildlife in Winter; with the Unseasonably Warm Winter Weather, Many Animals Haven't Gone into Hibernation. Hannah Stephenson Finds out How We Can Help Vulnerable Wildlife

Article excerpt

IF you see a hedgehog foraging in your garden at this time of year, chances are that it's been fooled by the weather. In fact, the hibernating period of many creatures, including frogs, toads and newts, is likely to be delayed thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures - but does it matter? "Just because hibernation has been delayed doesn't mean it's all bad," says Helen Bostock, senior horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

"The warmer weather has meant that all food sources for hibernating creatures, including berries, insects, slugs and snails, have also been available later on in the year and have given hibernating animals such as hedgehogs a few more weeks to build up their energy reserves for their big sleep period."

Problems occur if hibernation has started in a cold snap and the weather becomes warmer again. That causes the creatures to come out of a deep sleep and start looking for food, using up energy set aside for their sleep period, she explains.

The lack of a real cold snap has given gardeners the chance to prepare to help hibernating wildlife once the cooler weather kicks in.

The RHS has joined forces with The Wildlife Trusts to launch the Big Wildlife Garden competition, looking for the best wildlife gardens in the UK and will take into account measures taken to help wildlife through the winter.

So, how can we help vulnerable creatures through the winter? Kate Bradbury, wildlife expert, says: "Hedgehogs hibernate in leaf or log piles, thickets of grass, compost heaps and hedgehog boxes. They are at risk from lack of food and freezing temperatures.

"If you see a hedgehog, leave out water and cat or dog food every day until it no longer takes the food."

If you disturb a hibernating hedgehog, carefully put back its nesting material and leave it a dish of food. If you see a hedgehog during the day, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, she advises.

Frogs occasionally hibernate in mud at the bottom of a pond, but more usually, along with toads and newts, hide themselves away under piles of damp leaves and rotting logs or in ditches, but may rouse on warm days and look for food. …

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