Confused hedgehogs roaming city centre due to unusually warm weather

Young hedgehog seen from ground level crossing a village road near some road works.

Young hedgehog seen from ground level crossing a village road near some road works. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hedgehogs which should be huddled up in hibernation have been spotted out in Norwich in a zombified state. 

The prickly critters are increasingly being seen wandering Norwich - bewildered by the unseasonably warm weather. 

Usually the nocturnal animals would be in hibernation due to cold weather and food shortages. 

Founder of Hodmedod’s Hedgehog Support in Norwich, Paula Symonds, said: “There are two reasons why hedgehogs will be seen in the day. Firstly it could be down to illness, they have a high parasite burden and are not able to maintain their temperature.  

The hedgehogs were taken to an undisturbed area after falling into a ditch.

The hedgehogs were taken to an undisturbed area after falling into a ditch. - Credit: RSPCA

“Hogs suffering from this will appear hungry, slow, wobbly and can be seen ‘sunbathing’. These hedgehogs need help as soon as possible. 

“The second reason would be due to climate change.” 

Milder weather in the autumn months mean that creatures are now having litters of hoglets later in the year.  

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Paula said: “The babies born in the later months cannot gain enough weight to survive hibernation.”  

Some larger hedgehogs will come out of hibernation on milder days throughout the winter to rummage for more food.  

But she said: “With such a small amount of natural food available they tend to use more energy looking for food than they are getting from the small amount they find, so they soon become unwell. 

Cookie the five week old hedgehog held by Liz Metcalf at Hallswood Animal Sanctuary, Stratton Strawl

Cookie the five week old hedgehog held by Liz Metcalf at Hallswood Animal Sanctuary, Stratton Strawless. The weather has meant that Hedehogs have produced three litters this year that will leave youngsters like Cookie with a slim chance of survival as they will be unable to achieve a weight of 600 grams to be able to hibernate. For : Evening News Copy : Emma Knights Photo : Steve Adams Copyright Archant Norfolk - Credit: Copyright Archant Norfolk.

“They then risk going back into hibernation when the weather turns colder again, with little fat store, so they risk not having enough fat to survive – thus also die during hibernation.” 

However, if people spot these larger hedgehogs roaming around at dusk or dawn, Paula urges that they are most likely just fine.  

She explained: “They will take advantage of milder weather to find food.

“If they look healthy just ensure there is food and water for them nearby if possible and then leave them alone.  

“If you're really concerned you can monitor them from a distance.” 

Anyone who would like to volunteer with the group is welcome as it is always looking for more people to help the hogs in the city.  

For more information follow Homedod’s Hedgehog support on Facebook or visit their website: www.hodmedods.org.uk 

What can city folk do to protect urban hedgehogs? 

Paula, who wants to expand the hedgehog support network further afield, had these valuable tips for people looking to take care of their spikey neighbours. 

1. Provide food – a supply of hedgehog food or even kitten biscuits in a bowl, and a bowl of fresh water would be good to sustain the hedgehogs.

If the food is at risk of being taken by cats then a simple feeding station with water would be fine.  

2. Housing – If you have hedgehogs in your area and you want to help protect them, then invest in a good quality hedgehog house.  

Preferably the house would be off the floor, dry and filled with leaves or straw to provide them with somewhere to hibernate in or to shelter if the weather turns cold.  

3. If you see a very small or poorly hedgehog out and about day or not, do not try to house them. This hedgehog needs help so be sure to contact a rescue immediately.