4 species that will be hitting snooze this season

Jasmine Granton

Tuesday 24 October 2017

European hedgehog

Now that the nights are getting colder, we start to wrap up warm and get cosy on the run up to winter. We’re not the only ones who try to avoid the chilly temperatures though, as many species start the process of hibernation.

Here are four species that will be hitting snooze throughout winter!

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs may well the UK’s best known hibernator, leaving the cold, winter months behind to rest and stay warm.  Hibernation, however, is more than just sleeping for a long time. The hedgehog drops its body temperature to match their surroundings which allows them to save energy by slowing down all bodily functions. Hibernation begins for most hedgehogs in October or November. They can be seen wandering about, however right up until Christmas or even after, especially if it has not managed to collect enough food to see itself through the winter.

A great way to help hedgehogs get through the winter months is by putting down food and water. Avoid using tinned meat as this will freeze, cat biscuits, cheese are a tastier alternative or why not treat your garden Hedgehogs to some tried and tested Buggy Crunch from the RSPB shop. This extra helping hand could well become a life saver.

Hazel Dormouse

The adorable common, or hazel dormouse can be distinguished from other mice by its long, fluffy tail. With its name derived from the French word domir, meaning ‘to sleep’ it’s hardly surprising that the dormouse can hibernate for as much as three quarters of a year if the weather is bad. They hibernate on the ground, rolled tightly into a ball in a nest of leaves and grass. Their body temperature and heart rate are lowered and they become cold to the touch helping them survive by "shutting down" during cold weather, and they can even do this in spring or summer.

The Dormouse is one of Britain's most endangered mammals. A combination of loss of habitat and competition for food from the grey squirrel have contributed to this. One way you can help is by providing these adorable creatures with their favourite treat, hazelnuts, so why not leave a delicious collection in your garden to help them through the winter.

Sand Lizard

When you think of hibernation season in the UK, lizards may not be the first thing to spring to mind. However, sand lizards which are one of only three lizards native to Britain, hibernate from October to March, with males emerging some time before the females in spring.

 As the name suggests, sand lizards prefer a dry sandy or heathland habitat. Unfortunately, due to the lack heathland and the loss of sand dunes during the 20th century, sand lizards are now increasingly rare in Britain, and are protected by law. Although you’re unlikely to see a sand lizard in your back garden, you can provide a home for more common lizard species by creating a cover .

Butterflies

Among the butterflies, it is only the small tortoiseshell and peacock that regularly hibernate inside houses.  The cool, dry and sheltered conditions of our homes are a haven for the butterflies when it is still warm outside through late summer/early autumn. However, come December, when the central heating kicks in, butterflies may be awoken prematurely by high temperatures. The weather conditions outside can be hostile and there is little nectar available in gardens, leaving the butterflies vulnerable.

The best way to help these confused butterflies is to rehouse them into a suitable location. Catch the butterfly carefully and place it into a cardboard box or similar, in a cool place for half an hour or so it will calm down. Once calmed down you might be able to gently encourage the sleepy butterfly out onto the wall or ceiling of an unheated room or building such as a shed, porch or garage. 

Last Updated: Tuesday 24 October 2017

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Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Topic: Getting involved Topic: Giving Nature a Home