Hedgehogs have not hibernated this winter – says East Sussex wildlife rescuer
Hedgehogs and other animals have not hibernated this winter, after ‘unprecedented’ mild weather.
That is according to wildlife rescuer Trevor Weeks, founder of East Sussex WRAS (Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service).
He says the effects and implications of this ‘unheard of’ phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but we should be worried.
Mr Weeks said, “Even things like toads, amphibians and reptiles hibernate in the winter.
“But we’ve had reports of frogs and toads still being out in people’s gardens.
“They should definitely be hibernating because they are cold blooded animals. It’s absolutely unheard of.”
“As for the hedgehogs, this is the first year we have not had any hedgehogs.”
Normally WRAS, which has a casualty centre based in Whitesmith, looks after up to 300 hedgehogs each winter.
They are usually young hogs which are too young to hibernate and need to be cared for.
Trevor said, “Because it’s stayed so mild, we have been able to release them again.
“October November and December were busy for baby hedgehogs, amazingly we have managed to continue getting them out in the wild.”
In 34 years of rescuing, Trevor said this has never happened before.
He said, “Our biggest concern is what are they eating and what’s the quality of their food. We are starting to wonder are we going to see very high parasite burdens?
“If it’s not good quality food it will be bugs, beetles and insects with high parasite burdens because we haven’t had the cold weather to get rid of them.
“This year they will have stayed there and kept breeding and going through winter.
“Until we get to the spring it’s difficult to know what’s going to happen. We are in uncharted territory.
“I have not known weather like it.”
Trevor says he thinks it could be as a result of climate change.
He said, “If this is the pattern of things to come, we could be seeing major change in how hedgehogs exist in the UK.
“I think we should be worried about it because it’s such a dramatic change.
“The long term effects are unknown. We don’t know the consequences this is going to have on the populations.
“Fingers crossed it doesn’t have too much of a negactive impact.
“The next few months are going to be quite critical.”
WRAS is now recruiting seasonal rescuers to help with the busy spring and summer seasons.
The shifts are 8am till 3pm 4pm or 5pm and 3pm 4pm or 5pm until 9pm.
Find out more at: https://wildlifeambulance.org/how-you-can-help/volunteering/