Watch Out for Autumn Juveniles

All hedgehogs need our help. But autumn juveniles are the most vulnerable group and need our support most of all. As we move through September into autumn and winter, it is vital to keep a lookout for these young hogs and offer help when they need it.

In this article, we are going to look at how to identify and help autumn juvenile hedgehogs. 

Watch Out for Autumn Juveniles

What is an Autumn Juvenile Hedgehog?

Most hedgehogs have their first litter of young in June or July. This gives the young hogs plenty of time to fatten up for hibernation in October or November. 

Some hogs, however, have a second litter in September or even October. These hoglets have only a short time before the weather gets cold and food becomes scarce. 

Hedgehogs need to weigh at least 500gms to survive winter hibernation. Hoglets born in a second litter may struggle to reach this weight before winter sets in.

These are autumn juveniles.

Why Are Autumn Juveniles Important?

Unlike many small mammals, including rabbits, mice and guinea pigs, hedgehogs do not breed in their first year. They only mate after their first hibernation. So a hog that doesn’t make it through the first winter will never breed and will never contribute to the continuation of the species.

Hedgehogs are now officially an endangered species in the UK. So it is vital to ensure that as many young hogs as possible make it through the first winter and have a chance to “do their bit” for the continuation of the species.

How To Spot an Autumn Juvenile

A healthy, fully grown hedgehog ready for hibernation should look about the size of a small loaf of bread. 

Smaller than that and they are probably not at a good weight to face hibernation.

So, in September and October, if you spot a hog which looks smaller than a small loaf of bread, this is probably an autumn juvenile and may need your help.

How To Help Autumn Juveniles

Once you have identified an autumn juvenile, you need to decide what to do about it, and this will very much depend on when you see it, what it looks like and what the weather is doing.

Offer Food and Water

Providing food and water for your local hogs is always important, but never more so than in the autumn.

Whether you offer your food in a feeding station or just place dishes in the garden, make sure you are well stocked in the autumn months. Ideally, dishes should have a little food left in them in the mornings. If the dishes are empty, you are not putting out quite enough to satisfy everyone.

Daytime Visitor?

Hogs are nocturnal; if they are out in the daytime, they are generally in trouble. This goes double for autumn juveniles. Any hog who is wandering your garden during the day in September, October or later needs your help.

Daytime hogs may look wobbly or sleepy. They may be curled up in the open. If they do this they are not sleeping or hibernating; they probably have hypothermia. In autumn and at any time of year, a hog displaying these symptoms needs to go straight to your local hedgehog rescue.

During the breeding season, you sometimes see females out during the day getting food for hoglets in the nest or gathering nesting materials. The hog will look active and purposeful. 

But a daytime hog out in autumn, looking active and purposeful, is probably an autumn juvenile desperately trying to feed. They may not be ill, and they probably don’t need specialist attention. But they do need your help.

In the autumn, any hog you see out and about in the daytime needs your help.

Weigh The Hog

If you have a nighttime visitor who looks smaller than a small loaf of bread, or a healthy-looking daytime visitor, you need to weigh them to decide what to do.

Credit: ITV.com

This should be reasonably easy to do. It won’t hurt them or traumatise them, although they may well curl up. Return the hog to the exact place you found it as soon as you have finished the weigh-in.

It won’t hurt you either as long as you remember to use a towel or a thick pair of gardening gloves to pick the hog up. 

  • If the hog weighs under 300gms, they are very young and not fully weaned yet (orphans), or very sick. They need to go to a rescue centre as soon as possible.
  • If the hog weighs over 500gms, they are probably going to be fine for the winter. Keep providing food and water and leave them to get on with it. 
  • If the hog weighs between 300 and 500gms but otherwise looks fit and healthy, he needs your help but probably doesn’t need a rescue centre.

Making the Right Decisions

When you have an autumn juvenile who weighs between 300 and 500gms, there is no clear cut right or wrong thing to do; everything is a judgement call and will depend on the circumstances.

The only thing that is definitely wrong is to do nothing. If you do nothing, the hog will almost certainly not make it through the winter.

Continue to Feed and Weigh

Leaving the hog in the wild may be the right thing to do if the circumstances are right:

  • The hog is fit and healthy.
  • The hog visits you for food regularly every night.
  • You don’t see the hog in the daytime.
  • The hog weighs over 400gms.
  • The weather is still reasonably mild.
  • And there is still some natural food about.

In these circumstances, you could continue to put out food and water nightly and continue to weigh the hog every few nights.

It may well be that the hog can put on the weight it needs and go into hibernation in the wild.

But if the situation changes or the hog is not putting on weight, you may need to offer more care.

Rescuing Autumn Juveniles

Sometimes a few weeks of feeding and monitoring in the wild will be all the help that an autumn juvenile needs. They will put on the weight they need and should have a successful hibernation. 

But other times the hog may need to be taken in to care if it is to survive the winter and go on to breed successfully next year.

You should consider taking an autumn juvenile into care if:

  • He is still underweight by mid-October.
  • He is out in the daytime.
  • He is not gaining weight.
  • The weather has turned very cold.

In these circumstances, a young hog is going to need to be taken in and given food and shelter.

Your local hedgehog rescue will, of course, take the hog and we would generally suggest that you take any hog that needs help straight to trained rescuers.

But healthy autumn juveniles are a special case. They are not sick, or very young they just need some shelter and the chance to fatten up a bit. 

Whilst a sick hedgehog or a baby will have complex needs; a fit, the healthy juvenile is quite easy to care for.

And of course, there will be a lot of them about. So your local rescue centre is likely to be super-busy in the autumn.

So, if you have the time, space and confidence, there is no reason why you shouldn’t care for an autumn juvenile yourself. It’s easier than you think and can be very rewarding. 

We have everything you need to know in your guide to rescuing and overwintering hedgehogs here.

Conclusion: Do the Right Thing for Autumn Juveniles

Autumn juvenile hedgehogs are uniquely vulnerable and have an essential part to play in the survival of the species.

These hogs, born late in the year, face a real challenge to gain the weight they need for a successful hibernation.

That’s why it’s so vital that we keep an eye out for them and give them the support they need.

In this article, we have looked at how to spot an autumn juvenile and decide what help they need. In part two, we are going to look at caring for and overwintering autumn juveniles.

We hope you’ve found this article useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, we would love to hear them, please leave a comment below.

And to read more on helping hedgehogs, visit our hedgehog blog here.

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12 Responses

  1. I am glad that you are publicising the if it of hedgehogs but I am concerned that you are indicating hogs need attention if they are around in mid/ late October.
    Many rescues are already full because of hoglets brought in too early.
    We know that the time of hibernation varies hugely across the country, mine often do not go down until end of December, maybe if very mild, not at all.
    They can triple their weight in 2 or 3 weeks of bring fed regularly.
    Better to watch & weigh & feed them rush in unnecessarily.
    Unless out in the day, it is very cold over consecutive nights or they are not gaining weight leave alone & monitor!!

    1. Hi Carole,
      Thanks for your comments. You are quite right, weighing, feeding and monitoring is the way to go for the next few weeks. That’s what we would advise.
      Best
      Clare

  2. Hi
    We have a hedgehog in our garden hedgehog house that has just started bringing out her baby hogs to forage with her. So far we have seen four of them. They all look healthy and starting to take the food we leave out for them. I have read that they will not hibernate together but as they get bigger will wander off. We know by their size they will not be able to survive hibernation as they are but I don’t want to take them away from their mother to over winter them unless necessary. How long should we leave them before intervening?

    1. Hi Trisha,
      Very good question.
      We are having an extremely mild autumn so far and many parts of the UK haven’t even experienced a frost yet. So there is no need to take them in yet.
      If/when the nighttime temperature is forecast to drop below 5c every night for a week you would generally expect hogs to start hibernating. If yours are still too small at that point, it will be time to give them some extra help.
      For now, leaving plenty of food and water out, as you are doing, is perfect.
      Best
      Clare

  3. Hi, just brought in a hoglet I saw wondering in our garden during daylight over two days. It weighs 250g. I have it in a plastic box with air holes, with paper and a towel and water and hedgehog food? It is very active in the box. What is the best thing to do? I am prepared to over winter it in our house?

    1. Hi Rachel,
      250gms it may need specialist help. I would suggest you contact your local hedgehog rescue and see what they say. They may be able to support you in overwintering it.
      Keep weighing it every day. They can pile on the weight pretty quick at this time of year. but I would doubt that one so small can hibernate this year.
      Good Luck and keep us posted!
      Clare

  4. Thanks for the excellent article.

    We have a youngster weighing about 450g and otherwise seemingly healthy. From Tuesday we’re predicted a week of temperatures below 5c. Should we bring him/her in for overwintering? Or keep feeding him/her in the hope it’s enough to get through winter?

    1. Hi Paul,

      The advice is to bring them in now if they are under 500gms – so it looks like you have a lodger for the winter!

      Best of luck

      Clare

  5. We have a small hog who weighs 370g as a nightly visitor. We have made two hedgehog bunkers in the garden and we put out lots of fresh biscuits, meat and water every night. We have treated him/her for parasites but I’m not sure whether the best/kindest thing is to just keep feeding it in the bunkers and let it stay living in the garden or whether we should bring it in for winter? Do you have any advice please

    1. Hi Gem,

      The trouble will be that when the nighttime temperatures drop to below 5c every night for a week or so your hog may try to hibernate, despite the fact you are still providing plenty of food. At 370gms it will not have the fat reserves it needs to survive hibernation. If you take it into the house, you can keep feeding it and because it’s warmer it will not try to hibernate. You might need to keep it all winter. Or if you get the weight up to over 500gms and we have a mild spell you could release it to hibernate outside midway through the winter. Some people don’t release mid-winter, but once the hog is up to weight will move the box into an unheated outbuilding so the hog will go into hibernation.
      It won’t hurt a hog at all to stay awake all winter as long as it has plenty of food and water and warmth.
      Hope this helps.
      Best of luck
      Clare

  6. We have overwintered 2 baby hedgehogs since end of October. We let them hibernate at Christmas when they weighed 500+ gms.
    It is still frosty here, and very dry but they are awake and the female is raring to go. Can I release them in our meadow? ( already feeding resident large hog who visits nightly)
    We found them covered in mud in the deep perimeter ditch.
    Am nervous for their welfare and have 2 hog homes to make their initial release easier.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I think they should be good to go now. Although we are still getting frosts at night it’s relatively warm in the daytime now.

      Best of luck!

      clare

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