<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today click here

The Dorset wildlife sleeping their way through winter

PUBLISHED: 10:59 15 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:59 15 November 2016

Hedgehogs will hibernate in wood piles and leaves

Hedgehogs will hibernate in wood piles and leaves

Archant

Sally Welbourn, from Dorset Wildlife Trust, looks at the local wildlife who snooze their way through winter in order to survive

How many times have you thought: I’d love to hibernate through winter? Whilst the thought of the cold dark months ahead may not appeal, for some species their extended deep sleep or ‘torpor’ is necessary for their very survival.

Colder weather can make it almost impossible for some wildlife to survive the winter. Food becomes scarce, so wildlife has to adapt – and hibernation is a remarkable survival mechanism to get through this difficult time of year.

During hibernation some species can reduce their normal body functions dramatically, dropping their heart rate, metabolic rate and temperature, allowing what little energy they have to be used up over a longer period of time. They start their hibernation after filling up on food during August, when they store up as much energy as possible to last them throughout the winter.

Hibernation is a complicated process which isn’t without risk. A long hard winter for example, can have a detrimental effect when it’s time to wake up; if food is still scarce when they emerge hungry from their sleep they are right back where it started. Sleeping wildlife is also unaware of changes in their surroundings for weeks on end and this can leave them vulnerable to predation and disturbance, no matter how protected their shelter is.

Some animals are better known than others for hibernating – the hedgehog and dormouse are famous for being dormant in the winter, but insects such as the small tortoiseshell butterfly, bumblebees and ladybirds also hibernate through the colder months. Equally, some animals which are thought to hibernate are surprisingly active. Red and grey squirrels scurry around during the summer and autumn months, storing their food in the ground to provide enough longer-term sustenance for the winter, so they don’t need to hibernate.

Hibernation is a fascinating natural phenomenon but also a huge challenge for wildlife, but there are things we can do to give them a helping hand. Make sure that you have sheltered, undisturbed spaces in your garden with lots of cover (log and leaf piles area ideal) will give wildlife, such as hedgehogs, somewhere to sleep. You could even make a hibernaculum (a place wildlife can seek refuge) for any kind of garden wildlife needing shelter for the winter. If you find a hibernating animal, it is best to leave it alone as waking it will use up its much-needed energy, and after all the effort its gone to, it probably wouldn’t thank you for a rude awakening! 


5 common hibernators

Hedgehogs: These are ‘true’ hibernators. During November and January they can drop their body temperature from 35 degrees, to 10 degrees and their heart rate drops from 190 beats per minute to just 20. Be sure to check bonfire piles in the garden before lighting in case there’s a sleeping hedgehog contained within!

Bats: With their main source of food, invertebrates on the wing, scarce hibernation is the only way bats can survive. They often choose underground sites with a constant cool temperature, to avoid being awoken.

Dormice: The clue is in the name of this snoozing rodent, which comes from the French ‘dormir’ which means ‘to sleep’. And from the first autumn frosts dormice retire to carefully concealed woven nests, often at ground level or just below, to hibernate. They can let their metabolism drop by 90%, and their body temperature can drop to that of their surroundings.

Reptiles: Because they are cold-blooded and unable to regulate their own body temperature reptiles depend on the temperature outside and are often seen basking in the sun. Reptiles hibernate between October and March, hiding beneath vegetation, or in the roots of trees.

Insects: Technically speaking insects don’t always ‘truly’ hibernate, but go into a dormant state. Most butterflies enter the dormant stage as an egg, larva, pupa or even as an adult including, peacock, brimstone, large tortoiseshell, comma and small tortoiseshell. Insects hibernate in a variety of different spaces, from grass margins, to bare soil, hedgerows and walls. 


More…

Winter walks in Dorset - When the weather gets colder, there’s not much more refreshing than a brisk walk across the countryside, and there’s plenty of that here in Dorset…

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 11:05

Sally Welbourn of Dorset Wildlife Trust explains why bugs are the bee’s knees in her world

Read more
Mon, 15:37

Edward Griffiths admires sensational views from the highest point on the south coast before exploring a medieval fishing and farming hamlet

Read more
Mon, 11:42

Helen Stiles seeks out the crème de la crème of deliciously stylish afternoon tea venues in the BH postcode

Read more
Friday, July 14, 2017

We don’t think photos of Dorset can ever get old. Here are 10 of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

With Durdle Door, Brownsea Island, Jurassic Coast and a whole host of other stunning sights, Dorset is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Edward Griffiths follows this intriguing walk along the River Stour to a heather-clad valley and an historic common, where turf was once dug, which offers fine views over the River Avon flood plain

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

From cocktails under the stars and Shakespeare in the garden to a dip in the Stour, Marcia Moody discovers a treasure trove of delights to revive her flagging spirits after a busy working week

Read more
Friday, July 7, 2017

For those of us living in towns and cities, you would be forgiven for thinking your life is a world away from wildlife, but nature is closer than you think. The Wildlife Trusts care for 2,300 nature reserves, many of which are in or near towns and cities, so there’s bound to be one not too far from you…

Read more
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dorset, Dorset, Dorset. And some more Dorset. Join us on a trip around the world as we check out… Dorset

Read more
Thursday, June 29, 2017

From outdoor theatre and world class opera to a new festival of literature and illustration for children, Helen Stiles rounds up her pick of local events

Read more
Thursday, June 29, 2017

From a lush ‘Jurassic Garden’ with dinosaurs to a sunny Mediterranean-style courtyard, there is a dazzling array of gardens great and small opening for the NGS in July

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An elegant makeover, great location and a locally sourced seasonal menu are a winning combination at The Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury, says Helen Stiles

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Whether you set out on bike or on foot, Dorset Food & Drink have come up with a great way for you and your tastebuds to explore the county’s food scene this summer, says Jane Adkins

Read more
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Just a few picture perfect sunsets here in Dorset…

Read more
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest


subscription ad
subscription ad

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Dorset Magazine Application Link

Local Business Directory

Dorset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search