As the seasons change our mornings have definitely turned a little crisper, so as we wrap up with extra socks and gloves and scarves it is time to think of ways to help the creatures with whom we share our woodlands during the winter months. Some animals such as badgers reduce their activity during the cold winter months, while foxes grow a heavier coat in Autumn to prepare them for the cold. Bats and hedgehogs are the only mammals in Ireland that hibernate, and while we may associate hedgehogs with hedgerows and gardens, they are also found in our woods.
A simple activity to help these hedgehogs is to provide the basis of a home for them for their months of hibernation. If you have a wooden crate you can bring this with you to the woods, find a secluded place away from pathways and human traffic. Place it upside down and then cover it with sticks and leaves to protect it and hide it from view. Equally, find a patch of low hedge or bush, which provide lots of invertebrate on which hedgehogs feed, where a nest can be made with just sticks and leaves. Encourage the children to camouflage it well into its surroundings to ensure no unwanted creatures or predators are drawn to it.
Hedgehogs are insect eaters, nocturnal animals, live in nests and can roll into a ball to protect themselves. They can also bounce on their spines meaning that they don’t worry about falling from a height, which makes them good climbers. Children love the idea of helping out woodland creatures, and creating nests for hedgehogs is a simple way for them to learn about hibernation and other hedgehog habits.
Walking into the woods on a foggy morning, and gathering sticks for our hedgehog homes.