Hedgehogs are remarkable – their capacity to hibernate is a physiological wonder. They can shut their vibrant little bodies down to as close to dead as you can get. Heart rate drops from 200 to 20 beats per minute, breathing virtually stops (and who thought it was a great experiment to stick a hibernating hedgehog into an air-tight box, filled with nitrogen, and leave it for 2 hours … just to see what happens … which is, the hedgehog is fine).

The behaviour probably is behind the hedgehog being such a significant animal in early cultures – the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has small amulets from Sumaria and Ancient Egypt in the shape of hedgehogs. And it has now been suggest that the small chalk hedgehog found at Stonehenge, associated with a child’s body, was placed there because there might have been some sympathetic magic hoped for – if the hedgehog can come back from the dead each year, why not my child? Though it could also have been a toy.

But I digress – hedgehogs can only manage to survive hibernation if they have stocked up enough on food during the autumn – i.e. now. So if you were feeling like doing a little something to help hedgehogs, now would be a great time to start putting some food out for them. There are many ways you can do this so as to reduce interference from cats, foxes and rats – have a look at the wonderful BHPS website for top tips.

And the reason why I am reminded of this all? I got one of a fairly regular stream of calls from friends who have found hedgehogs – wanting advice. Everyone is so apologetic about calling me, but if I can help, I love to be able to, and if I am too busy, will always redirect them to someone else. This person, though, had some rather special skills that I hoped he would employ. Adrian Arbib is a brilliant photographer – I first met him covering the protests at Twyford Down as the M3 extension was being forced through the beautiful countryside around Winchester – and he ended up photographing our wedding as a gift – a very fine one at that. So when he called to say he had found a hedgehog trapped in the stairwell of his house in north Oxford, on top of the advice I gave about getting it some food, I also asked if he would take some photographs …

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Someone very soon is about to be the 1000th visitor to my blog … now that may not strike you as much (I think that Mr Fry has over 1,000,000 twits) – but for me it is an achievement and will make me feel just a little bit more loved!

Please pass on the blog link to anyone you think might be interested in the wonderful world of hedgehogs and the peculiar way I manage to see a hedgehog in pretty much every story out there … more to follow – though perhaps I should be advocating hibernation now our toes are beginning to be nipped.

And for the hedgehog relevant bit – just had a question in about a hedgehog behaving in a drunken manner … this is not the result of hedgehogs eating slugs that have been killed in beer traps (at least not at this time of year) – but it is a very clear indication that the animal is suffering from hypothermia – and will die if not taken into care (that is not a judgement call by the way, it is just an observation). If you want to find out the basics of keeping a hedgehog alive, have a look in my book; at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society or call your local carer (details again via the BHPS).

Happy Hedgehogging xx