What is Hibernacula, and why is it important?
Hibernacula (singular = “hibernaculum”) are places in which animals seek refuge during the winter months – the literal translation of the Latin term is “winter quarters.” Animals that use hibernacula include hedgehogs, bats, toads, newts and rodents.
Hibernacula are important for animals who hibernate over winter as it provides them with essential shelter in the colder months, which is vital for their survival.
Hibernacula materials include leaves, sticks, straw, bracken, grass and reeds.
Animals such as hedgehogs will begin the process of gathering hibernacula materials in autumn and will gather these materials themselves, creating their owns nests or shelters. However, it is also important that us humans encourage the building of hibernacula in our gardens and leave materials for wildlife that may need it.
What can I do to help?
In the wild, hedgehogs require nests in winter to survive hibernation. Each year, they proceed to gather hibernacula materials and form nests under hedgerows, fallen logs or piles of wood which in turn keeps them warm and protects them from rainfall.
Most of the time, for animals like hedgehogs, our gardens provide these essential materials and help to provide suitable nesting sites for them, whether it be in compost heaps or piles of leaves. Typically, they can get on with the process independently; however, sometimes these animals may need a helping hand, which is where we come in.
For some of us, it is important that when maintaining our gardens we don’t completely remove all debris (anything from sticks to leaves) as it is important for the animals who may use these materials for shelter. In addition, plant debris and organic matter helps to provide our own trees with essential nutrients as the debris decomposes in the soil.
You can also help hedgehogs and other hibernating animals by creating natural nests or ready-made shelters for them. For more information on how to do this, we’d suggest visiting British Hedgehogs.
If you do choose to purchase or make your own shelter/nest, then you should ensure that it is placed in a quiet area in your garden, away from the direction of cold winds and ideally against a wall or fence.
Hedgehogs naturally try and search for an ideal location to nest and therefore any help is useful.
However, it is important to remember there is no guarantee that the shelters and nests will be used.
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