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Wildlife to look out for in April - Hibernators and Brumators

Now the weather is warming and Spring has sprung, animals that have been dormant are waking up. Animals do this to conserve energy and survive the cold weather. Did you know that there are different forms of dormancy:

Hibernation – this is what warm-blooded mammals do for a long period of time. A typical example of a hibernating animal in Suffolk is the Hedgehog. They like to have a dry space made of dried leaves and grass set under a hedge, in a rabbit burrow, under a timber building or in a hedgehog house. They can wake up during the winter if there is a spell of warm weather or if they are disturbed. When they hibernate their heart rate decreases from 190 per minute to 20 per minute and their body temperature drops from 35oC to less than 10oC. Before they go into hibernation, the animals increase their fat stores and then burn fat while they hibernate.

Brumation – this is what cold-blooded reptiles and amphibians do for a few weeks or a few months depending on the species and location. In this area we have Grass snakes, Adders, Slow worms, Common Frogs, Common Toads, Common Lizard and Newts, which do this. When the temperatures get cold (for Adders this can be between 8-10 oC), they hide in rocky burrows and tree roots. Their body temperature, activity, heart rate and respiratory rate drops but they can move to drink. Unlike mammals they use sugars rather than fats as energy during brumation.

Torpor – this is a short-term form of dormancy, maybe lasting just a few hours and is caused by low temperatures and food availability. Bats will do this during the day when they are resting in roosts by reducing their metabolism by 40 times. When they wake up they have to violently shiver to energise their muscles to get back up to normal rate.

So what can you do to support these animals:

  1. Provide Hedgehog houses and food stations in your garden.

  2. Talk to your neighbours and establish a hedgehog highway in your street, linking up your gardens.

  3. Build a reptile and amphibian hibernacula made from rocks, bricks and sticks.

  4. Put up Bat boxes in your garden.

  5. Leave an untidy area in your garden and sow wildflowers to support the insects that these animals eats

To find out more please visit these websites:

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