Throughout winter, wildlife may struggle with colder climates, food shortages, and extreme weather conditions. For this reason, lots choose to hibernate and rise again once temperatures have increased. Some species don’t hibernate, but struggle to stay alive and use up fat reserves just to stay warm.


Putting out food or clean water – and remembering to change it daily – could be a lifesaver. Remember to remove perishable food that is not eaten overnight and replace it with fresh offerings the following dusk.


Continue reading to find out how you can support wildlife in your garden and local communal areas.



Birds are more likely to visit gardens in autumn and winter when natural sources of insects and grubs run out. They need a calorie-rich diet in order to maintain fat reserves. You can help them by leaving out supplementary food such as bird seed mix, fat balls, suet and sunflower hearts. Some birds are also partial to festive leftovers like mince pies and fruit cake – make sure to keep these out of reach of pet dogs. In addition, birds need to wash themselves every day so make sure any ponds or birdbaths are not frozen over. You can further help them by leaving out an upturned bin lid or plant saucer of water.



Sadly, lots of hedgehogs don’t survive their first winter. Some wake up early from hibernation and search for food during milder weather, often wasting valuable fat reserves in the process and dying of starvation. You can give them a helping hand through the cold and harsh weather by leaving out food and a shallow dish of clean, fresh water. You can feed them specialist hedgehog food, plain kitten biscuits, or cat/dog meat. To avoid cats getting to the food, place it under a brick shelter with a hedgehog-sized gap. Remember to check bonfires and piles of leaves before disturbing them as a hedgehog (or other animal) may be nesting beneath.



When squirrels find food, they store it to come back to when food is scarce. In winter, they tend to be active for only a few hours each day. In this time, they need to find as much food as possible. You can help them by leaving out a mixture of hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chopped carrot and chopped apple. You can set up a special squirrel feeder to prevent other species getting to the food. Remember to provide lots of fresh water too.



Badgers don’t hibernate but they do sleep through most of the severe weather. When the ground is frozen, they have a tough time finding their favourite natural foods. You can help them by providing snacks such as lightly cooked meats, cheese, peanuts and fruit. Leave out plenty of fresh water at ground level.



Foxes develop a thick winter coat so the cold weather doesn’t alter their behaviour much. However, food and prey can become scarce. You can help them by providing tinned dog food, cooked or raw meat, peanuts, cheese and fruit.


Frogs, toads and newts

All amphibians must hibernate during winter in order to survive the colder months. Whilst their skin needs to be kept damp at all times, frost and ice could cause serious damage. Therefore, they tend to leave the water and take refuge in other damp shelters, like compost heaps, beneath plant pots, or in piles of logs or leaves. You can help them by creating these areas (stacking stones or logs). Also, be mindful if forking over the heap.



Although amphibians tend to escape ponds for winter, some may choose to rest in the mud at the bottom (this is slightly warmer than the surface). It is also important to sweep away snow and clear ice from the surface to ensure plants are still getting oxygen and light. You can float a tennis ball in your bond to prevent it freezing over completely.


The best way to support wildlife during winter is to provide enough food to get them through, but not too much that they become reliant on it. Clean, fresh water is equally as important. Try to leave your garden ‘messy’ ie. don’t sweep away leaves or prune bushes as these can provide great shelter for many animals. If you come across an animal in hibernation, be sure not to disturb them. Do not attempt to move them or even touch them.