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Early spring causes havoc for hedgehogs

Climate News: Great Britain

March 04, 2007

England experienced the second warmest winter on record with winds from the south and southwest bringing mild, moist air up from the subtropics. The usually warm spell helped a farmer in Kent grow a crop of strawberries which were picked last week. "This change in temperature is a big problem. Our winters are becoming more topsy-turvy with a particular feature now being very mild periods interspersed with sudden cold snaps." The warm British winter has tricked thousands of young hedgehogs into thinking that spring is well under way. Once awake, they are unable to find enough food because their usual diet of snails and insects do not start appearing until later in the year. Traditionally, the creatures are nocturnal, but increasing numbers are being spotted during the day time in the desperate hunt for food. Since September, 550 hedgehogs have been handed in to the rescue hospital, compared with 300 over the same period last winter. Hedgehogs are not the only animals to be affected by the FREAK weather conditions. Newts, bats and grass snakes, which should all be in hibernation, have been found in distress by members of the public and taken to the rescue hospital. Butterflies and bumblebees that do not usually emerge until spring have been spotted as early as December and frogspawn was first seen in South Wales on December 1, several weeks earlier than usual. The Royal Horticultural Society is recommending for the first time that gardeners prune roses and clematis in January rather than the traditional month of March. With an average temperature of 9.5C for the six months from September to February, up from 7.8C on the previous corresponding period, increasing numbers of householders are now mowing lawns year-round to prevent grass becoming unmanageable by the spring.

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