How to help wildlife in winter

How you can make a huge difference to some of your favourite wildlife in the colder months. 

8th December 2022

The cold weather and darker days make winter a tough time for many animals. While some hibernating from the harsher months, others struggle to stay alive, facing the daily challenge of finding food and water. So many of these animals are already struggling due to habitat loss, intensive agriculture practices and numerous other threats, but we can help them survive winter.

By just doing a few of the following tasks, you can make a huge difference to some of your favourite wildlife.

Helping birds in winter

Birds are likely to struggle to find food in winter, as natural sources of insects, berries, seeds, worms and fruit run out.

What you can do: These winter visitors love to nibble on high-calorie suet, sunflower hearts and (unsalted) peanuts or any bird-friendly food you can put out will help, including:

  • Apples
  • Cheese
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raisins

Remember: try not to put out more than what will be eaten in a day to avoid attracting mice and rats.

Don’t forget to keep your bird bath topped up and to check for ice in the mornings.

Helping frogs, toads and newts in winter

Frogs, toads and newts might shelter or hibernate in log and leaf piles or beneath stones and plant pots, while others rest in the mud at the bottom of ponds. The warmth produced by compost heaps is often inviting to frogs and toads, so take care when turning yours.

What you can do: If you have a pond, float a tennis ball or similar in your pond to prevent it from freezing over completely. This can help stop toxic gases from building in the water, help any wildlife breathe and provide other animals with water to drink. 

Helping insects in winter

Insects help humans, wildlife and the environment in many ways; you can help stop their decline this winter by keeping them cool and dry. Insects readily hibernate in gardens and sometimes even creep into our homes. If you do disturb or have to move them, make sure they’re not exposed to damp conditions as this can often kill them.

What you can do: Recreate the nooks and crannies insects hibernate in by making an insect or bug hotel and placing it in a sheltered position in your garden.

Helping squirrels in winter

Squirrels don’t hibernate but instead rely on a steady supply of food from their underground stores. Sometimes, squirrels forget where they’d hidden their supply, meaning they might need help with stock!

What you can do: To help squirrels survive the coldest times of the year, you can offer them nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and chestnuts, plus some chopped apple, pear, carrots, spinach or broccoli.

Helping hedgehogs in winter

Hedgehogs have a hard time during the colder months, with nearly half of all hedgehogs not surviving their first winter.

What you can do: You can create a home or provide shelter for hedgehogs by making a leaf or log pile or by simply positioning a plank of wood against a wall. As their diet mostly consists of snails, slugs and insects, they might struggle to find food so leaving a dish of water and dog or cat food can help keep them happy and healthy.

Prepare for spring

Late winter is the time to prepare your garden for spring and the wildlife that will rely on everything you have to offer as the seasons change. If you have any nest boxes, they will need to be cleaned ready for nesting season, while early flowering plants should be planted to help give pollinators an important early source of nectar.

Have you got any top tips around caring for wildlife in winter to share with other nature lovers? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter page.

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