It is always helpful to leave some food out, but in the cold weather, when it is less likely to be taken, you can put out dry cat biscuits, these will not go off so quickly and will be less wasteful. Leave a dish of water out as well not just for the hedgehogs but for all the wildlife in your garden.
If you are tempted out to do some gardening remember that there could be hedgehogs hibernating in your garden. An unusually large pile of leaves could well be a hibernaculum (hedgehog’s winter nest) as could any piles of vegetation, so do take care when raking or forking over any suspect areas. If you should discover a hedgehog then pile the leaves etc. back over it and perhaps check the pile the next morning – it is likely the hedgehog will have woken properly and moved to a new nest. Provide some fresh water and some food as it will be very thirsty and hungry; the food will also help replace some of the fat it had to burn up when rousing.
If you see any hedgehog out and about at this time of year it is best to contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 (if you can weigh the hedgehog first that is always helpful). Out of hours you will be directed to other numbers but whatever the time, with patience, you should be able to speak to a real person. For more information about hedgehogs and how to help them visit The BHPS web site at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk