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Make Hibernacula

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Make Hibernacula




What You Can Do

Many species, from hedgehogs to newts, hibernate through the winter months. And they often require special conditions for hibernating – conditions which can be missing in today’s landscape. We can recreate these in a ‘hibernaculum’.

Log Pile

Log piles near the edge of ponds, just above the high water level, are ideal for amphibian hibernation. Logs create more opportunities for biodiversity as they decay, as a home for deadwood-eating invertebrates.

If you have a large patch you can make a bigger hibernaculum (pictured below) – create a 1m high stack of logs and branches, then dump 20-30cm of earth over the top, leaving some sticks poking out at either side.

Rock Trench

On bogs and flooded land, you can create drier areas, which act as a refuge from winter flooding – particularly good for reptiles. Dig a 1m long trench on higher ground, about 30cm deep and wide. Fill the trench with rocks you’ve found on site, then cover the rocks with branches. 

When you’re done, dump the soil back on top, leaving an entrance hole. If you want, you could cover the entrance with a metal sheet which will warm up quickly in the spring, or use a section of drainpipe to limit predator access.

Plant Pot

In gardens, consider using old terracotta plant pots as hibernacula. These are favourites of amphibians – especially toads. Turn the plant pot upside-down and knock a small hole in the rim.

Compost Heap

The warmth generated by a compost heap is great for not only hibernation, but also egg-laying. Grass Snakes and Slow Worms use piles of rotting vegetation as a place to lay their eggs – they prefer compost heaps, but decaying hay bales are also suitable. Creating piles of decaying vegetation on your land is good for returning the nutrients from those plants to the soil, while also creating more biodiversity.

Refuge - Amphibian Hibernaculum
When Great Crested Newt Ponds are created, the grant funding allocates money towards hibernaculum like this one.