How to give wildlife a helping hand this winter


The coldest months of the year can be  a challenging time for birds, hedgehogs, squirrels and other wildlife.

Every winter between one and two thousand wild animals are brought into RSPCA wildlife centres suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold. As a result, the charity is giving nature lovers some great tips on how to help. Here are seven simple things you can do to try and reduce these casualties:

  • Make your garden wildlife-friendly. Leave undisturbed ‘wild’ areas in your garden and provide piles of   leaves or brushwood as nests for hedgehogs to rest and hibernate in.
  • If you have a frozen pond, make sure you check it every day for ice, as toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond and kill fish or frogs. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water on to the pond as this may harm fish.
  • Feed  the birds in your garden. They may have difficulty finding normal food supplies so any alternative extra food you can put out will help. Try giving a range of seeds, fresh unsalted peanuts and table scraps and fruit. Garden birds love dried mealworms or waxworms, which can be bought from bird food suppliers.


  • Keep a close eye on outdoor pets, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, and put extra bedding in their home and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter.
  • If horses and ponies are kept outside during the winter they must have access to shelter at all times.
  • Help squirrels survive the coldest times of the year by offering hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, plus some chopped apple, beans, carrots or spinach.
  • Don’t ignore your pets needs while celebrating. Try to keep a regular routine of feeding and exercising them, it will keep them happy and healthy. Give your pets a treat over the festive season but remember that too much rich food isn’t good for animals. Grapes, sultanas,  raisins and chocolate are toxic to dogs.

RSPCA wildlife expert Nicola Cunningham said: “We can all struggle when the weather takes a turn for the worst, and our wildlife friends are often the most vulnerable. They just need a bit of a helping hand.”

38 responses to “How to give wildlife a helping hand this winter

  1. Pingback: Help wintering birds in Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Reblogged this on MottledThrush and commented:
    Give a helping hand to our wildlife.

  3. We have to help wildlife as much as we can during the cold weather, although I don’t have that problem here in Oz, but when I lived in the UK, I remember how bad it can get for the wildlife there.
    Thank you for the list, it’s brilliant.
    Great post!

    • Thank you Barb, glad you liked the list. It is so important that people remember our wildlife at this time of year. I guess it must be mid-summer in Oz at the moment. Been there a couple of times to watch the Ashes cricket in Melbourne and Adelaide and had a great time, travelling around the country as much as I could.

      • It’s a great list and I felt compelled to re-blog it to remind people about the predicament of wildlife during the colder months.
        We are in summer now (Dec-Feb) and it’s already stinking hot (I hate our summers). It was in the high 30’s last week, bit better this week at 27.
        Did you like Oz? There’s lots to see. I love our wildlife with a passion.

      • Yes I loved it. Visited Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Would like to go to the Gold Coast next time.

  4. Reblogged this on Passionate About Pets and commented:
    Give wildlife a helping hand during the cold weather.

  5. I was feeding rabbits, squirrels and birds, and then a stray cat came to my door. We adopted him, and he now “lives” on our patio …. but the squirrel, birds and rabbits were not pleased, and have all moved on. Cat trumps bird and rabbits, I guess.

  6. A truly great post and the reminder not to forget your pets whilst celebrating is just the ticket for this time of year. As I now live in Portugal I no longer have the need to clear away a patch of snow and feed the birds with raisins, strips of fat and other such delicacies and then spend a good amount of time watching the birds have a good feed.

  7. Excellent tips. We don’t get that cold here, but father north the winters can be very hard on wildlife, particularly during times of extreme cold, wind, ice and snow.

    • Thanks Jo Ann, yes I imagine it gets very cold up north. The Blue Ridge Mountains must be a great place to live for a nature lover. They are close to the Appalachians aren’t they?

      • The Blue Ridge Mountains are a part of the Appalachian Mountain range just like the Great Smokies are a part of the same range a bit farther south.

  8. Pingback: How to give wildlife a helping hand over winter | Wood and Field

  9. There was a mix-up when I mistakenly reblogged this from a site that reblogged it from you! I think now it has posted correctly giving credit to you. Sorry for the mix-up, but I think it was an excellent and important post!

  10. Thank you for this. May I add that wild animals can become dependent on humans’ feeding and watering, just as pets can. With territories, habits and so on, they may not have real options of going elsewhere when people are away for holidays. I stopped feeding birds in my garden because I knew that I’d disappear for a week or two every year in December. If there’s never been food for them here, they won’t expect it here.

  11. Yes, that’s a good point, especially as many people go away at Christmas.

  12. Reblogged this on Enjoying Creating and commented:
    For our wildlife friends. 🙂

  13. Reblogged this on Truth Seldom Heard and commented:
    Some are uninformed….Simple but great info

  14. we feed the birds all winter, and have about 10 varieties here every morning, not counting the ringed neck pheasants who number a couple of dozen at the back of the house, eating corn while one stands lookout. You would love our little read squirrel who has figured out that Sophie the cat knows she can’t catch him in the tree. He has a route from tree to bird-feeder and back, without his little feet ever touching the ground. From tree, to bird-feeder, to porch railing, to antenna tower, to roof, to tree!

  15. Thanks for helping me find you and for spreading the wildlife love! For the first time, we’ve put out freeze dried meal worms in addition to our other assortment of wild bird delights. So far, no takers on the worms. Hmpf!

  16. All the wild birds out here are just as plump…check out the finch from a couple of posts ago! LOL! He is eating well!

  17. I am so glad I found your blog….this is wonderful and its the little things like this that you are doing that give me hope this planet MIGHT have a chance.

  18. Those are all very good tips, but I think that they left one thing out, a source of water for wildlife, especially birds. Some of the best places I find to photograph birds in the winter is around an unfrozen source of water that they can use for drinking and bathing.

  19. Thank you for your very helpful list. We had squirrels starving one winter and didn’t think of feeding them, new to living in the country. Think I will reblog the list– it is so important.

  20. Reblogged this on Moonside and commented:
    Helpful list for wildlife in winter…

  21. Pingback: How to give wildlife a helping hand this winter | SafariCam

  22. Reblogged on SafariCam ( – cheers, great tips.

  23. You may be interested to know that keeping a compost bin for food scraps – vegetable peels, apple cores etc- has the added benefit of giving squirrels something to rummage around in and find food. If you have space, locate a compost bin away from the garden, so that the squirrels leave the garden crops alone in favour of this more easily-accessible food. It works pretty well – we’ve not had any damage to our vegetables at any point in the year (which is good to know because lots of gardeners get pretty angry at animals for taking liberties with their crops!)

    Thanks for caring about wildlife and wanting to help them!

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