How to care for wildlife in your garden over winter

Help wildlife in your garden this winter with these top tips from Secret World Wildlife Rescue.

Published: December 13th, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Laura Benfield, Head of Animal Care Services at Secret World Wildlife Rescue, said: “At this time of year, most wild animals are building their reserves to survive the cold season.


“The best way to support our wildlife is to supplement their diet with enough food for them to build their reserves but not so much that they become reliant on it.”

The charity has these top tips to care for the animals you are most likely to encounter in your garden over winter:


  • Refrain from cutting down trees and bushes while they still carry berries as these are valuable food sources for birds.
  • Putting out a variety of food will help attract and support more species. Peanuts, sunflower hearts, wild bird seed and dried mealworms are all good options.
  • Put up bird houses. The birds won’t nest in them for a little while yet but by having them there, they can familiarise themselves with them.


  • Meat-flavoured cat food is good for our prickly friends but if you are worried about attracting other cats into your garden, dried mealworms and sunflower hearts work equally well.
  • Hedgehogs need cosy shelters to hibernate in. Leave a pile of logs or an overgrown area in your garden for them to nest in. Alternatively, Secret World Wildlife Rescue sells hedgehog shelters.
  • Remember to check piles of leaves and bonfires carefully for hedgehogs and other creatures before setting alight. Ideally, only build a bonfire at the point of lighting it.


  • Leave shelled nuts out for the squirrels to bury and eat over winter.

Badgers and foxes:

  • If you have badgers visiting your garden, they are fond of peanuts. As for foxes, they would appreciate some dog food.

The charity also warned against handling any injured animal you might come across. Benfield said: “Your safety is paramount so don’t approach the animal. Instead call your local vet or the nearest wildlife centre for advice.”

Secret World has also launched a shoebox appeal this week for those who don’t have the pleasure of welcoming wildlife in their garden or want an alternative way to help.


  • Dog meat (any variety)
  • Dog biscuits (any variety)
  • Custard creams (for weaning badgers)
  • Dog Kong toy (for enrichment while they are at Secret World)
  • Peanuts


  • Dog meat (any variety)
  • Dog biscuits (any variety)
  • Chew toy and Dog Kong toy (for enrichment while they are at Secret World)


  • Cat meat (meat or poultry flavoured in jelly, no fish)
  • Cat biscuits (meat or poultry flavoured, no fish)
  • Dried mealworms
  • Sunflower hearts
  • Toothbrush (this is used when they are bathed for certain medical treatments)


  • Squirrel mix
  • Small animal hammock
  • Rodent chew toy
  • Peanuts

The shoeboxes can be sent to: Secret World Wildlife Rescue, New Road, East Huntspill, Highbridge, Somerset, TA9 3PZ.




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