Of the 55 or so wild mammal species that you can encounter on the British mainland, very few are easy to see, let alone get up close to. Many are nocturnal, illusive and small – but one of these animals is also the nation’s favourite wild animal. And one we know to be in real trouble – we appear to have lost around 30% of the population since 2002 and therefore it seems likely that there are now fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK.
Look both ways
One sad truism is that the commonest way of seeing a hedgehog in Britain is dead on the roads (our Mammals on Roads survey has been using this fact to monitor declining hedgehog numbers for over a decade). Hedgehog tracks and signs are quite subtle though, so the two best ways of telling if hedgehogs visit your garden are by setting up a footprint tunnel or by using a camera trap.
Getting good shots of hedgehogs
Hedgehogs readily come to food bowls (meaty cat or dog food), and these are also likely to attract other animals too, so definitely use these to your advantage. If you are worried about cats, foxes or dogs getting all of the food, build a feeding station with a 13cm2 hole and this will allow you to exclude some unwanted guests from your ‘diner’.
Overexposure can be an issue, so don’t be afraid to play around with the camera angles and the infra-red settings so you can see the animals clearly.
The wonderful thing about camera traps is that all of the footage is of hedgehogs behaving naturally in an undisturbed manner. Research has shown that blind hedgehogs can behave quite naturally, but they are very sensitive to noises. That’s why a lot of the photos uploaded onto Hedgehog Street feature grumpy-looking, frowning hedgehogs. They are likely to partially roll up in response to the high frequency sound of the camera shutter. Most trail cameras do not make a perceptible noise when they switch on, making them perfect for capturing happy hogs!
You could see something new to science
There’s also still a lot we still don’t know about hedgehogs – so lots of potential for new observations to help with conservation. We are interested if you have footage of interactions with other animals, security lights coming on, swimming animals, barging, grunting, rolling over or any other types of hogmania.
Here are some hedgehog behaviours our Champions have captured in their gardens on camera trap;
Feeding – use meaty cat food or dog food, specialist hedgehog food, meal worms, crushed unsalted nuts and water to drink.
Click for video (courtesy of Hannah Lawson)
Breeding – often mistaken as aggression, this is a frequently lengthy process, where the male’s advances are repeatedly rebuffed by the female, the pair often leaving a circular ‘crop circle’ in the dew by morning.
Fighting – hedgehogs generally try to avoid each other, but they come together for breeding and will compete over resources.
And every now and again, something completely unexpected and wonderful!