We were one of about eight households that took part in the hedgehog survey in Swindon Village organised by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust last month. All the instructions and kit we needed were provided by the Trust’s hedgehog expert, Georgia.
The tunnel itself was “flat-packed” - a piece of stiff plastic which folded into a 2ft long triangular tube big enough for a hedgehog to walk through, with a loose floor panel. We placed the tunnel alongside our garden fence where we had seen a hedgehog last year and secured it to the ground with tent pegs. At each end of the floor panel we clipped a sheet of A4 paper in place, followed by a line of masking tape across it which we smeared with sticky ink, a mixture of charcoal and cooking oil. Then we had to put a small amount of hedgehog food in the middle of the floor panel and slide it into the tunnel. The idea was that if a hedgehog went in for the food from either end of the tunnel it would walk through the ink and leave footprints on the paper. We checked and changed the paper every morning and put fresh food in the tunnel every evening, just for five nights.
At the end of the survey we sent the sheets with prints back to Georgia.
We got hedgehog footprints on two of the five nights of the survey. However, just because there were no prints didn’t mean there were no hedgehogs… and this, for us, was the exciting bit… Georgia had just one wildlife camera, triggered by movement, and we were the lucky ones who used it. On the first night we got lovely photos of a hedgehog sniffing around the tunnel but it didn’t go in to it! We had many more hedgehog photos as well as a few of squirrels and birds as daylight came. Weren’t we lucky!
Having established where hedgehogs are, Georgia’s next step is to encourage neighbours to make just a small hole, about the size of a CD, in their garden fences so that the hedgehogs can move easily between gardens to increase their feeding areas. Hedgehogs are good for gardens and if we can provide a large enough feeding area they may not need to risk their lives crossing roads.
By the way, if you are thinking of feeding hedgehogs please give them dog or cat food (but not containing fish). The biscuit type foods are fine. You can even buy a special hedgehog food. A shallow bowl of water would be good too.
For more information about helping hedgehogs in your garden click here