People are marking the hogs with something that does sometimes look a bit like mud in ordinary light, but shows up white in infrared i.e. night cams. But it doesn’t seem to immediately wash off in the rain and may be some sort of paint. Even if it is some sort of mud it should not be put on hedgehogs and risk their spines being stuck together. People may be doing it that way to avoid criticism hoping that other people won’t notice. What they are doing is wrong and not for the benefit of the hedgehog and it should not be encouraged.
BHPS specifically say in their FAQs ‘Can I mark hedgehogs’:
“Do not make hedgehog conspicuous to predators.”
If anyone visits a website which is telling people to mark hedgehogs with white paint, so that they can be seen better, perhaps they should put them right. If a hedgehog has white paint on it it will be more conspicuous to predators, of which humans as a species are one.
BHPS also says:
“use a non-toxic water-based marker and mark just a few spines of the hedgehog.”
‘Just a few spines’. Many marked hedgehogs have a variety of stripes and blobs on them, sometimes covering more than half the area of the spines. If substance is not applied carefully (and only on just a few spines) the spines are likely to stick together and feel very uncomfortable for the hedgehog and in some cases even prevent the hog from rolling up. It is unkind and in some cases cruel to the hedgehogs.
BHPS also say
“We’re pretty sure a hedgehog would rather not be marked”
Link to BHPS FAQs: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/faq/
Personally I see no need to mark hedgehogs. Any interaction which we have with them should either be for the benefit of one particular hedgehog or hedgehogs as a whole. Apart from a very few exceptions, putting paint or any other sort of marker on a hedgehog is not for the benefit of the hedgehog it is nearly always for the benefit of the human. They are wild animals. They are not put here purely for the entertainment of humans.
Having said that, most of us would probably not mind quite so much, if the guidelines were stuck to – i.e. on just a few spines.
Hedgehogs do not belong to us. If someone started putting white paint or other artificual markings on the local tabby cats to tell them apart (and so they could be seen better in the dark) everyone would soon be up in arms. What is the difference.