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For many years, I spent many happy times watching hedgehogs, with no idea who the individuals were, or of how many hedgehogs there were. It is quite possible to enjoy watching them, without knowing these things, and many people do. After a while, I began to realise that I was recognising individual hedgehogs without even trying to. I continued for a while just recognising a few individuals, before deciding to try to differentiate more of them. I discovered that it was very easy to recognise many of them.
I wrote my previous ‘post’ to suggest to people an alternative to artificial marking. This also offers them the opportunity to enhance their hedghog watching, as well as saving the hedgehogs the stress of being caught, unnecessarily, and the other potential problems mentioned previously. Clearly, not everyone will sign up to this. But, if you are able to, please have a go, I am sure you will find it rewarding and it has the added advantage that it will leave the hedgehogs as they should be, for everyone else to enjoy. Not everyone will find this easy, but you can still watch and enjoy hedgehogs without necessarily knowing who individuals are. Each hedgehog is important and precious as ‘a hedgehog’.
With regard to assessing the number of hedgehogs in the country – how much they have declined, etc. – there have been various methods used. It is possible that some kind of marking, or tagging, might be useful in this respect. However, it would need to be a properly thought out and organised scientific survey, with marking of hedgehogs carefully monitored and controlled – with ‘permission’ from a licence.
Individuals, marking randomly, in a non-organised way, can do very little or nothing to help find out the numbers of hedgehogs in the country. If that is the only reason individual people are marking hedgehogs, it is not a good reason.
Again, information from marked, release hedgehogs, is really only of potential use to hedghogkind, if it is part of a properly and carefully thought out scientific study, where the hedgehogs are properly and carefully marked according to a particular scheme, etc. and, again, with a licence. Otherwise it is really only for the benefit of the releaser, and not the hedgehog.
For me, there needs to be a very good reason to artificially mark a hedgehog. Carefully thought out and controlled research, for the benefit of hedgehogs, is one of these. It would be difficult to identify hedgehogs naturally, on a large scale. Identifying, naturally, those visiting one garden is much more achievable.
The piece I wrote previously, was not only trying to encourage those who are able to identify hedgehogs naturally, to give it a go, but also, for those who do mark, to do it sympathetically. All for the benefit of hedgehogs as a whole. Hence the ideas I included of how to mark a hedgehog. It would be of less concern if all marks were small, discreet and only one, or a maximum of two, of them on each hedgehog, and using suitable substances. I think it should be possible to mark 10 different hedgehogs using only one small discreet mark on each. It should easily be possible to mark all the hedgehogs visiting one garden without using any more than 2 small discreeet marks on each. However, I encourage people to seriously consider whether it is really necessary at all, before marking. And remember, you may be having a negative impact on someone else’s enjoyment of watching the same hedgehogs. Perhaps you can do, as many people do, and just enjoy them as they are.
Some hedgehogs are being covered with excessive amounts of substance and excessive numbers of large blobs, stripes, etc. I don’t know if you saw the post from Hoggy (Before the old ones were removed) who said ‘…. I have three regular visiting hedgehogs and to my dismay I noticed last night that two of them have turned more or less completely white by someone who has spray painted them presumably to mark them….’ That is the sort of thing which is just completely wrong and to my mind, cruel. People marking with inappropriately excessive amounts of substance as well as people using inappropriate substances are the main problem.
On this subject you might be interested to see a tweet from BHPS (Hedgehog Society) which I came across, and which can be accessed through the home page on this site or https://twitter.com/HEDGEHOGSOCIETY/
Scroll down to 23rd March 2017. (6 b/w photos).