Many people seem to justify painting hedgehogs, to themselves, by using the argument of collecting data etc.or something similar. As I have said previously, unless it is an organised study, collecting data would only be for your own benefit. If someone is not able to spend the time identifying a hedgehog naturally, then they will not have time to watch a marked hedgehog, sufficiently to make any difference, for the benefit of the hedgehog, or hedgehogs as a whole. If you do not have much time to spare to identify the hedgehogs naturally, perhaps you are better off just putting out food and water for them, and enjoy watching them just being hedgehogs, Beautiful, wild, natural hedgehogs – when you have the time. It must take up an enormous amount of time to keep catching and marking hedgehogs.
Identifying the hedgehogs naturally, is really very easy, for instance:
Colour of fur inside ears.
Colour of spines.
Variations/gradations in colour of their skirts.
Whether there is a marked band between the skirt and the spines and if there is what colour it is.
Whether or not they have a big ruff.
I recommend drawing a template of a hedgehog face. Similar to the inside of an onion. Ears at the top, nose at the bottom and eyes in between. Then all you have to do is fill it it when the hedgehog arrives. Then draw a template of a side view of the hedgehog so that it is ready to fill in too. This method has the benefit, not only that the hedgehog is not continually being distressed by being picked up and remarked, but you will be able to recognise the hedgehog year after year. When a hedgehog arrives, if you don’t recognise it, just check your sketches to see if it is one you have already drawn, if not use another template and fill it in. I have temporarily changed my profile picture to a rough template of a hog face, just to give you an idea. A better artist could do a better one. I find drawing the hogs is better than taking a photograph, because it encourages you to be more observant.
Most people seem to manage to recognise their pet dog or cat without putting paint on them. So what is so different. People all over the world, including in scientific studies seem to be able to identify individual wild animals without putting paint on them.
Hedgehogs visit many people’s gardens. We could not all start putting our own marks on each hedgehog. It would not only be unfair to the hedgehogs, but also to those other people who have been watching them.
If someone still wants to mark hedgehogs, it seems to me that they need to get together with other hedgehog watchers in their area and reach some sort of agreement on a scheme of marking. It is really not necessary to mark more than a few spines. There are hedgehogs visiting here which have some naturally pale spines and they are easily visible. If hedgehogs are to have any amount of paint put on them, I understand water based emulsion is the least worst. Make sure it is kept well away from the face and skirt. Be aware that hedgehogs are able to twist themselves into extraordinary positions, so may be able to lick the area where paint has been applied.
However – ask yourself this: If you had a tabby cat (or any cat or dog), would you put blobs of paint on it to differentiate it from other tabby cats? And if any of us saw a tabby cat with blobs of paint on it, would we think it was ok for someone to put blobs of paint on a tabby cat?
Also to enlarge on what Penny said, above. Would you want to see a beautiful photograph of a hedgehog in all it’s natural beauty, or would you prefer to see one with artificial marks on it. There is a reason why photographs of hedgehogs in publications are the former.