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Hedgehog identification

Home Forums Hedgehog signs and sightings Hedgehog identification

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    We are trying to identify our hogs, so we know how many are visiting, we are using the markings on the backs, do they change, if not then we have a bit of a community at our feeders, we have 3 feeders on the go now, costing a fortune in food!

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    Hi ChrisandCarolyn

    If the hogs have marks on their backs, it may be that someone in the area is artificially marking them. Sadly it happens around here as well and often the same hog will turn up with different markings, having presumably been re-marked or marked as well by someone else. Personally, I think it is unkind to the hogs and may even interfere with their social interactions – they rely heavily on their sense of smell and any foreign substance which has been put on them is bound to make them smell different.

    Added to which, it really isn’t necessary to artificially mark hedgehogs. They can be identified by their natural markings and so much nicer to see hogs in their wild natural beauty, than as parodies of themselves covered with artificial marking.

    I wrote some notes a while back with tips of characteristics to look out for when identifiying hedgehogs naturally, which you might find useful. I included them in the following post, as well as tips on how to tell male from female, which can also help with identification.

    Good luck. I hope you will try natural identification. Happy hogwatching!


    Thanks, these look more like changes in the spines, the marks don’t seem conducive with “marking”, we watch them in the garden and on the trail cam, they all have different characters anyway, it is not our intention to pick any up, or mark them. We have had the circling around, aggressive behavior, so we know who the bully is, one that does not eat any food we put out, and the one who sits in the water bowl to eat.


    I’m not sure that using a waterproof, water-based poster paint to identify ’hogs would bother them overmuch, it doesn’t have much of an odour. I’ve had a ‘hog in the garden with a light coloured patch on its flank, but the patch seemed to vary, so it may have been something it had come into contact with.
    As it is, identifying the different ’hogs is near to impossible, there aren’t any significant markings on them, the only one I can identify is by the noises she makes, (I’m assuming it’s a female, there’s a lot of loud snorting goes on from other ‘hogs that turn up and get close to her), and she makes a funny little chuckling noise as she wanders around the garden, I can often be aware of her before I see her. What I’m considering doing is getting a set of dayglo waterproof water-based poster paints, and just letting a few drops drip onto their spines, that way I can use a UV led light to see the colours from a distance.
    I was watching a hedgehog release being done on a TV programme recently, and the ‘hogs all had different colour patches on their backs – a water-based non-toxic paint shouldn’t cause any issues, if made for use by children.
    Here’s our little group of visitors on Monday night, after the suet pellets I put down for the birds, they’d already been at the kitty kibbles and dog food on the feeding boxes to the right of the photo, I hadn’t realised we had four!

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    Hi Phasmainmachina

    It sounds as if the hedgehog you are talking about ‘chuckling’ as she wanders around, may be unwell. It isn’t normal for hedgehogs to make a ‘chuckling’ noise as they walk around. I would suggest that you get contact details of your nearest hedgehog carer from the BHPS 01584 890801 then ring them and describe the sound the hedgehog is making, and when, in more detail and take their advice.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with you regarding hedgehogs natural markings. Have you checked out the tips to help identify hedgehogs above. They do indeed have different distinguishing features if you look carefully enough for them.

    We all need to remember that hedgehogs have a much better sense of smell than we have, so what may seem comparatively odourless to us, may smell quite strongly to them. They rely much more heavily on their sense of smell than we do. They do not have particularly good eyesight and are out in the dark anyway.

    I did make the proviso in what I said that it was fair enough if it was for the benefit of the hedgehogs, or hedgehogs in general (but only in those circumstances) – which may have been the case in the release you referred to. In that case the BHPS suggestions should be followed that only a very few spines should be marked and only with non-toxic water-based substance. Also ensuring that the substance doesn’t reach the skin.

    But if it is not for the benefit of a particular hedgehog or hedgehogs as a whole, who are we doing it for? We would not pick up our neighbours tabby cat and mark it so that we could distinguish it from the tabby down the road, so why would anyone pick up a hedgehog, which similarly does not belong to them, and mark it.

    If someone is not prepared to spend the time identifying a hedgehog by it’s natural markings then, to my mind, they are not spending enough time to warrant marking a hedgehog.

    The following is taken from faqs from the BHPS.

    Can I ‘mark’ my hedgehogs?
    We’re pretty sure a hedgehog would rather not be marked, but if you are going to do it, please do ensure that you use a non-toxic water-based marker and mark just a few spines of the hedgehog. Keep the mark away from the hedgehog’s face and mark it in the garden on the ground rather than picking it up/bringing it indoors. Please don’t use red as people may mistake it for blood and ‘rescue’ it.  Do not make hedgehog conspicuous to predators.  We have seen some very sad images of poor hedgehogs practically covered in paint!  If you are watching the hedgehogs on a wildlife camera you will often be able to tell them apart over time without the need for marking.

    Good luck with the hedgehog. I hope you manage to get treatment for it, if it’s required.


    I have quite a few hogs visiting my feeders, some have been either sprayed with paint, or daubed with a brush. Since you have no idea if this is of benefit to the animal , then why do it? Would you paint your own pet? These are wild creatures, and just because they visit your garden you do not have the right to treat them in this way. I have contacted all my neighbours to try and trace whoever is doing this, but so far without luck. Everyone I have shown the pictures to agreed that the practice was cruel and unnecessary. If it continues, I intend to contact the RSPCA.

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