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Marking Hedgehogs?

Home Forums Hedgehog signs and sightings Marking Hedgehogs?

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    Please will people consider not marking hedgehogs. It is possible to recognise individual hedgehogs by their natural markings, if you are prepared to take the time and trouble. Try it โ€“ it is much more rewarding than identifying them from artificial markings.

    Catching wild hedgehogs is stressful for them. Repeatedly catching them can also make them become too trusting of people, which is not always a good thing – not all humans love hedgehogs. Of those that do, very many like to see them in their natural, wild, beautiful state, not with blobs, stripes or any kind of artificial marking. They are wild animals, they do not belong to us. Someone living nearby to you, may have been watching the very same hedgehog for even longer than you have and may be very distressed to see their old friend with artificial marking on it.

    Many people are using inappropriate substances, such as nail varnish and correction fluid. Hedgehogs have a very strong sense of smell. Putting any amount of artificial substance on them has the potential for interfering with their social interactions. It can also cause their spines to work less effectively. They can also ingest the substance, which will not do them any good at all, and it could get on their skin.

    Ask yourself โ€“ am I doing this for the benefit of the hedgehog or is it for mine?

    If anyone HAS to mark hogs, please take great care that they impact on the hedgehogs as little as possible. I am told water based emulsion is the least smelly (nail varnish and correction fluid, on the other hand smell strongly). Small, discreet, marks (absolute maximum 3 cm.) should be adequate. It should be possible to identify at least 10 hedgehogs without the need to put more than two discreet marks on it. Keep artificial substances well away from the hedgehogs faces and I would also suggest avoiding their skirts. Any paint should be on the tips of the spines and great care taken not to get any of it on the skin or getting the spines stuck together.

    Some people have begun to mark hedgehogs with excessively large marks, this is completely unnecessary, unkind and sometimes even cruel – just wrong.

    We are supposed to love hedgehogs. Please love them for what they are โ€“ not for what we want them to be.

    Hedgehogs are wild animals โ€“ they do not belong to anyone โ€“ consider other people who may also be watching the same hogs, but above all PLEASE consider the hedgehogs.


    I agree with you on this subject, Nic. Unless hedgehogs are part of a study or being monitored post-release, I don’t think they should be marked. If they are to be marked for these reasons, it should be done in a sympathetic way and so as not to cause any harm or distress to the hog. As you say, they are wild animals and do not belong to us. I prefer to see them as nature intended. Like you, I identify my visitors by real-time observation and via trail camera footage. Some are easier to identify than others. I have one who I call Hercules who is enormous and who rushes in and out of the feeding station like the SAS. I think I should re-name him Usain as he is so fast!

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    Thanks for that Prickles. My motto is ‘if it is not for the benefit of the hedgehog or hedgehogs in general, don’t intervene’. If we are trying to encourage more people to be interested in hedgehogs – they want to see normal hedgehogs. Being wild animals is part of their appeal.

    I think I’ve got a few Usains here too! The camera even caught one rushing under the gate at speed. Hurdles in reverse!


    Funny that, I took 3 hogs to overwinter with a carer and they were all marked so the carer knew which ones were ‘mine’ for when they were ready to be released.
    I do understand what you are saying about marking hogs and they should be left ‘au natural’ but you also want to know how many hogs are out there as numbers are in decline? What about those of us who don’t have the luxury of time (long shifts, early to bed early to rise) or cameras to monitor the hogs? How else are we to discover how many hogs are out there? You could be seeing the same one many times each night OR many different ones once per night.


    Just to let you know that not all hog lovers are able to identify hogs from their own natural markings.
    I also have to agree with Jack, how do you know hedgehogs are in decline? Surely they need some way of getting the figures and they can’t all be from recognising the hogs natural markings?


    Don’t forget that we all cant see natural markings and need some way of knowing how many hogs are visiting as Jack has said.

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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 โ€“ 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 ‘โ€ฆ. 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
    Scroll down to 23rd March 2017. (6 b/w photos).


    I enjoy seeing the hogs visiting my garden “VISITING” they are wild animals foraging, mating, exploring – doing what comes naturally to them.

    WE are observing them, putting out food to supplement their diet, providing additional nest sites in the hope we can catch a glimpse into their lives and help their numbers. I have named our visitors, having said that I may have 2 huge hogs both of which are called growler, I may have more than one smaller hog called Igor quite frankly I don’t care. I am just happy to see any at all. If over time I can learn to tell them apart great, if not it doesn’t matter, I don’t want to see them covered in graffiti.

    If you saw a bird regularly visiting your garden, nesting maybe, you wouldn’t mark it so you could identify it, why is a mammal any different (other than its easier to catch). Please consider carefully before marking them, aren’t they more beautiful without.



    Hi Wildlifehaven,
    I like your thinking…..I also feel honoured to have hogs visiting my garden. Yes I have built them a house, I also know that will live where they choose !!!! And yes the feeding is to supplement their natural diet, with bowls of water as a given.
    My small log pile and slightly messy garden have always been to their liking….in fact the hogs were here when I moved in, a good few years back, so deep respect to these fascinating animals.
    On seeing your other post, I live in the middle of a housing estate with lots of connecting gardens via hedges for the hogs ( and local cats ). Yes there is a main road nearby, but if the hogs go the other way they will be able to sneak into the playing fields which are locked at night, so they should have happy, safe hunting there.
    Because I keep odd hours I am able to note that the hogs can and do troll about all night long. I have 4 hogs that I know of using my and my neighbours gardens, 2 of which I brought back to my garden from rescue centre.
    No, I don’t mark hogs…..though as you say it can be hard to tell who is who, but hey practiced observation takes patience.
    The good thing is we now have a heightened awareness of hedgehogs and their needs. They were on this planet long before us, so lets watch and learn from these charming creatures.


    Unfortunately like you Nic, some of our hogs have now started turning up covered with spots and stripes including Simba! One hog which I believe is Arnie, has a large v running right across his back from one side to the other. At first I thought that they had probably picked up these strange markings playing around on a building site nearby, but no they are definitely manmade. I understand that people may want to try and identify them and work out how many nightly visitors they have, but is it really necessary to cover them in so much graffiti and spoil their natural beauty. For those of you who use excessive amounts of paint ask yourself this… as the days start to get longer and the hedgehogs start to appear whilst itโ€™s still daylight, you might just get the chance to capture a few photographs of these wonderful creatures in all their splendour. Such a great pity then, after waiting all year for this rare opportunity that they should all look like some weird version of noughts and crosses! ๐Ÿ™

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    Oh Penny!

    So sorry to hear poor old Simba and pals have been caught by an excessive marker. It is so disappointing to see your old friends with these ridiculous marks on them. I just don’t know how anyone thinks they have the right to do it.


    Grrrr . This is unbelievable! It made me so angry when I read this, then really sad. It must be terrifying for them ! I have to try not to think any further than that because I cant bare the thought of any suffering that might ensue ! !!
    If my little visitors turn up one night with marks on them , I woukd have to investigate !
    Door to door raising awareness of them until finding the culprit and very politely, re educate them !

    Guidance on what they CAN do to help out hedgehogs rather than “you CAN’T do that”, has always worked out beautifully for me and the other party but most of all, had a positive impact on the hedgehogs .

    I couldn’t wait to go and tell my neighbours ‘what they could do’ to help ours out !


    I’ve just joined, and it’s very interesting to read this as I was wondering how I could gauge developments with my resident hogs, whether to mark and what with. My first instinct was a water based garden furniture paint as I have a few tester pots, although I do baulk at upsetting my treasured visitor(s). A visitor to my hedgie cafe last night was of similar size, but I think a different ‘waddle’, to my usual cheeky hog. I felt guilty enough picking it up to check if its different gait was an injury. Usually if I stand still it toddles up for a hello and sniff then carries on. I can’t sit out every night, I just check the food and water supply daily but I think it is quite important to set up some data management for collation somewhere, not just for my benefit, but to enable projects and progress to come from it.

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    Welcome, Wild Thing

    I have enlarged on the theme of identifying hedgehogs, which I will put below this. I hope you will consider trying to identify them naturally. It can be fulfilling. I, personally, would not recommend using garden furniture paint even if it is water based – it still may have other chemicals in it and potentially be smelly to the hedgehogs. I had 12 different hedgehogs naturally identified last year – not all visited every night, I hasten to add! Neither do I have any special talents. Just observation. Many of the hogs are back this year.

    Good luck with your hog visitors. You are clearly fond of them.

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    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:
    Facial markings.
    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.

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