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Home Forums Hedgehog signs and sightings THE WANDERER RETURNS…OVER A YEAR LATER!

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    In December 2015 we found a young hedgehog in the garden too small to survive the winter at 340 grams. She was taken to our local rescue where she was named Fern and cared for over the winter months. The colour photo shows her being released back into our garden looking a picture of health in April 2016. She hung around for a while, very often turning up early for her dinner whilst it was still light. The last positive sighting of her was in July 2016. The thing is, the camera recorded a new female hedgehog a couple of nights ago and I am convinced that it is Fern. The males outnumber the females around here by at least 3-1, so I am familiar with the few ladies that we have visiting. Could this really be Fern after all this time and where could she have got to for the past year? She has got very distinctive facial markings including a dark diamond shape in the centre of her forehead and light patches on either side of her nose, none of our other hogs have similar features.

    Nic, you are the master when it comes to hedgehog ID, what do you think, is it really Fern?

    If it is Fern, it gives hope to those of us who have had hedgies go missing for some time and assumed the worst. 🙂

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    Hi Penny

    Will I ever learn. I started writing and then went to have a closer look at the photo and it all disappeared! So here goes again.

    I’m not sure. Any chance you could get a colour pic? Not asking for much am I! Or alternatively, did you have a b/w pic originally. It is easier to compare like with like. Although there are similarities, from what I can see, so far, my feeling is it’s inconclusive. Firstly there is the pale patch between the ears and above the diamond – but this could be caused by a quirk of the lighting. Then there is some ‘shadowing’ below the diamond going down towards the nose on the original and there is a sort of ‘v’ shaped pale bit immediately above the nose and the inside of her ears look dark (but has she got them back). Again these could be quirks of the camera. But on the original pic the dark patches which go down from the eyes to the nose seem to go down to a ‘v’ and on the new pic it looks as if it is more straight across, although on the right hand pic it looks slightly more v like. Also, I would have expected to see 3 pale patches on the face, but maybe they just don’t show up very well on the b/w pic. I usually use a combination of things, including the colour of the spines, skirts and the band between and not only from one pic or one angle. On the original photo she looks to have quite dark spines and comparatively pale ‘ruff’. I always find sketches and notes are more reliable records to keep and real time observations always best.

    However. All that goes right out the window, because she was still fairly young when you last saw her and her face may have grown a bit. Their facial markings do tend to change a bit when they are very young. The ‘v’ could have straightened out a bit if her face grew. Sometimes pale patches, such as that above her nose, can become less pale, etc. If you had any other photos, there are some other features, such as the dark patch on her foot (new pic) going up at an angle. They do both have a pale patch (particularly obvious on her left side) just behind the nose, underneath the dark ‘teardrops’. Is that what you meant by pale patches either side of the nose? Sorry, I’m not much help, but from those photos alone, I wouldn’t like to say for certain either way. The main thing is you have another female back and you are best placed, being able to see her in ‘real life’, to see the details better. You may never know for sure, but, if you immediately thought she was Fern when you saw her, she may well be. The original photo showed a beautiful hedgehog and the new ones show a beautiful hedgehog. I hope she carries on visiting.


    Hi Nic,

    Thank you for the invaluable tips. I have been trawling through the footage from last July/August and any photos that I could find. In the colour photos she has a dark line at the top of the skirt and then it turns very pale, much paler than her spines, she also has the dark feet that you pointed out with much paler fur on her legs and this can be seen in both the footage from last year and the two clips from the other night. Also her dark ears only show up from the side and not the front. I am as convinced as I can be that it is Fern. I found her in some later clips up to the 19th of August last year. In the last three days of footage, before her disappearance, she had been given a paint job in the form of a large stripe on one side, so somebody else was obviously keeping an eye on her. At the same time, we had a lot of young hogs visiting, far more than the adults, so I had cut right back on the mealworms to just half a dozen on the top as a garnish. I suppose it’s possible that Fern took the hump and decided to dine at her paint and decorator’s where the mealworms may have been more freely available!

    So far this year, I have still only seen two youngsters, but there are lots of adults. In comparison, this time last year there were lots of juveniles, too many to count and hardly any adults….not quite sure what’s going on there!

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    Hi Penny

    I have only recently started looking more at the hog’s legs – they are often covered up! But one of the female hog visitors here has quite pinkish legs with dark blotches – quite different to any of the others – so they could be a good aid to identification. I have always noticed that some of them have pale patches on the bottom of their feet or heels, which you can see easily as they leave.

    It is never that easy with photos. Even though yours appear to be face on – actually on the colour one you can see more of one side of her face and the b/w the other. The sides of their faces are usually not mirror images, even if sometimes close. So it is always easier if you can see both sides when they move and all the other things as well. I am glad you have decided it’s Fern.

    It could be that the ‘decorator’ was new to the area and possibly closer to where Fern lived (as well as the mealworm thing). The mealworm thing goes on. I was told the other day about someone else locally feeding mealworms. Hopefully the message will now be passed on. I wish the ‘authorities’ would be clearer about it, but I think they are relying on it only being supplementary feeding so not as huge a problem. But, if the rescues are getting all these poor hogs in with Metabolic Bone Disease, it must be more than just supplementary for some hogs and may be as a result of more people feeding the hogs, so that they are just getting too much artificual food. I know money is always a problem, but it would be good if some research was done on that sort of thing. The trouble is there are so many problems facing hogs that there is always something more important.

    I haven’t seen any new hoglets since the really early ones. I hope it hasn’t got any connection with the excessive marking. It would probably be difficult to prove either way, but if a female hog smells ‘wrong’ she could be less interesting to the boys.

    It is definitely a mixed blessing loving hedgehogs and particularly getting to know individuals. So many hazards which we can have no control over. My little friend Digger was absent again last night. She had only been back for 2 nights following an eight day absence, which I was hoping was hoglet related. It still could be. I like to think that, maybe, as it was wet and windy, she decided to stay nearer to home, so they didn’t get too cold.

    I wonder if the males go walkabout at this time of year. There have been a couple of ‘strangers’, the regular boys are not around so much, but I seem to be seeing more of the ones who are normally only occasional visitors. But, sometimes only one a night.


    Hi Nic,

    Funnily enough, exactly the same thing has happened here. Five of the regular boys have disappeared and have been replaced with other hogs that I don’t recognise. It is the holiday season, so I suppose they could have gone away for a change of scenery. I thought that we still had Bruno visiting, but now I am not so sure. I have long suspected that Bruno could in fact be two different hogs, one being female! My usual method of identifying the sexes by placing the cameras low to the ground doesn’t work when they have got short stumpy legs and long fur. I finally got definitive proof the other night, when one of the monster hogs obligingly decided to have a good old scratch right in front of the camera and bared all…so, as I suspected we now have a Bruno and a very formidable Brenda! I managed to get a photo of her last night hiding behind the feeding station and she has got very different facial markings to Bruno, so hopefully I should be able to tell them apart in the future, I will also be taking note of their feet!

    Going through last year’s footage, I came across a juvenile Boris; there was no mistaking him, he really is a character. There is still no sign of him, I just hope that he is ok and will return along with the rest of the boys after their holidays…

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    Hi Penny

    I like the idea of all the boys going off on their hols. You could write a good story about that, I’m sure.

    My camera is about 2 feet off the ground. It didn’t seem to work very well for some reason, when I put it on the ground. But, I do find that I can sometimes see underneath the hogs a bit further away. Some of them tend to get up on their legs as they leave. As you say, when they scratch in camera view it is a bit of a give away.

    A formidable Brenda sounds quite scary! Which reminds me Digger, who is the biggest of the female visitors here, did what looked like the rubbing along the ground thing the other day. I have never seen a female do it before and it was very quick and, needless to say not caught by the camera, so not sure it was exactly the same as the boys do. But interesting. None of the other hogs was around.

    Are your colour photos taken on a normal camera – as opposed to the night ones? They are very clear. Little Boris looks just like one of the big boys who visits here. Fingers crossed they all return safe and sound.

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