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Hedgehog Detectives: We Need YOU

10th July 2024

By Rosa, Hedgehog Street volunteer

Greetings Hedgehog Detectives, your next assignment has landed – we can confirm we have all the intelligence you need to find out whether you have a hedgehog in your garden or local area.   

Firstly, learn a little about your subject…  

Hedgehogs: Case File

The hedgehog is an elusive animal to say the least. These prickly mammals are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and therefore unlikely to be sighted in daylight hours. Also, they hibernate in the winter months so rarely emerge from their nests between November and March.   

Photo by Erin Black

Nevertheless, if you are reading this, whether you are a seasoned hedgehog detective or a novice agent, you may be interested in finding out whether you have a stealthy hedgehog guest visiting your garden.   

Luckily, the operatives at Hedgehog Street have been monitoring these furtive animals for the past 13 years, collecting vital data about the distribution of the species and making this wealth of information available to you.   

Consequently, straight from Hedgehog Street HQ, here is our plan of action so you can investigate hedgehog activity:

Phase 1 – Preliminary investigation   

Make use of hedgehog locations mapped by other keen agents using the BIG Hedgehog Map to find any recent sightings near you by filtering the results by year. This can tip you off as to the likelihood of hedgehog activity in your garden.  

Phase 2 – Evidence collection and forensic analysis

Hedgehogs can be brazen fugitives and often leave traces of their comings and goings in broad daylight, including footprints and faeces.   

They have distinctive footprints, with four out of five of their toes on each foot appearing in the tracks, and the back feet being narrower than the front ones. These may be visible on terrains such as mud and wet sand, so keep these areas under observation on an ongoing basis as a possible indicator for hedgehog presence.  

Hedgehog droppings can resemble a dark slug from afar, so only the sharpest sleuths are likely to notice this clue. The droppings are dark brown to black and between 1.5 and 5cm long. They do vary depending on the diet of the hedgehog but generally the exoskeletons of insects eaten will be visible, giving them a shiny appearance.   

Phase 3 – Surveillance

If you have a hedgehog house but don’t know whether hedgehogs are using it, you could place leaves or bedding near the entrance. You can then check the entrance regularly as hedgehogs are likely to drag any leaves or bedding inside for nesting. You could also place a stick over the entrance and if hedgehogs are using the house, they will likely move the stick.

Of course, none of these methods are guaranteed to determine whether you have hedgehogs visiting your garden with 100% certainty. So, if you suspect you could be hot on the heels of a hedgehog and want to confirm your theory, you can install a wildlife camera to capture footage of the creatures visiting your garden. There are many available such as these affordable ones at NatureSpy, along with their helpful tips and recommendations which can help you to navigate the use of this indispensable item of detective kit.

Photo by Andrew Punter

Remember that even if you follow all these steps, there may not be any hedgehogs in your area. However, it’s still important that you are vigilant while gardening  to avoid disturbing any nesting animals, including hedgehogs.

Furthermore, there are still options open to you to take part in the investigation:  

  • Take part in the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme here – a world-first project using trail cameras to capture footage of animals nationwide. This is then classified by AI and volunteers, which is why we need you! Find out more about the NHMP, along with an instruction video for spotting.  
  • If you haven’t already, register as a Hedgehog Champion and use your special agent skills to encourage friends and family to join the investigation. 

Happy sleuthing!