Looking for London’s Hedgehogs
9th September 2019
I was recently lucky enough to attend a spotlight survey of the hedgehogs in Regent’s Park, London. The population of around 30 hedgehogs was discovered in 2014 and has been surveyed by dedicated volunteers every May and September since then.
A late night…
I opted for the somewhat antisocial 12.30-4.30am survey, which I was assured would put me in very good stead for some hedgehog sightings. After arriving bleary-eyed at midnight on Friday night after a very busy week, I soon perked up as we got out into the park to find our prickly pals.
We used torches, a thermal imaging camera, and of course our ears to search for foraging hedgehogs. Thermal imaging cameras are an incredible bit of kit that allow you to spot hedgehogs from very far away, and indeed aided my first hedgehog spot of the night. The camera screen showed a very small heat spot, which I decided to follow despite it being a distance away and not even necessarily a hedgehog. We came across a very active male, likely looking for last mating opportunities!
Recording the hedgehogs
Once a hedgehog is found, volunteers quickly and carefully make a note of its location, weight, size, sex, tag number and general condition. All hedgehogs are given an ID number and small tags are attached to a few of its spines. New tags are also attached if the hedgehog has lost any. Spine samples were also taken for genetic analysis of the isolated population. None of this causes any harm to the hedgehogs.
During the survey, my group was lucky enough to see a number of hedgehogs, both male and female. They were, however, all repeat sightings, both from our own survey (one male in particular was very mobile), as well as from the earlier survey which ran from 8pm until midnight.
Overall, it was a fantastic night and a great introduction to the world of hedgehog surveys (having previously only done bat surveys). The monitoring of the Regent’s Park hedgehogs is vital and the results will be used to identify problems and threats, and mitigate accordingly. I’ll be signing up again next year!
Former Hedgehog Street and current Royal Parks volunteer, Milly, has previously written about the project HERE.
More information on the project can be found HERE.