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On the hunt for hedgehogs

17th June 2021

Hedgehog Street supports many different research projects, including one currently being undertaken by Lauren Moore of Nottingham Trent University, funded by PTES. Lauren invited the Hedgehog Street team to join her in collecting data for her project on hedgehogs and roads. So our Hedgehog Street Intern, Anina, headed to Nottingham, very excited to be experiencing her first hedgehog survey…

“I have been obsessed with hedgehogs since I can remember, but I rarely get to see them in the wild, so I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to go round with Lauren, searching out hedgehogs for her research. Travelling up with Grace, Hedgehog Officer, and Nida, PTES’ Conservation Research Manager, we arrived in the small town of Southwell around 10pm to meet Lauren and her supervisor Dr Richard Yarnell, and geared up with head torches, gloves and warm clothes. Setting out from the carpark we immediately started sweeping the area with our torches, looking for hogs.

We were undertaking a spotlight search, which involves using a light to look for hedgehogs. Lauren’s research involves tracking hedgehogs to determine how many are killed on roads, and what may affect these deaths. So to be able to track the hedgehogs, she needs to find them first!

After about 20 minutes of excited searching, I spotted something moving out of the corner of my eye, and gasped with excitement – it was a hog! Lauren quickly sprinted over to stop it running away, then gathered all her gear together. She put a small GPS tracker and a microchip tag on the hedgehog, meaning its location could be tracked every ten minutes. The trackers are removed after the data has been collected, and they are monitored during the survey to ensure no harm comes to them. It was a large, male hedgehog who we called Dexter, though his official survey name is #28_yellow_G_M. Dexter was then left alone to recover from the interruption to his night out.

Adding the GPS tracker

After the early success of our hunt, I was very optimistic we were going to find more hogs. Unfortunately this was not to be the case. We spent the next three hours scouring the town, scurrying through the winding alleyways of Southwell, all the while scanning the ground with our torches.

There was one moment I thought we might be in luck, when I spotted a hedgehog crossing someone’s lawn. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to it as it was on private property, and quick as a flash it was off, hiding in the bushes. This meant that Dexter was the only hog to be tagged that night, which was a bit disappointing considering Lauren normally finds around seven a night.

Anina with the tagged hedgehog

Despite the lack of hedgehog sightings, it was brilliant to be involved in a research project which will make a real difference to our hedgehog knowledge. We did spot a great deal of other wildlife on our survey, including many snails, frogs and even a newt, which we rescued from the middle of the road.

Lauren has tagged nine hedgehogs around Southwell, and preliminary results are encouraging. Most of the hedgehogs had also been seen last summer, meaning that they got through the difficult period of hibernation. The males roamed particularly far, passing through many gardens and over roads. When Dexter was found three weeks later to have his tracker removed, it was revealed that his weight had increased from 658g to 810g – a very impressive 23% weight gain!

Apart from Southwell, Lauren is collecting data from all round the country, including Peterborough and Scotland, and has teams of people working hard to collect this important data. Her research could make a real difference to our hedgehog knowledge, by providing insights into the influence of roads on mortality.”

You can find out more about Lauren’s research HERE.
Watch the recent talk on hedgehogs on roads HERE.