Hedgehogs After Dark: Wildlife cameras
20th May 2020
Camera traps have been around for decades, but in the last 10 years have become more accessible and more powerful – offering an easy way to get a glimpse into the long nights of hedgehog activity. Batteries can last months and they can go anywhere you need them to in order to follow your hedgehog around the garden.
One of the most common questions we get asked at NatureSpy every day is ‘what camera is best for hedgehogs?’. There are a few tried and tested hedgehog camera traps that we love to recommend; there’s a rundown coming below. We’ll also let you know some insider tips to get the best out of the cameras so you don’t miss a moment of the nightly drama.
Aside from the silly name, this is a really good starting point for watching hedgehogs. It’s at the more affordable end of the budget and is a sturdy little piece of kit that’s easy to use too.
Its best used in ranges at a max of 25ft, and you’ll generally want to get closer than that for hedgehogs anyway for best results. It does what it says on the tin – triggers quickly, sensitive and gives good quality results.
The next step up and a really popular one in the hedgehog watching world. Bushnell is a big name and used around the world for wildlife scouting – you may have seen them on TV in the ‘making of’ snippets at the end of nature docs. They’ve been at the forefront of camera trap development for well over a decade.
The video quality on the Essential E3 offers the next step up and they’re really sensitive which is great when after hedgehogs. This camera has been around for a few years now, but with good reason – it’s good in gardens!
One of our most popular camera traps, and our most popular ‘hedgehog camera’. It’s a great all-rounder – really quick to react, sensitive, doesn’t over-expose images, has a forward-facing colour screen, really good on batteries – it ticks the boxes.
It’s also got serious references for hedgehog work – we’ve sent hundreds to great projects like London Hogwatch as well as countless hedgehog hospitals and rehab centres.
The last one on the list – this one basically does as the above, but offers full, smooth 1080p HD video quality – perfect for if you want to see every detail possible of your spikey visitors. Another popular one – we send it to the likes of BBC Winterwatch and other production companies, as well as to gardens, fields and woodlands around the country.
It’s worth noting that we don’t generally recommend the cheaper, often Chinese designed cameras that all look pretty much identical and say they can do absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted. They are essentially cheap for a reason; we get about 20-30 calls and emails every week from those that have tried them and ultimately they’ve failed.
How to get the most out of your wildlife camera
So once you’ve got the kit, what next? Here are a few quick tips for hitting the ground ‘snuffling’ with hedgehogs….
Because hedgehogs are small and not especially fast (most of the time), it means that they’re harder to spot for camera traps. Good camera positioning makes a big difference here – if you put your camera 15 ft up a tree looking down through branches at a hedgehog house, don’t expect much to be caught – the camera just won’t be able to detect the hedgehogs very easily.
However, if you can get your camera about 20-30cm off the ground looking straight along to where you expect the hedgehogs to be then you can get really reliable results consistently. Basically – don’t put the camera too high as it’ll just be looking over the top of the hedgehog!
We talk about batteries all week at NatureSpy… there are so many different types available and they vary a lot. A camera trap is only as good as its batteries – if you use lower quality ones, don’t be surprised if you don’t get many captures.
We recommend Lithium batteries most as they have the most power, last the longest and don’t care about the cold temperature overnight.
If you want to use rechargeable, then Panasonic Eneloop Pro are the way to go but bear in mind that they have a lower voltage so it means they make the camera a little less sensitive. In some cameras such as the Bushnell above, they may not work at all.
Some cameras such as the Recon Force Edge have a sensitivity setting. It almost goes without saying that if your camera has this, you want it set to the highest option to ensure that no hogs are missed. If you find you get too many triggers or false positives, you can always turn it down after.
Getting the right piece of kit and the setup right means that you can quickly start gathering not only great clips of the nightly spiked dramas on your patch, but also invaluable data on our prickly friends. As more people start to monitor the wildlife in their garden, this data can provide a really valuable insight into hedgehog happens across the UK.
NatureSpy is a non-profit organisation focused on wildlife conservation, engagement and research projects. UK experts in camera trapping, they’re part-funded through their online shop and run projects across the UK and Europe focused on anything from pine martens to European wolves.