After taking care of Eric, our autumn orphan last winter, I decided this year I would keep a close watch on the hedgehogs that come and go through our little woodland and garden. I knew we had a few regular hedgehogs visiting but never did I realise how many until I started monitoring them. Keeping an eye on them I can make sure that none suffer from injuries without help; I can keep track of their weight in the run up to winter and hibernation time; and I was curious as to exactly how many hedgehogs visited our little corner of this beautiful island.
I had read, on the internet, that an easy way to keep track of them, and one that was the least stressful to the hedgehog (which is the most important criteria after all), is to paint a tiny amount of coloured nail varnish on the tips of their quills. It doesn’t last that long, although the turquoise shade that I painted on Stellan lasted from March until I gave it a new coat. That’s a good advert for Rimmel nail varnish right there folks! So from early this summer, I have set out around midnight every few nights, with a kit bag, a cat carrier and a torch, and sometimes Steve or one of my daughters, and we go hedgehog hunting. I know their favourite haunts, even if they aren’t at the feeding stations.
I work really quickly and quietly, and although hedgehogs can run at a fair old pace if they want to, they tend to stay very still when approached. I gently roll them onto their backs and they curl up tightly into a ball. If they don’t, then I know that there is something wrong and they could be injured, as was the case with Stellan a few weeks back. Then they get put into the cat carrier and brought indoors so I can have a look at them. A hedgehog that cannot curl up tightly is vulnerable to predators. If they curl up tightly, then I mark them with a few strokes of brightly coloured nail varnish on the quills on their rear end and pop them onto the weighing scales (already in the kit bag 😀 ) and take a photo making sure that I get the coloured quills and the weight in the same shot. Then they are put back in the same place as they were found and we move on. Usually, from start to finish, it takes less than two minutes.
When I next go on my hedgehog hunt and I see a hog, I shine a torch at their rear end and if I see a colour, then I know who it is, say ‘Hi’ and move on. I passed Stellan in the woods last night when I was on my way to look for more hedgehogs to mark. It’s reassuring to know that he is still around. I found another unmarked hedgehog: a large one, who weighed in at 934g and I have called Prickles. He or she has baby pink tips to their quills 🙂
The tally so far of marked hedgehogs is 7. And here are the usual suspects…
Worryingly though, Sunny, Jessie, Eric and Jaffa haven’t been seen in a few weeks. Fingers crossed it is just because they haven’t been in the woods at the same time as I have at night. As much as I love hedgehogs, I am not staying up ALL night long to check on them! 😀
My neighbour and friend keeps watch for hedgehogs, too, but as yet all the hogs that visit her garden don’t have any coloured quills. So between us, in our tiny little corner of Anglesey, we have a fair few hedgehogs! I wonder what the actual count is.