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Campus Hedgehog Surveys

April 27, 2022
Kamila Wernik, Student Hedgehog Ambassador at Cardiff University

I was excited to get involved in conducting hedgehog footprint surveys at Cardiff University. It was an opportunity to check whether the work we have been doing as part of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign has been effective.

We were expecting there to be signs of hedgehogs in that area due to results from previous surveys conducted last year. After making the ink by mixing charcoal powder and vegetable oil, it was time to assemble the mammal footprint tunnels. We added two pieces of A4 paper on either end of the plastic insert that will go inside the tunnel and secured them with paper clips. We added several inches of masking tape to cover the inner portion of the insert and then covered them asking tape with the ink.

The tracking plate includes bait (meaty pet food), ink pads and fresh A4 paper.

The masking tape lets us easily see if the ink will need to be reapplied each morning as well as keeps the insert clean. Then we taped down lids from jars and plastic pots to the middle of the insert to serve as small shallow food bowls. Once secure, we filled the food bowls with hedgehog food. Then we slotted the insert inside the footprint tunnels.

We use a non-toxic wildlife friendly ink mixture to track the prints.

We labelled the footprint tunnels with an identifier (numbers from 1 to 10) and a sign clarifying their purpose. We placed five tunnels in the area we surveyed. The tunnels were placed equally apart by the brick wall, along hedgerows, under a tree canopy, and next to the log pile. Using metal pegs, we pinned the tunnels down and noted their coordinates using Gaia GPS so we can keep track of hedgehogs across campus. We also set up a trail camera facing the log pile where we think hedgehogs are residing.

We put the tunnels against an edge, such as a fence or wall, where hedgehogs are most likely to be found.

Everyday for the rest of the week, we came back at 10 am to check the tunnels, replace the paper and jot down any observations. We had positive results from 3of our tunnels. The tunnel next to the log pile had consistently positive results all week. The other two had 1-2 positive results throughout the week. We also captured trails left by rats, birds, and snails.

Hedgehog paw prints look like small hand prints with 4 fingers.

I loved learning how to set up the equipment (footprint tunnels and camera traps), what kind of food to give hedgehogs (meaty cat or dog food), how to identify a range of local species based on footprints, and how to identify other signs of hedgehogs including poo and spines. It was fun feeling like I am part of a community by coming back to check every day and see what has been happening overnight.

The survey team at Cardiff University.

Want to get involved in a hedgehog survey on your campus? Email Jo at info@hedgehogfriendlycampus.co.uk.