National Hedgehog Survey FAQs

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For an overview of the survey please go back to our main National Hedgehog Survey page.

1. Who should I contact if I want take part or have any questions?

If you would like to get involved, or have any questions about the survey, please contact the survey coordinator Emily Thomas by emailing hedgehogsurvey@ptes.org.

2. What time commitment is required?

Each square will take six days to complete. The first day will involve obtaining permission from the landowner(s) and putting the tunnels out; the next five days will involve checking every tunnel every day. Checking the tunnels each day will take approximately one hour per site plus travel time.

3. Can I survey more than one site?

You can survey more than one site, but this will obviously require more of your time. However, the sites can be surveyed any time between May and September, so you could stagger surveying two or more sites across the summer period.

4. Can I choose my own survey site?

No, unfortunately not. We have designated sites across England and Wales that need to be surveyed because these are associated with key information on badger density from another survey. In addition, we need to survey sites “randomly” so that people do not, for example, select sites where they know hedgehogs are present. When you volunteer to take part, we will use your post code to allocate the survey square closest to you.

5. Will I be reimbursed for my time and expenses?

Unfortunately we are not able to reimburse any expenses you incur. We will provide all equipment needed to conduct the survey so the main expense will be travel to/from the survey site, and your time.

6. Where do I get all the necessary equipment from?

We will provide you with all the equipment needed to survey your allocated site. There are a number of regional coordinators spread across England and Wales, and we will put you in touch with the nearest person so that you can arrange collection of the equipment at a convenient time.

7. What do you hope to find out with the survey?

We are looking to gain a better understanding of where hedgehogs can be found at the current time and to identify factors associated with their presence / absence, such as habitat features, land management practices and badgers. The study will also provide a baseline of hedgehog occupancy against which future changes can be measured.

8. Why is the study not being conducted in Scotland?

The study is not being conducted in Scotland because the survey squares in England and Wales are associated with up-to-date information on badger density.

9. Why are you using footprint tunnels rather than counting hedgehogs directly?

Previous studies which have attempted to count hedgehogs directly have shown that it is very easy to miss hedgehogs, especially when they are present at very low densities. Footprint-tunnels offer a number of advantages over this other approach. First, our pilot study has shown that foot-print tunnels set for a period of five days have a very high probability of detecting hedgehogs when they are present; this means that the data will not be complicated by what are known as “false absences” (a failure to detect a species even though it is present). Second, the technique works well in a range of habitats, even those where, for example, it would be difficult to find hedgehogs using a torch at night. Third, the tunnels can be used to monitor e.g. individual farms, which is the scale at which some land management practices are likely to vary. Fourth, all surveying can be done during the day.

10. Do the tunnels show the abundance of hedgehogs or just presence / absence?

The tunnels will only be used to analyse the presence / absence of hedgehogs; using a new statistical analytical procedure (occupancy analysis). Using the findings from this study we will be able to extrapolate and estimate how much of the UK is occupied by hedgehogs and to identify those factors influencing their presence. That being said, some provisional work does suggest that there is a relationship between hedgehog numbers and tunnel visitation rates, but this relationship is quite variable.

11. What should I do if I can’t find the landowner/can’t get their permission?

Please contact the survey coordinator if you are having problems with the landowners in your square, to get advice or be reassigned to a different survey square.

12. Do I have to check the tunnels every day?

Yes. You need to check the tunnels every day for five continuous days to check for any prints and replenish the bait, ink and paper as required. The pilot study has shown that checking the tunnels for five days gives us more than a 99% chance of detecting hedgehogs at a site if they are present. Plus we need to make sure that volunteers use a standard protocol so that we can analyse the data correctly for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

13. Do I need to set ten tunnels?

Yes. It is important that all volunteers use exactly the same protocol so that the results for different sites can be compared directly. Plus we need to make sure that volunteers use a standard protocol so that we can analyse the data correctly for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

14. Is there a certain time of day that I have to check the tunnels?

No. You can go at a time that suits you and / or the land owner.

15. Does it matter if I put the tunnels out / check the tunnels when it’s raining?

No. The tunnels will work in any weather.

16. How often should I replace the ink?

The ink only needs to be replenished if it is dry or has run out. As long as there is enough ink to leave footprints, you can leave it alone (you can test this by dabbing your finger in the ink: but, be warned, this is quite messy!).

17. What should I do if I can’t identify the prints from my tunnel?

That’s fine; just record on the results sheet provided that you were unable to identify the footprints. As you will be returning ALL the footprint papers for verification purposes anyway, we will have a look and identify them for you.

18. Will the tunnels get eaten / attacked by dogs and badgers?

There is a possibility that animals may decide to chew / move the tunnels; don’t worry too much about this. The animals most likely to damage or move the tunnels are livestock (especially cows) and other people. Therefore, we advise that you do not place the tunnel in a position where it is likely to be found by either.
If the tunnel is broken so it can no longer be used or is lost, make a note on the record sheet. Most emergency repairs to the tunnel can be made with duct tape, which is available from any DIY store. If the tunnel has been crushed, we have used a simple splint made of wood or plastic running up the inside of the side wall(s) from the base to the apex to return the tunnel to the right shape!

19. Do I need to pin the tunnels down?

No, the tunnels should stay in place on their own. If it is particularly windy or you are worried for any reason then you are welcome to secure them.

20. Something is destroying the paper without leaving footprints?

Slugs often chew and damage the paper, but in most cases this should not stop the footprints from being recorded. However, if the paper is very damaged when you check the tunnels, then swap it for a new sheet.

21. How often should I replace the paper?

You should only replace the paper if it has footprints on (from any species), is very wet or is very damaged or torn.

22. Should I put a sign on the tunnels if I am using them in an area which can be accessed by the general public?

You can put a sign on the tunnels if you are worried that they might be tampered with, although we would recommend placing the tunnel somewhere else if at all possible. Download example sign.

23. I have already done a hedgehog footprint survey for The Mammal Society – is this a different project?

Yes. The one for The Mammal Society was a pilot study to check if the protocol worked. The current study aims to gain a better understanding of where hedgehogs can be found at the current time and to identify factors associated with their presence / absence, such as habitat features, land management practices and badgers.

24. What do I do if I encounter a sick or injured hedgehog?

The chances of encountering a live hedgehog are very slim because you will be surveying during the day. However, if you do find a hedgehog out during the day, you should take them to a vet or hedgehog rehabilitator in the local area as soon as you can. Contact details for your local hedgehog rehabilitator can be obtained from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801. They will also be able to give advice on what to do if you find one. The BHPS website has lots of information about looking after sick or injured hedgehogs.

25. What do I need to return at the end of the survey?

At the end of the survey, you will need to return (a) all the tunnels and other equipment to your regional coordinator and (b) your survey record form and all footprints to the survey coordinator Emily Thomas, please see handbook for contact details when returning forms.

26. Do you have any health and safety guidelines?

Please read the PTES health and safety guidelines for volunteers.

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