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 the masking tape with the ink. The masking take 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 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.
Every day for the rest of the week, we come back at 10 am to check the tunnels, replace the paper and jot down any observations. We had positive results from 3 of 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. I loved learning how to set up the equipment (footprint tunnels and camera traps), what kind of food to give hedgehogs, how to identify a range of local species based on footprints, and how to identify other signs of hedgehog poo, 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.
Student Hedgehog Ambassador
Cardiff University Hedgehog Friendly Campus