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Hogs, Camera, Action!

Since registering the University of Chester with the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Campaign in April I have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of support I have had from both staff and student volunteers. This campaign has brought our university together; outdoors as a community during lockdown, getting more involved with wildlife conservation, and also creating project opportunities.

In October 2020, our Welly Wednesdays student team Kaylee Sprigmore and Courtney Smith collaborated with myself and the gardening team to put on a hedgehog house building session on our main campus. This event was so popular that we ran a second session, and we managed to build seven hedgehog houses and get them setup around our main campus. Our gardening team were fantastic and sourced all the materials we needed to build our houses, we even had a professional photographer attend the event.

After collaborations with Dr Nick Fleming in the Department of Biological Sciences, we have decided to go a step further with our hedgehog habitats and have designed a student dissertation project looking at both house and location preferences. The seven houses have been set up in our conservation area and woodland area which are quiet and secluded. Conversely, we have used two other locations close to student halls and university buildings which are a lot busier, giving us the capacity to compare quite diverse habitats. The students in the Welly Wednesdays sessions designed and built both brick houses and log pile houses, one of each type of house has been situated in each location.

Since establishing these hog houses we have also installed camera traps outside each house entrance. These cameras are setup to take both photo and video footage of any wildlife movements around the houses. This footage will provide invaluable data of any hedgehog activity and other wildlife and will eventually be part of an ecological map of the campus. The students will use the data for their project to look at location and house preferences. This data will also be used for Research Methods module projects looking at hedgehog population densities on campus and also hedgehog behaviour.

Our future plans are to use this data to apply for a grant for a PhD, again looking at hedgehog habitat preferences, researching hog populations at a campus level, comparing all campuses. We also want to take this further by identifying our hogs, taking swabs and looking at the genetic profile of individuals. Furthermore, we would like to take droppings and look at parasite burden and general condition of our hedgehogs. We feel that the results of these projects will be invaluable to the preservation of hedgehogs and we really hope that by going this extra mile we can really make a difference.

Rebecca Turner

University of Chester Hedgehog Champion

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