SWAN notes

I AM quite busy at the moment but one animal in particular keeps popping up – hedgehogs! The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC) where I work is running a public survey on hedgehogs and I can only assume it is because of that we often get phone calls relating to hedgehog queries.

There has been a slight increase in these recently, including someone wanting to know how to relocate all the hedgehogs that lived in the back garden, and someone else who wanted to buy a hedgehog! For the record TWIC does not sell hedgehogs.

Natalie, TWIC’s Ecologist, has been carrying out a hedgehog survey at Vogrie Country Park in Midlothian where TWIC’s office is. This involves long plastic tunnels with a sheet of A4 paper at each end followed by an ‘ink’ pad and then a clear bit in the middle where bits of hot dog sausages are put as bait. The plan is for the hedgehog to be attracted by the hot dog, walk in and then out across the ink, and leave footprints behind on the paper.

But not just hedgehogs are attracted. Slugs, snails, mice, voles, rats, toads, frogs, badgers and even dogs will investigate the tunnels.

I have also had hedgehogs cropping up at home. In the past fortnight two have turned up dead on the road outside my house. It is a shame but I will be submitting these to the TWIC survey and, although this may sound silly, two dead hedgehogs in the road suggests there is quite a healthy population near my house.

Death on the road is just one threat hedgehogs face. Another one is starvation. Hedgehogs need to double their body weight during the warm months if they are to survive hibernation through winter.

You can help them by putting out food but not bread or milk. Although hedgehogs will eat bread, it swells in the stomach and can cause serious problems, and cow’s milk gives them diarrhoea. The best thing to put out for your garden hedgehog is cat or dog food but only feed them meat flavours, as they do not like fish.

Graeme Wilson