The movements of Ipswich hedgehogs - where do they go?

Ali North

For the past two years our spring field seasons have been jam packed with night time street patrols, hedgehog health checks, radio-tracking, daytime nest searches and camera installations abound!

The reason for these spring time antics? We were, of course, spending our nights (and days!) tracking the hedgehogs of Ipswich. By assisting Nottingham Trent University and PhD student Jessica Schaus in validating a method of estimating hedgehog population density - the Random Encounter Model- we were also gleaning insights into the night time activities of our elusive hogs. The research is being funded by People's Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society, with the National Lottery Heritage Fund supporting our field work efforts in Ipswich.

Nottingham Trent University video by PhD student Jessica Schaus. Research funded by PTES and BHPS with Ipswich field work supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In 2017 our study site was a 0.6km2 area in the North West of Ipswich (encompassing an area between Norwich Road and the river Gipping). By attaching small GPS tags onto hedgehogs (read more about our night work here) we were able to gain insights into their nightly activities. You can see the ticking clock in the map above and the appearance of new hedgehogs as we attached the GPS devices. Although we can't generalise with such a small sample size, you can see that the females are fairly restricted in their movements, and seem to change nesting sites less, compared to the male. This is pretty typical behaviour - males will be travelling far and wide in search of mates, whilst females will be more interested in scouting out sites to build nests to rear her young.

Nottingham Trent University video by PhD student Jessica Schaus. Research funded by PTES and BHPS with Ipswich field work supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In 2018 our study site was in the North East of Ipswich between Colchester Road and Humberdoucy Lane. This area was slightly larger than last years site (0.7km2 compared to 0.6km2) and had much more public green space, variation in private garden size and density of housing.

This year we obtained data from 6 hedgehogs (all males this time bar one female) and you can see their nightly activities above. You can see that Male 1 is very restricted in his movements which seems quite unusual (attracted to the local food bowls perhaps) and just to make things awkward he moved from his very reliable nesting site the day before we wanted to retrieve his tag. Thankfully he hadn't gone far and we soon found him safely nestled under a very deep heap of logs, ivy and corrugated iron.

My favourite hedgehog to watch here is 'Male 2', or as we liked to refer to him, 'Adventure Hog'. As you can see he was not afraid of exploring - you can read about our own adventures tracking this chap in my previous post here.

These maps are great at demonstrating how many gardens hedgehogs can access in just one night, and really stresses the importance of garden connectivity. The easiest action to aid hedgehogs free and safe movement across an urban landscape is through the creation of hedgehog-sized fence holes in garden fences. By working together with neighbours to link up whole streets of gardens in this way, 'Hedgehog Highways' will provide access to important nesting and feeding habitat. Do you already have a hedgehog-sized fence hole? Log your Hedgehog Highway, and other hedgehog-friendly garden features on our online map, here.