Now that hibernation time has truly ended for our prickly friends, they will be out and about feverishly foraging for food to build up their strength after a long wintery sleep and looking for a mate.
If you want to do something to help hedgehogs, the best thing you can do is make sure there are gaps in or under your garden fences and gates to allow them to forage for food in your garden and keep off the roads as much as possible. They only need a hole 13cm in diameter. If you don’t have any gaps, you could think about making a hole, especially for them. There are lots of creative ideas on different types of holes on www.hedgehogstreet.co.uk.
If you already have gaps in your garden fences that you think are big enough for hedgehogs, you could make a footprint tunnel to find out if you are getting hedgehogs in your garden. This is a small structure you place outdoors to record the tracks of small animals using a small amount of bait, paper and animal friendly ink.
How to Make a Hedgehog Footprint Tunnel
You will need:
A large cardboard box or sheet of thick cardboard (approx. 90cm and 80cm wide)
A shallow dish
Activated carbon powder (£3.99 on Amazon)
Bait (wet or dry cat/dog food)
1. To make the tunnel, fold the cardboard into three equal sections lengthways. It might help to roughly measure and mark lines in pencil, then score the cardboard with a blunt edge first.
2. Cut two pieces of paper to fit the width of the middle section of your cardboard. Use masking tape to secure them at both ends of the cardboard.
3. Secure a shallow dish to the centre of the cardboard with masking tape. Place some bait on the tray.
4. Fill the spaces between the paper and bait tray with masking tape strips – these will serve as the ink pads.
5. In a bowl, combine one spoon of carbon powder with one spoon of vegetable oil and mix well. Paint the mixture liberally onto the masking tape between the bait tray and the sheets of paper.
6. Fold up the sides of the cardboard to create a triangular structure. Make holes at the top of the cardboard flaps and use the string to tie the tunnel together.
7. Put the tunnel in a sheltered spot outdoors, in a quiet area so that any animals using it won't be disturbed by people, and leave it in place for up to one week, checking for ink tracks on the paper every day. If the weather looks wet, you can cover the tunnel with a black bin bag, making sure not to cover the openings at each end. If you have pets, such as a cat or dog, it's best to place the tunnel in an area that they can't access but small animals can, or only place the tunnel outside when pets are indoors. It will be hard to avoid cats getting into the tunnel, but you could try placing a brick partially across both openings to make it too small for cats to get in.
8. Next, identify what made the tracks on the paper. Photograph the footprints using a ruler to show their size, then use books or online resources to narrow down which animals the tracks belong to.
9. Reset your tunnel in a new location, replace the paper and top up the ink and bait tray.
Credit for photos and content: Natural History Museum