Heritage Week

Heritage week is a great way to get together and learn more about the natural heritage on our doorsteps. We were lucky to have Zoologist of NUI Galway, Elaine O’Riordan, come to Fota Education Centre to discuss her research on hedgehogs.

Citizen Science and the Irish Hedgehog Survey 2022

Hedgehog sitting in the grass
Image Source: Alexas Fotos on Unsplash

Elaine is gathering information from citizen science to try and map out the places where hedgehogs are present and their occurrence in different habitats. The research looks at the distribution, density, and abundance of hedgehogs in different habitat types. Anyone can take part in the Irish Hedgehog Survey 2022 that runs until the end of September. You can take part in the project by recording hedgehogs wherever you see them or by conducting a hedgehog survey in your garden or local area. There are no special skills required to take part and any interested individuals and groups are welcome to volunteer.

Key hedgehog tips

Elaine shared some key bits of information on the lifestyle of hedgehogs, did you know that;

  • Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, which means hedgehog tunnels that are used to find out if a hedgehog is in the area, have to stay for 7 nights. 
  • Hedgehogs are insectivores, and love worms, caterpillars, beetles and even snails. They also love cat food, which can be easily used in hedgehog tunnels for the hedgehog survey.
  • Hedgehogs hibernate in winter. They wake up for the mating season in April/May and will have babies in June/July, called hoglets.
  • An adult hedgehog has around 5000 spines—ouch! Which means cats mostly leave them alone. Baby hoglets have a thin skin around their spines which are white, to protect the mother. 
  • Hedgehogs can’t swim for long. If you have a pond in your garden, make sure to have a shallow space or plank to allow any fallen hedgehogs to come back out.

Survey participation

Here are three ways in which people can take part in the survey.

  1. If you spot a hedgehog in your garden or on the side of the road, you can simply connect to Irish Hedgehog Survey 2022 and fill in the form, even if the hedgehog is sadly no longer alive.
  2. If you suspect that a hedgehog might be in the area, you can use a Hedgehog tunnel. See detailed information on how to do a garden survey here. It only requires a few simple tools and can be easily done with children. Elaine encourages everyone to use recycled material, such as advertisements found around bollards at petrol stations.

If you have a group of enthusiasts, you can organise a local area survey by setting up 10 hedgehog tunnels in a 1km square area for 5 days, see information here.

Images: Elaine O’Riordan presenting at Fota Education Centre for Heritage Week 2022.

The survey is supported and co-funded by the Heritage and Biodiversity Officers in the County Councils of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Kilkenny, Dun Laoghaire, Rathdown, Dublin City, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Ulster Wildlife are facilitating the survey in Northern Ireland.

Further information can be found on the website www.Irishhedgehogsurvey.com

Thank you again to Elaine for the great talk and for everyone who participated and asked questions and shared their own hedgehog stories!

By Kelly Cotel