A survey kit is  the first step in monitoring your school hedgehog population. Tunnels when used correctly during active times for hedgehogs (between April and October in the UK) can confirm in a statistically robust way, the presence or absence of hedgehogs. They cannot, however, quantify the number of hedgehogs within the site (you may have several hedgehogs that could visit your tunnel once, or one could visit several times). Hedgehogs have been named as the most popular wild animal in Britain. They may be a nation’s favourite, but numbers of our prickly friends are in steep decline. Unless something is done, our beloved woodland favourite could be lost from the wild in the UK within 10 years.

Hedgehogs can be difficult to spot. They are nocturnal and shy by nature, so survey kits are an ideal, non-intrusive way to track their whereabouts. Besides being a good way to monitor your small mammal population, they are also lots of fun! It’s very exciting to check your tunnel in the morning, and by comparing footprints to the supplied chart, you can work out who has been! Your children will love ‘playing detective’. You will be supplied with a safe ink that will not cause any problems for your target species. We can also provide you with small quantities of food which should be placed in the centre of your tunnel to entice the animals to walk through. In order to have an accurate representation, tunnels should be placed lengthways along boundaries, fences, walls, as this is where hedgehogs are most likely to frequent. The tunnel entrance should be in direct contact with the ground. The food, ink and paper should be replaced daily, and tunnels should be put back before dusk each day so as to cause minimal disturbance. Your tunnel will come with stickers on the outside, so that if people see it, they hopefully won’t touch or disturb it.

Using your footprint tunnel should be quite straightforward, and we are happy to help you to set it up.

Set up

Your tunnel will arrive ‘flat packed’ and merely needs clipping together by lining up the tabs with the holes. Before putting your tunnel together, however, it is easiest to prepare the base. First, take the ‘base plate’ (The double laminated sheet with #amazingGrace www.gracethehedgehog.co.uk written on it), and fix it securely to the centre of the base with masking tape.  Next, add your footprint paper to each side as pictured, secure with paperclips on the outside edges, and secure the middle edges with a thick strip of masking tape. The tape will hold your ink mixture.

 

Carefully put your tunnel together, placing the tabs in the holes lined up with it, to form a triangular prism shape.Then make up your ink mixture by taking a small amount of powder into a milk bottle lid or similar and add vegetable oil in a 1 part powder : 2 parts oil ratio (wear gloves). Mix carefully until a thick liquid ink is produced. Smear this onto both pieces of your tape using a paintbrush or a gloved finger. This is where the mammal will tread and coat the base of the paws in ink (the ink is safe for wildlife and will not injure the mammal even if licked)

Place your tunnel in your desired location just before dusk if possible. Tunnels should ideally run lengthwise along a boundary such as fence or wall, but if this isn’t possible, its best along the edge of a grassed area adjacent to vegetation such as flowers or bushes.

 

Once you are happy with the position, fill a jam jar lid with the hedgehog food supplied. Gently slide the lid into the tunnel until it reaches your #amazingGrace base plate, and leave overnight. It is best to remove the tunnel and check your results early in the morning during daylight. Please don’t feel disheartened if you haven’t received a visitor your first night, continue with the same routine for five nights. In schools, it’s probably best to start your surveying on a Monday night, unless you are a boarding school who will have access to the tunnel over a weekend.

There may potentially be a few teething problems, as outlined below:

Potential problems and how to solve them

 

Potential problem       What to do

Sheets eaten or damaged by slugs - If weather is wet, remove paper and check tunnels as early as possible

Tunnels blown away by the wind - Secure tunnels using tent pegs or similar

Tunnels stolen or defaced - Shouldn’t happen if whole school are aware of what you are doing, the school is secure and stickers are in place on the tunnel.

Tunnels are damaged by other wildlife - Unlikely. Pegging down should hopefully help

No fences or other linear features in survey area - Place tunnel in an area where there is a change in vegetation type eg on a grass/flower bed border


Results

Now’s the fun bit! On removing your paper in the morning, there will hopefully be evidence of tracks. These can be compared to the chart provided to get an idea of which species has visited. You can design your own table to record your results, or use the one we provide below, depending on your needs and the ages and stages of the children doing the survey.

 

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