Nov 25 2019

Hedgehogs – Back in Fingle Woods Again

Following on from the initial Fingle hedgehog survey, the footprint tunnels have been set out again to find out whether these spiky little mammals are out and about in the woods before they go into hibernation for the winter.

A young hedgehog that has been visiting gardens next to Fingle Woods [photo: Julia Mockett]

 

Back in June, one adult hedgehog was recorded in the woods but, since then, a number of sightings have been reported in the areas around the houses and gardens that neighbour the woods. Some have even been seen crossing roads around Fingle but, across the country, we know the species are in serious decline. Even as the temperature was dropping and the weather was getting more autumnal, one young hedgehog was spotted on several occasions at Willingstone at the edge of Fingle Woods.

Footprint tunnel set up with white paper, ready to record small mammal footprints

 

This survey had been delayed a few weeks and, in early November, the 20 tunnels were set out as the weather was turning quite wintry. The daily routine of replacing paper clips in a bitter wind while sleet and snow fell was becoming tricky with cold fingers but the efforts were worthwhile. The commitment of Fingle’s volunteers never seems to dwindle!

Survey map – locations of 20 footprint tunnels

 

During the survey week, the first few days showed that lots of hungry mice and voles were keen to take some hedgehog food and entered the footprint tunnels regularly. While some of the woodland wildlife is less bold, the hedgehog often seems to take its time and, again, on the very last day of the survey, they showed up. Two of the footprint tunnels in the wood around the Willingstone area were used by hedgehogs. They had taken the bait and left us a few footprints to add to the Fingle wildlife story. While this may not seem like a major achievement, it is good news. Being young hedgehogs means that the hedgehogs are breeding. If they are breeding, we might assume they will need some good habitat to move into and, among the things that hedgehogs need, is a safe place to hide, to avoid predators and to spend the hibernation months in safety. This is where we can help.

Prints from a young hedgehog alongside wood mouse prints

 

A good place to start, and something that is appropriate to woodland conservation is to create log piles and brash heaps. Over the last century, previous forest management has left Fingle with very little deadwood and creating homes for hedgehogs is something we can easily do. The volunteers have already made a start and the forestry contractors will also play their part this winter as they stack the branch wood in habitat heaps. Not only will this provide a protected shelter for our hedgehog friends, but it should increase the places for the insects, slugs and other invertebrates that hedgehogs rely on for food.

Volunteers building brash piles that will provide shelter for a range of woodland wildlife … including hedgehogs [photos: Jill Broom]

Over the next few years we will continue to survey the hedgehogs across the woods with a focus on the areas where we have improved their habitat. This, we hope, will show whether we are making a positive difference to their habitats, and any of the Fingle Woods volunteers are welcome to help. Get in touch with Eleanor Lewis eleanorlewis@woodlandtrust.org.uk and register your interest.

Hedgehogs – how can you help?
Hedgehogs are regularly seen around gardens and we know from other surveys that they can be quite at home there. With the diversity of plants and habitats in a garden a hedgehog can find food and there are various sheds, decking and other structures to hide under. Here’s how you can do your bit at home…
Hedgehog Street

by Matt Parkins

for more information on Fingle please visit https://finglewoods.org.uk/

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