We repeat our study every year to find out more about hedgehog activity and population trends. Technology plays a huge part in our research methods.
Our survey in 2014 was the first hedgehog research project of its kind in the Royal Parks.
The intensive two weeks of fieldwork confirmed the presence of a small and vulnerable hedgehog population. Since then we’ve headed back to The Regent’s Park twice a year with enhanced survey techniques, to repeat the study and find out more about hedgehog activity and population trends.
The first phase of our fieldwork took place in The Regent's Park in May and September 2014. We’ve repeated the survey at the same time every year since then - before and after the breeding season.
The aims of the survey are to find out:
- How many hedgehogs are in the park
- Which areas of the park they forage in
- What habitats they rely on for nesting
- More about their behaviour during their night-time excursions
- How isolated this population in The Regent’s Park really is
We divide the park into eight zones and teams of volunteers search each zone, including London Zoo and Primrose Hill. We want to gather as much information as possible about the hedgehogs and so we have used a variety of different survey techniques over the years.
Technology plays a huge part in the study, including the use of thermal imaging cameras (a rarity in this type of project) which enables us to detect animals in short grass at a distance of up to 60-70m and observe their natural behaviour without any disturbance. We’ve also carried out radio tagging and GPS tracking to determine their nesting and feeding preferences, and a DNA analysis of the hedgehogs’ spines to find out more about the genetic make-up of the population.
In 2014 and 2015 a handful of hedgehogs were fitted with a lightweight radiotag which they wore for one week. This enabled the team to locate the animal each night using a handheld aerial and observe its movements from a distance without disturbing it.
The same select hedgehogs were also fitted with a tiny bespoke GPS device for a week which recorded a satellite fix of their location every 10 minutes. All the data collected was downloaded onto a computer mapping system at the end of the week, once the device had been removed from the hedgehog.
On the first and last day of each survey week, volunteers use specialised LED torches to search the long grass, hedgerows, flowerbeds and parkland for hedgehogs.
Thermal imaging cameras are a fantastic detection and observation tool in short grass areas, enabling teams to detect hedgehogs more effectively and record their natural behaviour with minimal disturbance.
These are baited polythene tunnels which attract the hedgehog. As they walk through the tunnel, they step on an ink pad and leave footprints on a sheet of paper. In 2014, this detection method didn’t prove effective in our study, for reasons not quite understood, and the method hasn’t been repeated since.
These special night time video cameras were fixed to low tree branches pointing towards the footprint tunnels. They were activated by movement nearby.
Questionnaires were delivered to 4,000 businesses and houses surrounding The Regent’s Park in 2015 to try and establish whether this is an isolated population. 321 responses were received (8%).
Help the hedgehogs
There are lots of ways you can help support the hedgehogs in The Regent’s Park. You could adopt a hedgehog, volunteer as a ‘Hedgehog Hero’ and there are things you can do when you’re out and about in the park.