Monday, October 20, 2008

The New Hedgehog book

The New Hedgehog Book, by Pat Morris, is absolutely charming, but also packed with useful information about hedgehogs and what is known about their natural history and behaviour. Until his retirement, Pat Morris was a wildlife researcher and academic, but this is definitely not a coldly scientific view, and readers will be delighted by his evident fondness for his spiky research subjects — to the point of abandoning both clothing and objectivity and diving to the rescue when one of them was in imminent danger of a watery grave. 

Without overwhelming readers with information The Hedgehog book gives enough knowledge to enable them to provide real assistance to any wandering hogs which they may come across. It will also promote understanding of the point at which well-meaning help can turn into something that merely prolongs the process of dying if the would-be rescuer doesn't recognise their limitations.

Some aspects of this popular mammal remain surprisingly mysterious. Create a feeding station for stray cats and you'll end up with lots of cats. This doesn't seem to apply to hedgehogs: you may think there are a lot, but it turns out that you may simply have created a drop-in centre for hedgehogs from an astonishingly large area, rather than increasing the number living in your own garden. Food supply doesn't seem to be the critical limiting factor and we don't really know what is, although there are suspicions that tidier, smaller gardens with more fencing and fewer deciduous trees are bad news. 

The book provides an update on the controversy over hedgehogs on Uist and explains why RSPCA wildlife hospitals (like our local East Winch) place so much emphasis on measuring survival rates of treated animals after release to the wild. Careful follow-up of translocated hedghogs was able to demonstrate it was incorrect that removing hedgehogs and releasing them elsewhere was inhumane, and (to their credit) Scottish Natural Heritage were prepared to change their policy in response to the evidence.

The BBC has a video of another hedgehog tagging survey in action. 

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