Even though they have spikes, hedgehogs are still cute! They resemble a porcupine with their coat of spines, and curl up into a spiky little ball whenever they feel threatened or scared. Certainly not the animal you would want to cuddle up with at the end of the day!
In England, the hedgehog population is declining. Efforts are underway to restore it, thanks to places like Shepreth Wildlife Park in Cambridgeshire. The park takes in sick or injured hedgehogs in order to care for them until they are healthy again, at which point they are returned to the wild. But will they survive once released?
Find Out With GPS Tracker Backpacks
One way to find out is to release a pack of hedgehogs with GPS tracker backpacks. 24 of the hedgehogs the wildlife park has rehabilitated will be released with GPS trackers worn just like a backpack, weighing a mere 1.8 oz. But how do you get the tracker onto the hedgehogs back? Don’t the spines complicate things?
Not after a “quick trim!” Since you can’t shave the area of spines (it is nothing like hair, after all), researchers will clip away a section of spines measuring an inch square. The GPS tracker backpack will then be glued in place, and all before the anesthesia wears off! In a few months, the device will fall off as the animal sheds its coat of spikes, which takes place naturally a few months from now.
Researchers will monitor the movements of the hedgehogs 24 hours each day via computer. They want to see how long the rehabilitated animal survives after being released, if it reproduces, and if rehabilitating the animals is making any difference at all in terms of boosting the population.
They’ll use the data they collect to determine the best spots to release rehabilitated hedgehogs in the future, and the best way to go about releasing them. They’re letting them go in numerous places in the area as a test: Shepreth on the border of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, West Stow and Beck Row in Suffolk, and Ely in Cambridgeshire.
They also want to take a look at how the animal behaves when it is released back into the wild. Is there a specific weight the animal should be when it is released for hibernation purposes? Are the animals even going into hibernation as they should?
Preparations Already Underway
To get them ready for the big day (which is actually slated for tomorrow), researchers have set up special pre-release pens outdoors which prepare the animals for constant outdoor living.
Another important precaution researchers have taken: they monitored the hedgehogs for two weeks, 24 hours a day, with the GPS trackers on their backs to see how they reacted to the devices. You don’t want to send a hedgehog on its way with a GPS tracker that ends up driving it nuts, and causes it to die prematurely!
If an animal is detected to be stationary for a certain period of time, a researcher will be on the job, tracking it down to ensure it hasn’t died. Each animal has its own volunteer researcher keeping an eye on its movements to ensure swift response.
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Photo by www.thegoodlifefrance.com via Flickr Creative Commons