Ugly or Cute?

pencil drawing of hedgehog by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Yes, a neighbour told me that his neighbour had discovered a hedgehog in his garden. What did he do?  Would you believe that he picked up that unfortunate hedgehog, wrapped it in swaddling clothes and brought it out to the Phoenix Park.

We were both horrified. All those snails and slugs in our gardens – that hedgehog could’ve spent weeks tracking them down and devouring them one by one!  I know, I know.  The man’s intentions were good.  He thought he was doing his best for the hedgehog but oh… I just hope that it wasn’t a female with hoglets in her care.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of hedgehog tunnel

So we did a Hedgehog Survey in Harold’s Cross recently.  A citizen science project.  It was led by researchers in NUI Galway and the aim was to gather information on the status of the Irish hedgehog population.

I had a tunnel in my back garden. It had cat food (as bait) in the middle and strips of oily ink on each side of the food and sheets of white paper outside of that. The idea was for the hedgehog to enter the tunnel to get the food, step on the oily ink and leave footprints on the white paper.

photo of Hedgehog footprints for Irish Hedgehog Survey

We had to leave this tunnel out for 5 nights in a row, replenish the bait whenever it was taken and record the footprints, whatever appeared on the paper.

Slugs!  That’s all I recorded the whole week.  Some of the other participants recorded mouse footprints, rat footprints, cat footprints; some had their tunnels dragged away by foxes; some had squirrel visitors but me, I just had slug trails. Not a single little footprint like the sample above.

Their name in Irish, by the way, is: ‘Gráinneog’ which means ‘little ugly one’, but most people think they’re cute, especially the hoglets.  How could you resist the ones below?

Now, according to Google (who doesn’t know everything, by the way), hedgehogs can climb walls. They say that hedgehogs are good climbers and can climb fences, hedges and even small walls.  Climbing almost vertically isn’t a problem although getting back down is difficult for them because of their poor “jumping ability” and they often fall down from fences.  Hmmm.  I always thought that they could climb walls but now, with our survey completed, I might have to change my opinion.  None of them got into our garden in any case, despite the droves of crunchy snails and tempting slugs that were there to be enjoyed for free.

So now, have you seen any hedgehogs recently?  Do you think they’re ugly or cute?  Your comments are always welcome below.




  1. Definitely cute!
    Agus chonaic mise gráinneog ag dreapadóireacht ar bhalla uair amháin… idir an sceach agus an balla…



  2. This is such a clever idea to see what you have visiting in the dark. We have been ridiculously pleased to find a hedgehog visiting the garden this year and worried it would not find food in the drought, have been leaving food down every night. I also searched whether they could climb walls and found the same information but think maybe it is like saying a human can climb, knowing that some are better than others. (I am very Earthbound myself). Having left tinned sardines or tuna, the rind of a steak and gristly pork pieces, I find the hedgehog seems to prefer the meat options, guessing they are more akin to worms? It is so good to hear people are looking after what was once a common garden visitor and is now all too rare. I hope you find more night visitors in the future.


      • Eoin, – You mentioned in your excellent piece that a neighbour of yours had found a hedgehog but unfortunately collected it and released it in Phoenix Park, thinking he was doing it a good turn (he wasn’t). The fact there was one in your area must mean there is a viable population somewhere near you. Putting holes in or under fences gives hedgehogs a major lifeline. The citizen scientists in your area may be in favour of providing ‘hedgehog highways’ to enable hedgehogs move around more easily in the area. If they were all to provide those access points for hedgehogs, the population would grow. You have discussed growing vegetables and fruits in your garden, very successfully, but had to work hard to control the slugs and snails. Hedgehogs would be a big help in controlling those vegetable eaters, so if you could possibly create an opening into your back garden for hedgehogs, it would be really great. I know it may not be possible if your garden walls are thick or deep. But see what you can do anyway, and best of luck. I get hedgehogs here (in Sandyford, Dublin) every summer, but cut a hole in the base of my back garden gate to make sure they could get in. It worked like a charm.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, unfortunately we’re surrounded by gardens with no rear access. The foxes run along the back walls but that would be scary for a hedgehog, I imagine. It would be great to have a ‘hedgehog highway’ but we’ll see about the neighbours…


  3. Eoin, – Hedgehogs do not run along the tops of walls! They cannot climb walls! They can only clamber over low hurdles, maybe two feet high at most. That’s why there is such a huge campaign in Ireland and the Uk to provide ‘hedgehog highways. You did a good thing by participating in the survey in your local area. Judging by your neighbours’ and your own interest in growing veggies in your gardens, I would not be surprised if hedgehogs are restored to your neighbourhood. Best of luck with that. ‘That’s my final comment on this topic, it’s up to you and your neighbourhood community to save your local hedgehogs. It’s no easy matter, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work. On BBC’s SpringWatch, Chris Packham noted that once a population of hedgehogs falls below a certain level in an area, it is doomed to extinction, especially if there are no hedgehog populations near it. This might be the case with the Harold’s Cross population, but don’t give up hope. If someone found one in your area, it means there is probably a surviving population in your neighbourhood. All they need is hedgehog highways to help them get around.


    • Well, thanks for all the info Cóilín, you never know, we might be able to get the highways running through Harold’s Cross again. By the way, I think the hedgehogs could still be wandering along the front gardens, even if they couldn’t manage to get into the back gardens. Anyway, let’s hope for the best! Thanks for the comments, eoin


      • Unfortunately, front gardens are generally less useful to hedgeghogs, as they are frequently tarmacadammed for car parking. But let’s hope your local hedgehogs will find some gardens of use to them, with lawns and plenty of slug life.


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