Trail cameras for wildlife watching

How to choose a wildlife trail camera, night camera
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I’ve been thinking about getting a wildlife camera for some time to spy on the night time wildlife in the garden. My recent experience borrowing one and becoming a pet detective made me even more determined. Thanks to an early birthday gift, mine is all set up and working well. Here’s an example of the footage:

I’m not going to write a guide to all the trail cameras out there. I’ve only tried a few and you can find plenty of reviews online but I will give you my top tips here and some of the things I thought about. Mine is an AUCEE hunting camera.

You can get a reasonable trail camera for around £60 online. You will also need batteries and an SD card. I checked out the best reviewed trail cameras on Amazon. Many are very similar and one in this bracket should record both still photos and video footage. I wanted one that also had the following features:

  • Reasonably waterproof to withstand being outdoors for long periods of time. Note that many cameras say that they are splash proof, rather than waterproof.
  • A low glow infra-red camera that would not scare off wildlife and where the sensitivity of the trigger could be changed.
  • Short trigger speed to maximise capture.
  • A decent recording time. Many I looked at in the £60 bracket had a maximum recording length of 1 minute. Mine can be set to record up to 10 minutes. I thought this would be best for recording longer aspects of hedgehog behaviour, such as courtship….

It is worth thinking about the SD card. Mine uses a micro SD card which can be very fiddly to insert and remove. A camera with a standard sized SD card might be better if you are not very dextrous and plan to check the footage regularly.

I am using rechargeable batteries with mine. The camera is pretty power hungry so I’ll need to re-charge them possibly once a week. It takes 8 batteries but apparently if you remove all 8, you have to re-set the timing and date. So I will be recharging 4 at a time….

I asked my wonderful husband to build a pole with a bit of extra rain protection for siting the camera. You could also use a moveable piece of metal trellis – which is easier to insert in the ground and move around the garden.

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My husband mounted the camera on a wooden stake using the belt that it comes with. He also built some extra rain protection onto the stake

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An alternative form of mounting using a piece of metal trellis. An old piece of plastic packaging has been used to provide extra rain protection in this version.

I’m sure many people reading this will have tried other cameras and have other tips and suggestions so I look forward to reading your comments and reviews!

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

The owl that fell down my chimney

Tawny owl who fell down my chimney
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Flashback to the day that this gorgeous Tawny Owl fell down my chimney.

You can imagine my shock when I walked into the lounge and found an owl staring back at me! I wasn’t yet fully awake and it gave me the fright of my life!

We have a modern fireplace but it is open so the owl had managed to find its way all the way down the chimney and into the lounge.

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I imagine something had frightened the owl or it was trying to find a home. It was a young Tawny. Luckily it was completely unharmed and not even dirty from its ordeal.

I keep a strong pair of gloves in the house for picking up hedgehogs and I managed to throw the fleece blanket over the owl to keep it calm, before picking it up with the gloves.

The gorgeous little visitor inspired a range of heart owl jewellery, celebrating one of my favourite creatures.

Silver owl pendant with peridot birthstone pebble thinner chain

Handmade silver heart owl pendant with peridot pebble and green Swarovski crystal

 

Silver owl earrings, sterling owl earrings, silver heart owl earrings by Little Silver Hedgehog

Handmade silver heart owl earrings

You can take a look at my heart owl jewellery here.

After a health check, he returned safely to the wild. I still hear tawny owls calling in the trees outside and wonder if any of them is my little friend who fell down the chimney.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Hedgehog building a nest

Hedgehog friendly fencing
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I love this video of Trevor collecting leaves for his nest.

This is the middle of Winter but hedgehogs often wake up during milder spells for a bite to eat or to move nests.

It shows that hedgehogs will use hedgehog boxes and how important it is not to tidy your garden in winter but to keep all those lovely Autumn leaves for hedgehogs.

Please read my other blogs for information about how to build a hedgehog box and how to site your hedgehog box. I’ve also got lots of tips on wildlife friendly gardening.

You can also see whether there are hedgehogs in your area and who has created hedgehog holes to link their gardens here.

The hedgehog in the video is Trevor. He spent time in my rescue in Summer 2017 due to an infected abscess. He was released back to the wild after a few weeks of treatment and once the abscess was fully healed. It is wonderful to see him so healthy and happy back in the wild. If you are thinking about buying a wildlife camera, you can read my top tips here.

Wild hedgehog abscess

Trevor when he came into my hedgehog hospital

Trevor healed

Trevor just prior to release with his abscess fully healed. You can see from his pink nose that he is probably a couple of years old.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Little Silver Hedgehog – Pet Detective

Pet detective
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I have been wondering since Christmas who has been eating all the food in the hedgehog feeding station. Two full bowls have been disappearing every night.

I went outside to look every night every 15 minutes but, whatever it was, ate all the food in the 15 minutes I wasn’t there…..

Thanks to sharing this story on my facebook page, I was kindly loaned a night camera and identified a very persistent cat. It was visiting every night several times a night. It arrived the same time everyday – around 6pm and was coming back regularly until around 11pm.

Alterations were made to the hedgehog feeding station to keep the cat out. But still the cat kept coming….

My mind wandered to a post I had seen about a cat missing in York. It had escaped from its cat carrier outside the vets. An icy day, the owner was not able to run after it. The cat had been missing for a month. A very distinctive long-haired cat.

I looked back at the videos. Was this the same moggie? It looked fat but its fur was a little matted – was it a stray? The vets is on my side of York but was quite some distance away (1 mile). I’ve never seen such a persistent cat – every attempt to block the hedgehog feeder, it managed to find its way in (apart from my final attempt).

I shared the video on the missing cats page and the owner believed she recognised the cat.

Nights of cat trapping attempts followed. A little tuna in the trap and a blanket over the top from the owner’s house so it smelt of her. The cat managed to get the food without triggering the trap! I started to see the cat sitting on my patio chairs looking back at me, before it scarpered when I went out to check the trap. It was getting bolder.

Finally, with the trap set with the latch only just locking, to make it more sensitive, the cat was trapped and the missing cat found.

So, various morals to this tale.

  • Putting out hedgehog food in the middle of Winter can save other animals. It wasn’t 7 dinner Sid but a cat in need. He ate well whilst he was missing!
  • If you do want to keep cats out, a 4 inch tunnel entrance and long dividing baffle wall inside the hedgehog feeding station works.
  • Missing cats can stray far from home. This boy was about two miles from home and around a mile from where he was lost.
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Map showing how far KitKat had travelled from where he was lost

Very happy with the results of my foray into being a pet detective!

KitKat is now reunited with a very happy owner and I am on a mission to buy my own night camera….

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The found cat inside the trap and a historical photo from his owner

I’m not normally a pet detective. I run a hedgehog rescue in York. I leave food out for the hedgehogs all year, including in Winter. This helps small hedgehogs get up to weight for hibernation. Hedgehogs also wake up during milder spells and go in search of food.

UPDATE – I have now bought my own trail camera and you can read my top tips and advice for wildlife trail cameras here.

You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Wildlife poo identification guide

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Sharing this wonderful page from BBC Wildlife Magazine with its excellent guide to identifying who is leaving poop in your garden.

Garden poo chart

Read this alongside my blog about how to identify hedgehog poo.

Hedgehogs often poo inside or nearby feeding stations in my experience….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Hedgehog ringworm and mange

Ringworm and mange hedgehog
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Ringworm and mange are two of the commonest ailments that I have to treat in the hedgehog hospital. They can make the poor hedgehogs look super ugly and can take weeks, if not months, to cure.

Ringworm and mange hedgehog

Hedgehog with severe ringworm and mange. Ringworm often starts on the nose area and can be the most persistent in this area. He has also lost fur.

Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection. Many hedgehogs will carry this fungus without showing any symptoms. Other illnesses and the stress of captivity can often cause it to develop and it is vital to be constantly vigilant for the signs. A hedgehog that has been doing fine in captivity may suddenly develop ringworm later on.

Ringworm varies in severity from a mild crusting around the nose to large scabbed areas and complete fur and spine loss.

Mange is caused by mange mites which burrow into the skin. It causes a white powder on the skin, often accompanied by fur loss.

Mange mite under microscope

Mange mite under magnification

Ringworm and mange often appear together and I always treat for both simultaneously.

If caught early, the spread of both ringworm and mange can sometimes be stopped. If not, it can take many weeks or months of treatments to clear.

Spine loss ringworm

Spine loss due to ringworm

 

Hedgehog with ringworm and mange

Fur and spine loss due to ringworm and mange. The fur has also been lost from the feet, which would normally be brown.

Identification

Mange mites can sometimes be seen by the naked eye. A skin sample tested under the microscope may also show mange mites. See pic above.

A skin culture may be sent for testing via a vet. This is often required in severe cases, where there may also be other potential skin conditions.

Treatment

There are lots of different treatments available for ringworm and many rescues will select their personally preferred option.

I use an anti-fungal treatment for cattle to bathe the hedgehog, with the frequency varying according to the severity of the condition. Alongside this, I use human athlete’s foot creams, brushed onto the skin gently with a toothbrush. Tea tree cream can also be used effectively in mild cases.

Ringworm treatment video

Mange mites are treated by topical or injected ivermectin, available from a vet.

The treatment can take a long time and it is vital to continually remove crusty flakes to ensure that the treatments can get right down into the deeper layers of the skin. Ringworm can become resistant over time and so I alternate between a number of different treatments.

Eventually, the fur and spines will regrow. I find that they often grow back even thicker than before, leaving a very beautiful hedgehog! You can read Octavia’s story, a hedgehog who recovered from ringworm and mange, here.

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Hedgehog following completion of treatment for ringworm and mange with fur and spines regrown

Ringworm in particular can be very debilitating for a hedgehog, especially if they are also suffering from other illnesses. I add a vitamin supplement with zinc to their diet to assist with the growth of new fur and spines.

It is vital to maintain the highest standards of hygiene throughout treatment. Ringworm and mange can both spread to humans and between hedgehogs in the rescue. Gloves must be worn and washed between hedgehogs. All bedding must be washed separately and any chance of cross-contamination between hedgehogs eliminated. Hutches used for infected hedgehogs must be thoroughly cleaned out following treatment.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

 

Blind hedgehogs – how to tell if a hedgehog is blind

Blind wild hedgehog
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How can you tell if a hedgehog is blind?

I’ve only personally encountered three blind hedgehogs in over six years of hedgehog rescue but I’m often asked this question by other hedgehog rescues.

Sometimes it is obvious that the hedgehog is blind because it will have no eyes at all due to injury or disease. One blind hedgehog had opaque eyes that were tinged blue. It was likely born that way.

With others, it can be less obvious and takes a number of steps and tests to diagnose. Hedgehogs mainly rely on their sense of smell and so they can cope well without one eye and can be released to the wild. This is not the case for a completely blind hedgehog.

Heathcliffe blind hedgehog

Blind hedgehog Heathcliffe walking with his nose high in the air

These are some of the tests that can be used to help diagnose blindness. These should always be undertaken alongside a diagnosis from a vet and working closely with an experienced wildlife rescue.

1.Vet test of the eyes to check pupil reaction to see if they react normally. This check will also look at any abnormalities in the eyes eg cataracts or injury.

2. Setting up an obstacle course to see if the hedgehog is able to easily navigate around obstacles. Heathcliffe (pictured) ran up to walls and bumped into them and was not able to identify shallow steps. Over time, a hedgehog may learn to navigate obstacles as the location becomes familiar so it is important to observe this behaviour early on.

3. Behavioural observations. A blind hedgehog will often come out in the day when it is first released into an outdoor enclosure. Over time they can become accustomed to the difference in temperatures between night and day (enabling them to exhibit more normal nocturnal behaviour) and so it is also important to monitor this from the start of them being placed outdoors.

When I was inexperienced, I released a hedgehog in my garden thinking it was normal. I couldn’t understand why I kept seeing it coming out in daytime, even though it was free of parasites and injuries that might otherwise cause this behaviour. In fact, he was completely blind.

4. Use of the nose and vocalisation. In my experience, blind hedgehogs use their sense of smell more. They may walk with their nose higher in the air – like Heathcliffe (pictured) and may sniff the air more than other hedgehogs. They may also be noisier in their snuffling compared with other hedgehogs – almost like they are using this for echo-location. Of course, this requires a good knowledge of ‘normal’ hedgehog behaviour!

Heathcliffe trying to escape

Heathcliffe trying to find an escape route from his enclosed garden. He is blind but he knows someone is there due to a combination of smell and sound.

So what happens to blind hedgehogs? This is where it gets contentious. The welfare of the animal and laws around captivity of wild animals are, of course, paramount. For this reason, some wildlife rescues will put a blind hedgehog to sleep.

I have released all 3 blind hedgehogs to enclosed gardens. These are sites where I am confident that they will receive a good quality of life and be able to exhibit natural behaviours. They learn their way around the enclosed areas and are able to forage naturally for food, as well as being given supplementary food. Enclosed gardens should not have heavy foliage, such as ivy, growing up the walls. Hedgehogs (even blind ones!) are very good climbers and can climb the foliage and escape.

Hedgehogs can live for many years in captivity and so this care needs to be provided indefinitely.

What would you do?

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about my work and how to support it here.