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Video: Satellite tracking for region's hedgehogs

PUBLISHED: 12:06 23 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:06 23 April 2013

Injured and orphaned hedgehogs, which have been cared for and brought back to health by a wildlife charity, are beginning a new life at Aspal Close Local Nature Reserve, Mildenhall. Pictured is Natasha Ennew from Shepreth Wildlife Park.

Injured and orphaned hedgehogs, which have been cared for and brought back to health by a wildlife charity, are beginning a new life at Aspal Close Local Nature Reserve, Mildenhall. Pictured is Natasha Ennew from Shepreth Wildlife Park.

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MINIATURE backpacks fitted with GPS could be strapped to hedgehogs to track their movements in west Suffolk, a charity has said.

Numbers of the prickly mammals have been in sharp decline across the UK due to changes in the countryside, including chemicals used in farming and increased development.

Shepreth Wildlife Conservation Charity (SWCC) revealed the plans to monitor the animals as they released 12 hedgehogs back into the wild at Aspal Close Local Nature Reserve, Beck Row, and West Stow Country Park near Bury St Edmunds.

The project to release hedgehogs at the two sites has been organised by Matt Vernon, Countryside and Open Spaces Officer at Forest Heath District Council, and SWCC, based near Royston, which has run a hedgehog hospital to rehabilitate orphaned, injured, sick or underweight animals for 25 years.

The West Suffolk sites – on land owned and managed by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury Borough Council – are among about a dozen across Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire where 70 hedgehogs will be returned to the wild this spring.

The new arrivals – two males and four females at each site – will be kept in pens at West Stow and Aspal Close and fed and monitored by volunteers for several days while they acclimatise to their new surroundings. They will then be released.

The pens will be screened to protect the mammals from potential predators such as badgers and they will not be on view to the public.

More hedgehogs nurtured back to health at Shepreth are likely to be released in west Suffolk in the autumn and these could be fitted with the GPS ‘backpack’ units to learn more about their survival and breeding rates.

Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital cares for hedgehogs brought in by the public.

The charity has been working with researchers and wildlife vets to create a national database where information about the health and whereabouts of the released hedgehogs can be kept, which will help with future releases.

Matt Vernon said: “We are very pleased to be part of this scientifically-based project to help hedgehog populations. The countryside team is often involved in research projects but this is the first time we have been involved with hedgehogs.

“Our staff and volunteers at Aspal Close and West Stow have been working hard over the past weeks to prepare areas for the new arrivals and we hope the hedgehogs will be able to breed here.”

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