I have just met a team straight out of the Crime Scenes Investigator series that is begging to be made – CSI Hedgehog.
How did that hedgehog die?
For most of us, the only sight we get of a dead hedgehog is flat on the road. The staple of many jokes …
Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To see its flat mate.
Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To show he had guts.
Why did the hedgehog cross the road, jump up and down in a muddy puddle and return to the same side? Because it was a dirty double crossing hedgehog.
Already we have been learning so much thanks to these sacrifices to our need for speed – it is one of the most reliable techniques for assessing presence and absence of hedgehogs in an area. And when repeated, year after year, as it is with the Mammals on Roads project run by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, it can give us an idea of how populations of hedgehogs are fluctuating. It does not tell us how many there are, but it does tell us if they are increasing or decreasing, as there has yet to be any evidence of hedgehogs learning to avoid cars.
But now there is another way in which unfortunate corpses can assist our understanding of the wonderful world of the hedgehog.
The team of Crime Scenes Investigators will be on hand to undertake meticulous studies of the insides of hedgehogs that have been found dead in people’s gardens. These animals will be a ‘silent witness’ to the environment in which they lived. The experts, Katie Conville, Becki Lawson along with team leader Andrew Cunningham, from the Zoological Society of London, will try and work out not just what killed the animal, but also what sub-lethal effects were at play.
Parasitology, virology and bacteriology will all help to uncover the infectious diseases that have left the hedgehogs ill at ease. And they will also, when there is evidence to warrant, investigate what manmade chemicals might be lurking, undermining the health of our slug-munching friends.
This is not just about the fate of individual hedgehogs – there is also the potential to uncover what has been causing the decline in hedgehog numbers around the UK. This sort of work has already uncovered the cause of the mass mortality of greenfinches, as well as uncover the truth behind frog deaths and cetacean strandings.
But, as ever, there is an issue of money – so if anyone is reading this and feels particularly flush, drop a line to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (or remember them in your will) – and maybe we can have our very own CSI hedgehog!!