Ever since she was a biology student, Sophie Lund Rasmussen has always been fascinated by this spiny nocturnal animal.
She's nicknamed 'Doctor Hedgehog' – and rightly so, many would say. Sophie Lund Rasmussen, a hedgehog researcher at the University of Oxford and Aalborg, is the only hedgehog specialist in Denmark, and she has dedicated her life to studying this little animal. She has always been fascinated by this spiny nocturnal animal. Ever since she was a biology student and volunteered at a wildlife care station, bottle-feeding orphaned young hedgehogs, the animal has always held a special place in her heart. "I've always loved hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are fantastic, and Danes love them too. They're quite distinctive with their spines, everyone recognizes them. They're so cute as they walk through the garden," says Sophie Lund Rasmussen.
She currently has 14 freezers filled with the bodies of hedgehogs that people have sent her since 2016 for her research project The Danish Hedgehog Project. Since 2016 she has encouraged Danes to round up dead hedgehogs for her research, and last Saturday she launched a new national campaign with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The campaign aims to encourage Danes to count hedgehogs once a year and record the results on a website.
The first count took place last Saturday and, according to Sophie Lund Rasmussen, was a big success – so big that her site was taken down due to massive Dane engagement, she tells Danish broadcaster TV 2 "It was unbelievable how many people visited the site. The system just couldn't keep up," Sophie Lund Rasmussen said. "Over the years, she's made several interesting discoveries about hedgehogs, including studying the many specimens sent.
Sophie Lund Rasmussen hopes the new campaign will help map hedgehog movements and estimate their numbers in Denmark. “We need to get hard data on the status of the hedgehog population here, so we can better target our conservation efforts,” she says.
It is still too early to talk about the results of the count. Since Saturday, she and her team have been working to collect the results and get the site back online. "The Danes have shown great interest, so I'm sure we'll get some useful results," says Sophie Lund Rasmussen.
Hedgehogs are active at night, so the best time to see them is around dusk, says Sophie Lund Rasmussen.
The results of the count will be announced on Thursday.
She if you too want to make your garden friendly to hedgehogs here are some things to do:
- Avoid using pesticides, poisons and other harmful chemicals in the garden. - Check bushes, hedges and compost heaps for hedgehogs before you start gardening. - Create a corner wild in the garden with piles of plant waste, leaves or tree trunks. - Make a hole in the fence to allow the hedgehogs to move freely between the gardens. - Provide water and supplement the hedgehog diet by putting cat food in the garden.