17 Mar 2023

The time has come for yet another year of Hedgehog Watch, and we want you to be involved!

Over the past two years, hundreds of families and communities in Cheshire have come together to map Chester’s hedgehogs and other wildlife in one of the biggest citizen science projects of its kind in the UK. As the project reaches its third year, we’re looking for Chester residents to borrow a camera trap and join our exciting initiative to discover what wildlife’s in your garden!

Hedgehogs are one of the UK’s most treasured wild animals, but their numbers have been rapidly declining in recent years.

In fact, the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report states that rural hedgehog populations have declined in number by over 75% since 2002. Our hedgehog heroes are on a mission to help reverse this by recording sightings and signs across Chester and placing camera traps in their gardens to give us vital insights into the secret lives of the city’s hogs and other wildlife!

Kelly Hitchcock, a Chester Zoo Conservation Scholar and PhD student from Nottingham Trent University, will then use these citizen science data to predict where hedgehogs, foxes, and badgers are found and how they spend their time. This key information can then be used to inform conservation efforts to protect these charismatic mammals and green spaces in Chester, such as by identifying small-scale garden features that encourage and support hedgehogs and other wildlife!


The project has so far shown a hedgehog sighting rate of about 50% in 2021 and 38% in 2022. Hedgehogs are declining across the UK because of many different problems, but mainly because people are destroying and damaging their habitats and farming more intensely.

This graph shows the number of participants and hedgehog sightings in the first 2 years of the Hedgehog Watch project.Hedgehog graph

But we can all make a difference to stop and reverse this!

Already people across Chester are creating hedgehog-friendly habitats in their gardens, encouraging insects and other invertebrates for hedgehogs to eat, providing shelter, and creating hedgehog highways to connect gardens. To guide these wonderful actions, the data from the project will be further analysed to pinpoint exactly which garden features are best for these loveable little mammals.

“I’ve really enjoyed being involved in Chester Zoo’s Hedgehog Watch project; it has taught me a lot about our local animals and how just small changes to our gardens can help them thrive, and it has been so interesting seeing some of the secret wildlife of my small suburban garden that I wasn’t aware of before thanks to the hedgehog camera. It feels so good to join in as a citizen scientist, and contribute to this important research into our country’s favourite native mammal.”

Rory — Hedgehog Watch participant

“The more people that get involved and make sure there are little spaces in the hedges and fences — so the hedgehogs can go through, feed, and wander around — the better. It just makes our lives richer to know we’re helping these animals, and every now and then you see them, and it just brings you joy… and the other thing is I’ve made friends with other people in the area who are also watching hedgehogs, so we’ve got a little community now… I think it’s bringing people together, helping with wildlife.”

Christine Stockton — Hedgehog Watch participant

Hedgehog Watch has thus far engaged over 520 people across Chester in nature conservation and inspired people from all ages, backgrounds, and cultures to take action to protect the UK’s biodiversity, while also highlighting the wonders of citizen science and the importance of creating wildlife corridors to connect fragmented habitats. By working together, we can help ensure that these beloved creatures have a bright future in our towns, cities, and countryside.

If you live within this study area, we want you to help us protect Chester’s wildlife!

So, whether you are passionate about wildlife, interested in citizen science, looking to connect with nature, or simply want to make a difference in the world, there is something for everyone in this exciting and important initiative. You don’t need to have seen a hedgehog or any wildlife signs in your garden, this study is for all! If you live in our study area in Chester shown in the map above, why not get involved today and help to protect some of the UK’s most beloved species!