New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2007) 31(2): 160- 168

Fine-scale movement of the European hedgehog: an application of spool-and-thread tracking and

Research Article
Danielle F. Shanahan 1*
Renaud Mathieu 2,3
Philip J. Seddon 4
  1. School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, St Lucia 4072, Australia
  2. Spatial Ecology Research Facility, School of Surveying, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. CSIR - NRE, Earth Observation Research Group, Building 33, PO Box 395, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
  4. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The European hedgehog is a significant predator species of rare and endangered ground-nesting birds in the riverbeds of the Waitaki Basin, South Island, New Zealand. Studies focusing on the movements and habits of this species have generally been limited to broad-scale radio-tracking studies or incidental trap-catch data. Within our study, we aimed to investigate the finer scale movement patterns of the hedgehog in relation to vegetation structure by using spool-and-thread tracking. We captured 30 hedgehogs (15 female, 15 male) within the study area, and spool-and-thread-tracked the movements of each over a single night. Only two of the 30 animals moved onto the gravel areas of the riverbeds where birds nest – hedgehogs may therefore not target birds’ nests as a primary prey source, but rather as a secondary prey item. The movement paths were all non-random, and males demonstrated particular linearity in their tracks. This straighter and more directed movement may be due to more intensive mate search at this time of the year. We also assessed habitat use using a very high resolution habitat map (derived from Ikonos 4-m-resolution satellite image). Dense grassland was the most selected habitat type, perhaps because insect prey are at a higher density in this vegetation type. Hedgehogs (particularly males) also used boundaries of all habitat types significantly more than the centre of habitat patches. We found the spool-and-thread tracking technique does have limitations: (1) it could be inappropriate for animals exhibiting a significant escape response; (2) the data do not include a temporal dimension. However, these problems were not considered relevant for this study. Fine-scale studies such as this can provide increased power when investigating the ecology of species at a scale relevant to trap placement.