Between Christmas and New Year, while all good hedgehogs should have been hibernating, ITV (eventually) got around to screening the glossiest of programmes about the prickly beasts. I admit to being very nervous about watching it – ready to be enraged at the stupidity that usually infects programmes on the one animal I know a bit about. I have developed a bit of an over-reaction to humanity’s graduates phoning me up from TV companies asking inane questions and demanding access to a hedgehog to film at 11am on a January morning …

So … I think this will count as my first TV review … and I must admit to a degree of connection – having met with the production company a few times, trying to steer them away from silliness, and am also a patron of Vale Wildlife Rescue, the wonderful centre that was used as a base for filming.

Some may balk at naming all the hedgehogs – but I can’t, as I did when I was researching them … and Jane Goodall named her chimpanzees, so that amount of familiarity is really quite reasonable. There were some shots that I found truly novel – like the swimming hedgehog filmed from underneath … BUT … it was clear that this was a set up shot, and having seen the team who made it at work, it will have been done many many times, and begins with a hedgehog ‘falling’ into a pond. There is no doubt that a little assistance was given – and this must raise issues regarding the stress the animal was put under. In their defence, there was a good message about ensuring water features have an escape route – a slope, beach or rocky margin that will let the hedgehog climb out.

Some in the hedgehog rescue world who get absurdly irritated about references to hedgehogs eating slugs – of course they eat slugs – they just do not do it to the exclusion of tastier morsels. And to say that hedgehogs don’t or shouldn’t eat slugs is just the sort of bonkers non-science that undermines our capacity to speak with some sense of authority.

So it was good to see the same behaviour I witnessed out in the wilds of Devon being repeated on camera – a hedgehog rolling a slug to scrape off the mucilage.

Then came something laughable – hedgehogs hate the rain???? Having spent months in the field radio-tracking hedgehogs – seemingly almost entirely IN THE RAIN – this has to be questioned!

I loved the section on hedgehog vocalisations – I wonder if anyone has heard European hedgehogs making the same sort of fluting, whistling noise I heard an African Pygmy Hedgehog make though ….

The section that had images of a hibernating hedgehog caught on a thermal camera I was deeply suspicious about – either to its veracity, or if true, how it was done without compromising hedgehog welfare.

Wonderful to see Hessilhead in the show – and Baldie was great. Though I was less convinced that a single spine could support the weight of a hedgehog.

Another bit of fiction then annoyed me, where a hedgehog was clearly just tipped off a rockery to get the shot of a falling hedgehog. Oh, and then ‘mating’ … have to say that was a low point. ‘Tiggy’ clearly did not relax her spines enough for the activity caught on camera to be a mating – that was an attempt, certainly, but unless this was a particularly well-endowed hedgehog, intercourse would have been unlikely!

Lovely footage of youngsters and news to me about the saliva licking. Gill Lucraft, from Hedgehog Bottom rescue, did really well and then there was a good a sensible piece about threats and badgers – though the section of a mum and young felt very staged.

So, over all? I though this was pretty but thin. For an hour long programme there was not that much in it … lots of repetition, lots of ‘what you will see after the break’ fillers and I did not like the obvious staging of events, but understand why they did it. I also wonder about the economics of making such a programme. I witnessed one section being filmed, when there was a Hedgehog Street Party in Chipping Norton. Three camera crews filming for around 5 hours (each) to generate 15 seconds of the programme? At least they included my stuffed hedgehog!

I feel that it was a shame the programme makers did not see fit to mention the groups who have been doing so much work to help hedgehog conservation in the country – i.e. BHPS and PTES – other than in the very small and fast moving credits. It would not have been much to add a reference at least to the Hedgehog Street project. And on a slightly egotistical note – I was disappointed that they had forgotten the vast amount of information that I had given them … a thank you would have been appreciated.

3 Thoughts on “Hedgehog Hotel

  1. A few observations:

    Naming hedgehogs. Some centres do, some centres don’t. Those that dislike naming give their hedgehogs Alphanumeric identification which is a name by another method. At Hedgehog Bottom, we find it easier to engage the finder as they choose the name of their hog and are more likely to keep an eye out for it on return, we also find it’s easier for the volunteers to track down Celandine than A15B642.

    [“I loved the section on hedgehog vocalisations – I wonder if anyone has heard European hedgehogs making the same sort of fluting, whistling noise I heard an African Pygmy Hedgehog make though ….”]

    As one who works with European wilds, African Pygmy Hogs and Egyptian Long-eareds I can testify that they all have their own noises unique to themselves. An agitated Egyptian sounds like a coffee percolator.

    [“hedgehog ‘falling’ into a pond. There is no doubt that a little assistance was given – and this must raise issues regarding the stress the animal was put under.”]

    You should know that the rescues involved in the filming of this programme sat on the film crew at all times. If there was any chance whatsoever that the animals would get stressed filming was halted. Methods were discussed and argued over before any animal became involved and the Dragonfly crew did as we all requested. When it came to filming mum and babies their requests and filming methods were rejected repeatedly until I was happy and Vale were happy.

    The crew spent many hours, both day and night, filming the animals. Much of the footage didn’t need to be staged it just happened in front of them and used as part of the storyline, such as the saliva licking which was news to all of us and we would still have been oblivious had they not caught it twice. As it is, we can now look into the reasons and use the information to improve our methods when rearing abandoned babies.

    You are quite correct that much more information could have been included but there was limited time. The programme was billed as Hedgehog Hotel – Episode 1. 😉

  2. Richard Lawson on January 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm said:

    “Pretty but thin” nicely sums up my reaction too. There was some really nice bits, but too much repetition and jumping around. The Hessilhead and Hedgehog Bottom bits were great in their own right, but didn’t really fit within the “Hedgehog Hotel” narrative and again made it feel quite disjointed. I’d love to see more hedgehogs on TV, but I think the Hedgehog Hotel narrative is just too limiting.

  3. H Frances on December 7, 2016 at 7:13 pm said:

    Yes, I agree. Lovely shots of the hedgehogs, but I longed for more hard facts, such as what were they feeding them on? That would have been useful to know. It was very lightweight, which can be charming – and was – but a few more hard facts would have made it a much more satisfying view. But a lovely subject olasantly handled. What lovable creatures they are!

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