The Mail on Sunday

Henry, the sniffer dog who could save our hedgehogs

- By James Heale

A RESOURCEFU­L sniffer dog is being trained to detect hedgehogs in a revolution­ary bid to preserve their rapidly dwindling population.

Henry, a three-year-old springer spaniel, locates the mammals – distant relatives of the shrew family – so they can be moved out of harm’s way ahead of land developmen­t.

With his remarkable sense of smell, which is 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s, he can detect a hidden hedgehog 250 yards away. Upon finding one, Henry, pictured, sits next to it so his handler can come and investigat­e.

Trainer Linda Wilson said: ‘He doesn’t actually like the odour of the hedgehog so he doesn’t go near the nest.’

Henry is on the books at Conservati­on K9 Consultanc­y in Wrexham, North Wales, which trains sniffer dogs for both the detection of wildlife and for conservati­on purposes.

The project, the first of its type, will run until May and is being overseen by staff at Hartpury University in Gloucester. If the trial is successful, it is hoped other dogs can be trained to aid hedgehog conservati­on, as numbers in Britain have halved since 2000 as more of their natural habitat is lost to developmen­t. They spend most of their lives in dense undergrowt­h and long grass, meaning they are in danger when land is cleared. Fay Vass, head of the British Hedgehog Preservati­on Society, said: ‘A detection dog like Henry could save hedgehog lives if he can pinpoint their whereabout­s on such sites.’

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