Uist Hedgehog Rescue

Q & A

Q: What’s this all about?

A: It all started in 1974 with four hedgehogs brought into South Uist, in the Western Isles of Scotland, by a homeowner anxious to control garden pests such as slugs and snails. Hedgehogs are not indigenous to the Western Isles and have no predators there. In time the hedgehogs bred and spread, flourishing on a natural diet that included the eggs of ground-nesting birds.

By 2002, the population had risen to at least 5,000 breeding hedgehogs giving birth to about 10,000 per year. Although birds’ eggs only form about 4% of the hedgehog’s diet, they appeared to be having an impact on the numbers of dunlin, redshank, lapwing and snipe, all birds that enjoy protection under the EU Birds Directive and Habitats Directive.

The Uist Wader Project (UWP), a consortium of conservation and government organisations was formed. The members are the Scottish Executive, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB Scotland. Options for hedgehog control were evaluated.

UWP initially decided to kill the hedgehogs on the Uists, rather than attempt to move (translocate) them to the mainland. Translocation was considered and sites were assessed for receipt of hedgehogs, but SNH, the UWP partner responsible for the project, previously took the view that translocation could lead to high mortality among the animals and cause suffering.

In response to the decision to kill these animals instead of translocate them, the Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR) coalition was formed, to campaign against the killing and to rescue hedgehogs from the Uists and relocate them to the mainland. However, in February 2007, following new scientific research which confirmed that translocating hedgehogs is humane, the cull was ended in favour of a trial translocation.

UHR consists of Advocates for Animals, the British hedgehog Preservation Society, Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trusts and International Animal Rescue.

Hebridean hedgehogs: a prickly issue
The Uists cull has already cost more than 1m, but we should question the causal link between bird and hedgehog populations (guardian.co.uk).

Revealed: £1m bill to banish egg-stealing hedgehogs
Scotland's natural heritage body should spend £1 million of public money funding another three years of an island hedgehog-trapping project, a report has recommended (The Scotsman).

How much is a hedgehog worth?
The massive difference in people's attitudes to wildlife is starkly revealed today. (Hugh Warwick: My life with hedgehogs)

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