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Wanted - Hebridean Hedgehogs 20 each

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Joined: 24 Nov 2004
Posts: 170
Location: Western isles, Scotland
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 05 3:15 pm    Post subject: Wanted - Hebridean Hedgehogs 20 each  Reply with quote    

Hedgehogs 20 Reward!

All fools day, 1st April marked the start of the Hedgehog rescue, where annually a coalition of animal protection, welfare and rescue organisations descend on the Hebridean Islands of Benbecula, North and South Uist for three months in order to campaign for the hedgehog population to be caught and relocated to the mainland .
Why you might ask? it all started in the 1960's when local gardeners brought hedgehogs from the mainland in order to eat garden pests such as slugs.

The Uists were perfect for the hedgehogs with its mild climate and no predators. They thrived and bred, so much so that within a few years they became a pest, eating the rare ground nesting birds eggs causing concern for the Island conservationists and the RSPB especially as the islands have such a rare breeding and internationally important population of dunlin, snipe, redshank and lapwing of which breed annually on the islands.

Living and breeding mostly in the sandy burrows on the machair which are created by the massive population of rabbits, the hedgehogs created an ideal location from where they could raid the ground nesting birds eggs. Although becoming victims themselves to the annual gassing which takes place in order to control the ever increasing rabbit population . Rabbits over the years have caused massive crop damage and erosion of the delicate sand dunes which protect the fertile machair with their huge warrens.

The welfare groups acknowledge that there is a need to protect the Internationally important population of wader birds, openly admitting that something must be done and that the hedgehogs must be removed, therefore have no alternative but to place abounty on their heads in order to encourage local people to hand them in to them rather than hand them over to SNH.

Scottish Natural Heritage disagree with the welfare groups and their claim to the success of translocating hedgehogs to the mainland for several reasons. Firstly Uist hedgehogs surprisingly have no fleas , therefore SNH lodged concerns not only as to how the hedgehogs would cope when parasites invaded their bodies once free on the mainland, but also how stress would affect them, and how they would adapt to mainland living. Therefore annually, SNH employ local people to catch the hedgehogs in order to euthanise them.
Thus is becomes a race each year to see who gets the most hedgehogs , a score is published each month in the local newspaper recording how many the rescuers have saved and relocated in comparison to how many SNH have caught and euthanised.

The welfare groups became involved 3 years ago, with Advocate for Animals and Tiggywinkles leading the rescue, nationally campaigning for the public to save the Uist hedgehogs. The first year 5 bounty was placed on their heads, this rose to 20 the second year and has been offered again this year.

SNH on the other hand employed local people to catch the hedgehogs, they also brought in outside assistance from outwith the islands in the form of hunters with dogs in order to locate hedgehogs sleeping during the day. However with the introduction of the ban of hunting with dogs this year should be interesting as the law states that in order to hunt using dogs, the hunters should be equipped with a suitable gun and the dogs have to bolt the quarry in order for them to be shot, I personally have yet to witness a bolting hedgehog.
Nightly patrols using torchlight can be witness by both camps and although technically illegal and classed as lamping, a blind eye is turned when it comes to the hedgehog hunting 'season' on the Uists.

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