Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 07:33 UK

Hedgehogs killed by rat poison

Hundreds of hedgehogs are admitted to wildlife rescue centres each year

Rat poison could be the reason for the decline in the number of hedgehogs in Britain, according to research carried out by the University of Bristol.

The RSPCA supplied the scientists with the carcasses of 120 hedgehogs over the three-year study period.

The findings showed that 80 of them had been exposed to poison and it is believed that homeowners putting down rat poison are to blame.

The RSPCA said hundreds of hedgehogs are brought to their centres each year.

Dr Claire Dowding, who carried out the research at the University of Bristol, said: "This high figure really is of concern and might be one of the reasons why the British hedgehog population is thought to be declining.

"It's difficult to tell exactly how these animals are exposed to the chemicals.

"They may be eating them directly, scavenging on dead rodents that have been killed by the poison or eating their favourite diet of slugs and snails that have fed on the poison bait."

Sophie Adwick, from the RSPCA, said: "The findings of this study mean that we must ensure these poisons are used with even greater care.

"Because they are widely available and the most common form of rodent control, we would urge people to bear in mind the wider problems these are now thought to cause, and use them responsibly."

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