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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Cost of hedgehog cull defended
Hedgehogs eat rare birds eggs
The cost of a cull of hedgehogs in the Western Isles has been defended by the government agency carrying it out.

Scottish Natural Heritage's cull project in North Uist, which will end on Friday, is expected to cost 90,000.

The hedgehogs are said to be a threat to wader birds, raiding their nests and stealing their eggs.

SNH wanted to cull 200 of the animals before the breeding season but has so far managed to remove just 50, at a cost of 1,800 each.

Labour intensive

The project, which employs six people, will stop this week because they do not want to leave orphaned young, by killing their mothers.

SNH admitted that catching hedgehogs is a labour-intensive business.

However, they said the overall cost includes on-going research, education, public relations and the purchase of equipment like a van and radio tags, which will be used again.

Project chiefs also believe there could be fewer than the original estimated number of hedgehogs on the island.

A spokesman for the group, George Anderson, said: "Our latest estimate is that there might be 30 or so left on North Uist.

"We might not catch them all by the end of the week but we will have made a good start in clearing out the island. It is tough going though.

It's expensive and labour intensive to catch a few hedgehogs across 30 square kilometres of ground.
George Anderson
"It's expensive and labour intensive to catch a few hedgehogs across 30 square kilometres of ground.

"It's worth it though if it saves the birds. And it's better to spend the money now and stop the problem getting bigger than wait until there are more hedgehogs to catch."

Mr Anderson also thanked the island's crofters for their help and defended the decision to cull the creatures rather than move them to the mainland.

He said: "Moving the animals can lead to a slow death and will also lead to the death of mainland hedgehogs."

Meanwhile, Uist Hedgehog Rescue has caught about 130 of the animals on Benbecula and South Uist but hardly any on North Uist itself.

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