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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Hedgehogs 'may slug it out in England'
Hedgehog
The hedgehogs have won a stay of execution
England could offer a sanctuary for thousands of hedgehogs threatened with extermination, it has been suggested.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer says the animals currently living in the Western Isles would be useful for pest control on the mainland.

The fate of the 5,000-strong hedgehog population on North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist is hanging in the balance.


It would be sad if these hedgehogs were culled when in fact they are the best pest control we have got

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Conservation body Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been considering a cull to rid the islands of the animals, which it accuses of harming an internationally important bird population.

On Tuesday the organisation's board decided to hold talks with other animal welfare groups and hedgehog societies before deciding whether or not to back the proposal.

It will look again at the possibility of moving the animals to the Scottish mainland.

However, a cull has not been ruled out and the issue is likely to be considered again at another SNH board meeting next month.

Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrat environment spokeswoman, told BBC Scotland that she thought it would be possible to transport the animals to England from the Scottish islands.

Natural habitats

"Here in England people are busy using slug pellets to kill slugs, which have bad effects on thrushes and frogs, for instance," she said.

"We could actually do with the hedgehogs, which for good reasons need to be got rid of from where they are."

She said hedgehog numbers were being affected in England by loss of natural habitats, while large numbers were also being killed on the roads.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Baroness Miller: "Brilliant pest control"
"What is probably not appreciated is what brilliant pest control things they are to have around your garden," she said.

"I can understand why you would not want them where you are wanting to try to get ground nesting birds conserved in a constructive way.

"It would be sad if these hedgehogs were culled when in fact they are the best pest control we have got."

The Somerset councillor also raised the issue in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

Government spokeswoman Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton confirmed that research had shown that hedgehogs posed a threat to the dunlin, redshank, snipe and lapwing.

Rare waders

"I am sure the Scottish Parliament will consider any proposal you wish to put forward about the humane expatriation of hedgehogs to those gardens and gardeners who wish to have them," she said.

Hedgehogs are not native to the Uists, where they were first introduced in 1974 by an islander to help control slugs and snails.

However, the population has increased dramatically over the intervening period.

The animals have been eating birds' eggs and chicks, leading to a large decline in the population of rare waders.

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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
"I could do with a few hedgehogs for my own garden"
See also:

09 Jul 02 | Scotland
02 Jul 02 | Scotland
03 Aug 01 | Scotland
01 Jan 98 | Science/Nature
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