A wildlife charity which was planning to move hedgehogs from the Western Isles to the mainland as an alternative to a cull has shelved the project.
The alternative to the hedgehog cull is a none-starter
The People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) had been gearing up for the trial relocation.
But it has criticised Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which runs the cull on North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula, because it would not provide funding.
SNH said paying for the study was a wrongful use of taxpayers' money.
The chief executive of the wildlife charity, Valerie Keeble, claimed the cost of the relocation project had quadrupled to £160,000, a bill which she said would be impossible to pay through current contributions.
Dr Keeble claimed the heritage body should have part-paid costs because it had agreed to a scientific study on the matter.
In an open letter to SNH she wrote: "SNH's intransigence in refusing to
provide some financial backing is particularly disappointing as, in spite of the
difficulties, we had secured at least half the monies required, a considerable
achievement in such a short period.
"We believe it is extremely short-sighted of SNH not to contribute."
Dr Keeble said her organisation and its scientific advisers spent a considerable amount of charitable resources on what turned out to be a "failed attempt to devise a proposal acceptable to both parties that could be implemented in practice".
She added: "It is our view that SNH has wasted valuable charity time and finances,
delayed decision-making to the extent that it imperilled the possible
implementation of plans and failed to keep the open mind it promised with regard
to finding an alternative solution to this most difficult of problems."
According to PTES research, at least 1,000 hedgehogs would have to be killed
every year for at least 15 years for the islands to be cleared of the animals.
The cull, carried out to protect the Uist's wader bird population, caught 66
of the estimated 90 hedgehogs on the south end of North Uist and is to resume in
An SNH spokesman said the organisation believed there to be significant animal
welfare problems associated with moving hedgehogs to the mainland - both for the
Uist and mainland hedgehogs.
But he added: "We have however always remained open to being proved wrong on
this. The offer of 60 animals for a trial translocation was made in this
"We are disappointed there is to be no trial, but the SNH board was adamant
that it would not fund the exercise."
The body plans to cull hedgehogs on North Uist and Benbecula this coming spring, at a cost of about £300 per animal.