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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Hedgehog cull resumes on islands
Hedgehog
Campaigners have launched another hedgehog rescue mission
Animal rights activists are trying to rescue hedgehogs as an annual cull gets under way in the Outer Hebrides.

The creatures are being targeted because they threaten ground-nesting birds on North Uist and Benbecula.

The Uist Wader Project will employ 13 fieldworkers for the killings during the eight-week operation.

Hedgehogs are not native to the Western Isles, but the total has multiplied to about 4,000 since a handful were introduced in the 1970s.

When they come out of hibernation they eat the eggs of internationally important ground-nesting birds - including the lapwing, redshank and ring plover - which breed in the islands.

We feel this barbaric cull is totally unnecessary and we will try and save every hedgehog possible
Ross Minett
Uist Hedgehog Rescue

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said that, as a result, bird numbers have halved in the past 20 years.

The agency maintains that culling all the hedgehogs in the Western Isles is more humane than relocating them to places where they may have to compete with existing populations.

Spokesman George Anderson said it would take several years to clear the hedgehog population from the Uists.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "The hedgehogs are still multiplying but we are hopefully removing them at a rate that will bring the population down.

Celebrity backing

"We're working on the two islands that they still have room for expansion on. We haven't yet tackled South Uist, where the majority of them are and we reckon they are at saturation level there."

Wildlife rescue campaigners, led by Uist Hedgehog Rescue, disagree and are offering islanders 20 for every hedgehog saved.

Spokesman Ross Minett said: "We feel this barbaric cull is totally unnecessary and we will try and save every hedgehog possible. It is a disgrace it is going on."

Celebrities including Sting, Sir Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Joanna Lumley and Sir Tim Rice all support efforts to save the animals.

Dog pledge

Meanwhile, it has emerged that in future years dogs may have to be used to find the last remaining hedgehogs as each area is cleared.

The Protection of Wild Mammals Act, brought in to outlaw fox hunting north of the border, means any hedgehogs found by the dogs cannot be gathered up and taken away to be killed by lethal injection.

Instead, they will have to be shot immediately at the scene.

The move has been condemned as "appalling" by campaign groups like Advocates for Animals - which also claims that using dogs to search for hedgehogs may itself be illegal.

Mr Anderson said a dog-handler rather than a pack of dogs will be used to locate any remaining hedgehogs.




SEE ALSO:
Activists fight hedgehog killings
05 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Hedgehog cull alternative spiked
03 Feb 04 |  Scotland
Hedgehog campaign rekindled
23 Jan 04 |  Scotland
New hedgehog cull planned
16 Dec 03 |  Scotland
Cost of hedgehog cull defended
19 May 03 |  Scotland


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