Gardeners urged to consider hedgehog safety after poisonings
Increasing number of fatalities caused by thorny problem of slug pellets and poisons
Hedgehogs snuggle down a couple of centimetres into the earth under sheds and hedges and gardeners don’t spot them until it is too late. Photograph: Getty Images
A hedgehog rescue centre is appealing to the public to consider the spiky but vulnerable creatures, when laying out slug pellets and other chemical poisons.
Hedgehog Rescue Dublin said it was presented with several fatally poisoned animals in recent weeks.
In some cases the hedgehogs, which are protected, had ingested rat poison, and in others they had eaten slugs or snails poisoned with metaldehyde, a compound substance commonly found in the cheaper form of slug pellets, according to Hedgehog Rescue Dublin, which takes in hedgehogs from the Leinster area.
Ecologist Yvonne McCann, who has been rescuing the nocturnal creatures at Rush, Co Dublin since 2013, said cheaper slug pellets were “lethal” to the furtive creatures.
She is urging gardeners to switch to beer traps and other natural slug and insect deterrents, or to use the dearer organic pellets.
Hedgehogs who sleep during the winter are in the middle of their breeding season right now producing between two and five young.
Dozens of small hedgehogs, some blind newborns, which had been disturbed or abandoned, are also being brought into the centre as gardening activity increases and Ms McCann has 10 baby urchins also known as hoglets on her hands.
Other hedgehogs have been injured in hedge trimming or lawn mowing accidents.
Luckily the mother hedgehogs are with the 10 juniors brought to the rescue centre in recent weeks, as a result of garden clean-ups, said Ms McCann. This makes feeding and rearing them much easier as otherwise she has to use syringes filled with milk.
Already nervous creatures, frightened hedgehog mothers will eat or abandon their young, she said.
Ms McCann urged people to cover any nests they have uncovered with the material removed, or with leaves and such immediately and “wait 24 hours” .
There was very little awareness about hedgehog nests, she said.
“We would always advise people to quickly cover the nest up and leave it alone (if possible). Taking a mother and babies into rescue is so stressful on her and they quite often reject the babies,” said Ms McCann.
Hedgehogs snuggle down a couple of centimetres into the earth under sheds and hedges and gardeners don’t spot them until it is too late – and they have uncovered them.
In many cases, the mothers abandon the nests. The male hedgehog takes no part in rearing the young. But if a hedgehog is “out and about during the day”, chances are it needs help, she said.
A high percentage of hedgehog deaths is due to chemicals used in gardening and accidents, according to Conserve Ireland.
The centre deals with around 150 hedgehogs each summer.