IAR welcomes encouraging news of Uist hedgehogs
As a member of the Uist Hedgehog Rescue coalition, International Animal Rescue has welcomed the news that this spring hedgehogs will continue to be moved off the islands to a more suitable location where they don't pose a threat to ground nesting wader birds.
Alan Knight, IAR's Chief Executive, said: "We're all pleased to learn of the continuing success of this scheme which has spared the lives of hundreds of healthy hedgehogs and protected important populations of wader birds during the breeding season."
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed that work to clear the Scottish islands of Uist of non-native hedgehogs will continue up until mid-May.
The announcement was made after the organisation received almost 100 applicants for spring fieldworkers' posts, a response described by SNH as 'absolutely fantastic'. Their statement continues as follows:
"Twenty-three people are currently engaged in live-trapping around most of Benbecula and a limited amount of North Uist. To date, 86 hedgehogs have been trapped and will be translocated before their eventual release on the mainland. This is less than half of those caught last year in spite of an increase in effort - a clear indication that the relocation is having the desired effect.
Hedgehogs were introduced to the islands during the 1970s and cause major problems for native ground nesting wader birds by eating their eggs.
The Uists support some of the most important populations of ground nesting waders including dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, snipe, lapwing and oystercatcher in Europe. Dunlin and ringed plover nest at the highest densities recorded anywhere in the world.
Under the scheme run by the Uist Wader Project (UWP), hedgehogs are live trapped before being handed over to Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR). The animals are then transferred to the mainland.
David Maclennan, SNH Western Isles Area manager, said: "The hard work over the past few years is beginning to pay off and although we are putting twice the effort into trapping the hedgehogs, this is showing encouraging results in the reduced number being located and caught.
"This size of team allows us to cover large areas quickly, clearing the islands of hedgehogs and thereby helping our native ground nesting wader birds to breed without disturbance.
"The results from this spring are very encouraging and we will compare these with the predictions from the population model and from there plan the next phase of searching in the autumn and beyond. We would describe the response from applicants as absolutely fantastic and we are very grateful to all the local people who applied."
Trapped animals are transferred to the UHR before translocating them to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust in North Ayrshire from which they are released to locations in Scotland.
Ross Minett, spokesperson for UHR, said: "Uist Hedgehog Rescue has now been working with the Uist Wader Project for three years and we are delighted that our relationship is going from strength to strength. Every year hundreds of hedgehogs are able to live out their lives naturally and safely because of the hard work of this partnership and we hope it will continue for years to come."