High Costs Sink Effort to Relocate Hedgehogs

I’ve written before about the controversy over plans to eradicate hedgehogs from the island of North Uist.

The Scottish Natural Heritage, which is responsible for the island, wants to trap and kill the animals. Animal rights activists decried that decision, saying the hedgehogs could be relocated. But a group given the chance to prove the efficacy of doing precisely that abandoned its plans in February after the costs became too much.

Scottish Natural Heritage agreed to allow People’s Trust for Endangered Species to try a pilot relocation project with 60 hedgehogs. But PTES abandoned that project when costs for doing so ballooned to 2,700 pounds per animal.

PTES complained that Scottish Natural Heritage put up unreasonable requirements that caused the costs to increase. Specifically, SNH wanted PTES to study the effects that relocating the hedgehogs had on wildlife in the areas where they were relocated to. In a letter to SNH, PTES chief Valerie Keeble wrote,

SNH’s insistence on studying any possible effects of the translocated hedgehogs on animals resident in release areas has quadrupled the budget to £ 160,000. A sum of this size is quite impossible for a charity to find or raise in such a short period of time.

Given that it was at your insistence that the translocation plans had to be so greatly expanded, we do not think it unreasonable to have expected SNH to at least contribute towards the cost. 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.

The remaining sum we needed to be able to implement the revised plan is small in comparison with the large sums allocated for the annual removal of the hedgehogs from the islands.

SNH spokesman George Anderson told the The Herald (Glasgow) that the organization had serious concerns about the effects that hedgehogs would have on the mainland,

SNH believes there are significant animal welfare problems associated with moving hedgehogs to the mainland, both for the Uist animals and mainland hedgehogs. 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 spirit. We are disappointed there is to be no trial, but the SNH board was adamant it would not fund the exercise. We will now be continuing with our plans to cull hedgehogs on North Uist and Benbecula this coming spring.

The Herald notes that PTES has annual income of about 1 million pounds a year.


£ 160,000 spikes hedgehog rescue;Charity abandons project. David Ross, The Herald (Glasgow), February 3, 2004.

Hedgehog Relocation Plans Shelved. Andrew Black, Scottish Press Association, February 3, 2004.

Proposed Hedgehog Cull Draws Protests

Animal rights activists and Scottish Natural Heritage are fighting over a proposed cull of the hedgehog population on the island of North Uist.

The island is home to about 200 hedgehogs, and the Scottish Natural Heritage has a single goal in mind — trap and kill them all. The hedgehogs are not native to the island and SNH maintains that they are jeopardizing the island’s native bird species. An SNH spokesman told The Scotsman,

Urgen action is needed to protection the internationally important native birds of the island. The hedgehogs are not native to the islands, and have been eating huge numbers of birds eggs.

Advocates for Animals’ Ross Minnett wants the opportunity to capture the animals and take them to the mainland. He told The Scotsman,

. . . we are still appealing to SNH to hand over any hedgehogs they catch to us so they can be relocated to the mainland. There really is no reason for them to be killed when we have everything read and in place to deal with them.

The SNH has opposed releasing the hedgehogs on the mainland because the animals are strongly territorial and the mainland already has plenty of hedgehogs — it estimates that up to 40 percent of the island hedgehogs and 20% of the mainland hedgehogs would be killed in intraspecies fighting if the animals are transplanted. As a spokesman for SNH puts it,

Some believe they will be ‘rescuing’ hedgehogs. They could in fact end up ‘rescuing’ animals from a humane death to condemn them to a slow and painful death. Both groups will end up killing hedgehogs. We’re just being upfront about it.

SNH is also carrying out a mink cull on another of the islands in the Uists.


Hedgehog cull gets go-ahead despite rescue bid by activists. Jeremy Watson, The Scotsman, March 30, 2003.

Uist goes to war over hedgehogs galore. John MacLeod, Sunday Times (London), March 30, 2003.