Invasive Species Week: it’s a matter of geography

Hedgehogs risk extinction by 2025, so why are they being removed from an island off the west coast of Scotland?

Since the 1940s hedgehog numbers have dropped from an estimated 30 million to fewer than one million and conservationists warn they could even be extinct in Britain by 2025 but Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) hopes to secure funding for a large-scale eradication of the species from the Western Isles.

Native or non-native? Now whilst hedgehogs are native to mainland Britain, they were absent from the Scottish island of South Uist until 1974 when a grand total of 7 animals were released in an attempt to control garden pests such as slugs and snails.

40 years later and the population has exploded which now causes serious damage to the native fauna and ecology of the island with the eggs of ground nesting birds such as dunlin, snipe, ringed plover and redshank having become a foraging favourite. 

An invasive species is deemed to be any animal or plant that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live.  With numbers of wading birds plummeting, the extent of the threat to the islands bird population has become apparent.

So why are hedgehogs declining on the mainland? Although the population is booming in the Hebrides, their mainland counterparts are declining rapidly.  Impacts upon their natural habitat such as fragmentation of foraging ground and hibernation sites due to poor biodiversity planning in development proposals, increased traffic on traditional road crossing routes, unregulated control of pesticide usage (now tightened up) and increased use of hard landscaping in modern garden trends are likely to all have impacts upon hedgehog survival.

Back in South Uist where the species is not native it is proposed that the hedgehogs will be captured and transported to the mainland for release.

Invasive Species Week which runs from 27 March – 2 April 2017 and was developed by the GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS) and DEFRA to raise awareness of invasive non-native species.

Our ecologists offer expert consultancy to address biodiversity impacts for development proposals and our contracting team are part of the Hedgehog Heroes scheme operated by the Hedgehog Preservation Society.  If you need ecological advice or a landscape contractor with experience of working in sensitive habitats drop us a message using our contact form here: http://contractecology.co.uk/contact-us/