Catchment News

A Prickly Affair – helping wild Irish hedgehogs find sanctuary

| in News, Stories

Hedgehogs are undoubtedly one of the most unique of all Irish mammals. Weighing less than 1kg this insectivore has been part of the Irish fauna since supposedly being introduced by the Normans as a food source around the 13th Century. Since then they have fascinated folk the country over. They have earned their place on the Wildlife Act 1976 (amended 2000) to be included as a protected species.

Protected or not these prickly insectivores face all manner of problems on this fair island. Once numbering almost 40 million in the UK, they are now at risk from extinction there and a recent UK census has put the number there at just 1 million.

How are Irish hedgehogs faring?

We simply don’t know as a census has not been conducted for some time. If antidotal evidence is anything to go by, then they are in trouble. Simply ask any rescue centre and you will hear of stories from people who “used to see them every year but they seem to have disappeared” or the avid gardener who since using slug pellets “hasn’t seen a hedgehog”.

Another common tale is of the family in rural Ireland who used to watch big families of hedgehogs come and go yet “since the construction of the motorway” they have all but disappeared. A lovely couple from North Dublin who had been feeding ‘Sonic’ for years were devastated to find him dead in their uncovered pond, and a 9 year old Manchester United supporter lost sleep over finding his beloved ‘Spike’ trapped in the football nets in the back garden one morning.

Nets can be deadly to Hedgehogs

Unfortunately the simple fact is that in many places we are losing our hedgehogs, a delightful, fascinating species that has roamed this planet, unchanged, for 15 million years. They are harmless creatures that wander the neighbourhood in search of food and then curl up under the old garden shed, make a nest, have their babies and hibernate. They are charismatic yet uncomplicated beings.

By changing a few simple things we can stop our hedgehogs going the way of their counterparts in the UK. We can save them. It is not too late.

What can we do to help protect and preserve these thrilling animals?

  • Avoid using slug pellets, pesticides and weed killers. The active ingredient is metaldyehyde which is a toxin that when ingested causes convulsions and death. Let hedgehogs do the work or use natural alternatives like copper wire, ground egg shell, coffee grounds, beer traps etc.
  • Cover drains and stop wandering hedgehogs getting into trouble.
  • Leave an area of the garden wild. Leave out autumn leaves, hedge trimmings, logs etc to help not only hedgehogs, but also invertebrates particularly our bees which are also in danger.
  • If you have a pond, place mesh over it. Hedgehogs can swim but they need a means of getting out or they will drown.
  • If you do burn garden waste, please ensure there are no sleeping hogs inside and move the pile before you burn it.
  • “A hedgehog out during the day is not OK”. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and generally only venture out during the day if disorientated, injured or sick.
  • If you do find a hedgehog in trouble please contact your local wildlife rescue centre.

You can find a list here http://www.irishwildlifematters.ie

Harry the Hedgehog stuck down a drain pipe

Yvonne McCann, Hedgehog Rescue Dublin

About: Hedgehog Rescue Dublin was established in 2013 with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and where possible release wild Irish hedgehogs. It is based in Rush, Co. Dublin. We rely solely on donations from members of the public and receive no funding whatsoever.

You can find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hedgehogrescuedublin

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our waterbodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.