One of Britain’s Most Loved Animals is Not Welcome in a Northern Scottish Island



A small hedgehog

Cute, prickly hedgehogs freely roam on the many Scottish islands in the United Kingdom. To most, these brown lumps in the ground are very lovable creatures that occasionally provide a quick distraction to whatever they are doing. However, to others, especially those on the Hebrides archipelago, people view the seemingly innocent hedgehogs as threats to the native wildlife.


Their story originates in 1974, when a person seeking to control the slug and snail population in his garden decided to release some hedgehogs in the island of South Uist. Because hedgehogs are not native to this isolated island, they did not have any natural predators. As a result, their population boomed. In the matter of only 10 years, the hedgehog population grew from only a couple to over five thousand. By this time, hedgehogs had started to invade the islands of North Uist and Benbecula, which connect to South Uist through causeways, or natural land bridges made of dirt. Though this may sound amazing, every Spring, the western edges of these islands become covered in hundreds of varieties of beautiful wild flowers every spring. This phenomenon, known as Machair, causes thousands of species of wading birds to nest and mate on the shore. In fact, so many birds come to take advantage of the flowers and favorable mating grounds that Great Britain has declared it a national important sight. However, thanks to the seemingly cute and cuddly hedgehogs, the birds that choose to nest here feel very threatened. Instead of eating the insects on the islands which could be difficult to catch at times, the hedgehogs figured out that they could prey on the eggs of wading bird’s nests, especially those that lay on the ground. In fact, the damage hedgehogs have caused in the Uist islands has caused the development of an organization called the Uist Wader Project. Their mission is to save the wading birds on these islands – by killing all of the hedgehogs. At first, this company, funded by the taxes of Scottish people, killed 700 hedgehogs on these islands. However, many hated it because each hedgehog removal would cost about 800 pounds (about 1023.6 dollars) and drew a lot of emotional responses from the citizens of Britain. Eventually, this organization realized they were getting nowhere with this project, and decided on a bold, and much more beneficial attitude. Instead of killing the harmful hedgehogs, the organization set up many hedgehog traps around the islands, and they collected the hedgehogs that fell into the traps. They then took the captured hedgehogs back to the mainland, where hedgehog populations were declining.

This method was able to bring many hedgehogs safely to the mainland at a low cost. However, many have raised a protest. They state that the hedgehogs weren’t the exact cause of the decline of wader birds. Despite this, they will not release what they think is the exact cause of this decline.

KMS Josiah C. states that, “I’m glad to see that these hedgehogs can stay alive and still support Scotland” Nevertheless, hedgehogs, despite their cuteness, are a very threatening animal species that could be the cause of much more danger than they appear to be.