Gardeners issued hedgehogs alertBy Richard Catton
GARDENERS and allotment keepers are being asked to consider the danger to hedgehogs when using rat traps.
The plea comes after an animal had to be put down last week when its leg became badly infected after being caught in one of the traps, which are now widely available to shoppers in garden centres and hardware stores.
Dr Toni Bunnell, who runs a hedgehog sanctuary in Holgate, York, says she knew of two cases in the past week where hedgehogs have been seriously injured by the traps.
“There’s been an increase in people using rat traps recently,” she said. “Maybe people are just keener to get rid of them now, but there’s a new type of rat trap available now which is easier to set. The old ones were not easy to use without injuring your fingers.”
Dr Bunnell has seen the injuries which can be caused to larger animals who stray close to the traps.
She said: “I had one hedgehog brought in – it crushed its leg in a trap and then dragged the trap round for a few days and the leg became infected. It couldn’t be saved. They just can’t survive with an injured leg.”
Another hedgehog was taken to a vet used by Dr Bunnell, with a similar injury, and staff there are hoping it will make a recovery.
Instead of using the traps, which use powerful serrated jaws to crush the rats, Dr Bunnell said the safest ways to eliminate the vermin, without causing injury to other animals, is to lay poison in a tunnel which other animals or birds don’t have access to.
“Don’t even put it under a shed because everything goes under sheds,” she said. “It has to be encased somewhere that nothing else can get to, other than a rat.”
European hedgehogs are becoming increasingly rare in the UK and are listed as a species of conservation concern under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. They also have partial protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and it is illegal to trap them or kill them without a licence.
An RSPCA spokesman said: “Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is a legal requirement for anyone setting a trap to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to protected wildlife.
“This means that a trap designed to catch rats should be placed undercover where it can trap only the intended species, and not be set out in the open.”