Friday, 28 August 2009

RSPCA: Hedgehog numbers may be at risk from rat poison

Wednesday, 26, Aug 2009 12:00

New scientific research aided by the RSPCA has for the first time found that rat and mice poison may be having an effect on the welfare of hedgehogs.

The new study shows that anticoagulants, which are a group of chemicals used to kill rodents by preventing the blood from clotting, have shown up in significant levels in the hedgehogs studied. This could have an impact on their survival, breeding success or mobility.

RSPCA’s Wildlife Scientific Officer Sophie Adwick said “All four of the RSPCA’s Wildlife Centres, along with other establishments, supplied scientists at the University of Bristol with the carcasses of 120 hedgehogs that had died or were put to sleep due to illness or injury. The findings of this study are a great surprise and may have a significant impact on how these poisons are used in the future, so I’m pleased that our RSPCA Centres were able to contribute to this important study.”

Dr Claire Dowding, from the University of Bristol, who carried out the research said “the number of hedgehogs affected is quite worrying. It’s difficult to tell exactly how these animals are exposed to the chemicals. They may be eating them directly, scavenging on dead rodents that have been killed by the poison or eating their favourite diet of slugs and snails that have fed on the poison bait. Slugs and snails are not affected by anticoagulants because their blood is different, but they will retain poisonous residues.”

Out of the 120 hedgehogs sampled, 80 of them had been exposed to these poisons, Claire said “this high figure really is of concern and might be one of the reasons why the British hedgehog population is thought to be declining”.

Sophie added “The findings of this study mean that we must ensure these poisons are used with even greater care. Because they are widely available and the most common form of rodent control, we would urge people to bear in mind the wider problems these are now thought to cause, and use them responsibly.”

Hundreds of hedgehogs are admitted to RSPCA Wildlife Centres every year, usually because youngsters born late in the season will not have had enough time to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive hibernation. Once their weight has been increased they are released back into the wild. Sadly some are too ill to rescue or have suffered some sort of injury, only in these cases are the animals are put to sleep.

Information regarding the rescue and rehabilitation work that RSPCA Wildlife Centres carry out can be found online at where you can also listen to the monthly wildlife podcast.$1321465$366366.htm

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