Pancytopenia outbreak in cats

We are aware of recent concerns about an outbreak of Pancytopenia in cats and possible link to some cat foods which are being recalled. We are keeping up to date on the situation via Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website and we are in contact with several veterinary surgeons who deal with wildlife. As we do not know if this can affect hedgehogs, we suggest not feeding the recalled foods to hedgehogs. The list of recalled foods can be found HERE.

The Royal Veterinary College has put out a call for information to gather further information on any identified cases and the possible cause of this illness in cats. 

New research: Product features of robotic lawn mowers determine danger to hedgehogs

Robotic lawn mowers running at night have, by some, been declared a great threat to the population of European hedgehogs. Now a recently published study conducted by Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen, known as Dr Hedgehog, and colleagues from Oxford University and Aalborg University sheds new light on the topic. The study shows that different models of robotic lawn mowers vary substantially in their capability to detect and avoid hurting hedgehogs. In fact, certain technical features significantly improve the mowers’ safety index.

Every spring and summer, pictures of injured hedgehogs are circulated in the press and on social media, encouraging garden owners to stop using robotic lawn mowers in order to prevent causing such harm. But are robotic lawn mowers really to blame for the injuries?

To answer this question, Dr Rasmussen and her team of researchers thoroughly investigated 18 models of robotic lawn mowers in collision tests with dead hedgehogs. The dead hedgehogs in the study were collected from hedgehog rehabilitation centres, where sadly they had been too poorly to save. Each robotic lawn mower was tested 12 times; with four dead hedgehogs representing four different weight classes, each tested in three different positions.

“It is important to discover and document what is causing the horrific injuries we see inflicted on hedgehogs every year so that we can improve the conservation initiatives directed at this declining species. We already knew that garden strimmers and dog bites unfortunately are the causes of numerous injuries to hedgehogs, but we didn’t know if the robotic lawn mowers were also a problem,” explains Dr Rasmussen.

The results showed that some models of robotic lawn mowers caused extensive damage to the dead hedgehogs in the tests, but there were noteworthy differences in the degree of harm inflicted, with some machines consistently causing no damage.

“I was very surprised to discover how differently the robotic lawn mowers performed in our tests. It was devastating to witness how some models badly mutilated the dead hedgehogs. But at the same time, other models did quite well, and did not seem to harm the hedgehogs,” says Dr Rasmussen.

DETECTION OF HEDGEHOGS

The investigation showed that none of the models could detect the hedgehog cadavers until they bumped into them, and none of the robotic lawn mowers tested were able to detect the presence of dead, dependent juvenile hedgehogs (weighing less than 200 g).

“All robotic lawn mowers tested had to physically interact with the hedgehog to detect it. This was not the outcome I had hoped for, as the optimal scenario would be that the robotic lawn mower was able to detect the hedgehog in advance and change direction. At least some models did only lightly touch or push the dead hedgehog after which they changed direction. This could cause a minor bruising to the hedgehog in the worst case scenario but could perhaps also teach the hedgehog an important lesson on avoiding robotic lawn mowers in the future,” explains Dr Rasmussen.

HEDGEHOG FRIENDLY ROBOTIC LAWN MOWERS

Of the robotic lawn mowers tested in the study, technical features such as pivoting blades, skid plates and front wheel drive significantly increased the safety index of the machines, making the machines less harmful to hedgehogs.

A major step towards resolving the effect of robotic lawn mowers on hedgehog survival involves the design, and purchase, of hedgehog-friendly mowers: a topic of potentially fruitful collaboration between hedgehog conservationists and mower manufacturers.

 “The important next step is to present the results and insights from the research to the manufacturers and encourage a collaboration with them to develop more hedgehog and wildlife friendly robotic lawn mowers. It is also my ambition to help the manufacturers develop a proper hedgehog crash test dummy and design a standardised test for robotic lawn mowers to enable labelling of hedgehog friendly models, helping the garden owner to make a wildlife friendly choice when purchasing such a product,” says Dr Rasmussen.

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who is funding the study, says “This is important work that we are pleased to be able to support. We needed to find out for sure if these mowers were in fact harmful to hedgehogs. Hopefully now we have this information we can offer advice to industry on producing hedgehog safe mowers and to the public on how best to help hedgehogs when caring for the lawn. In the meantime, we would suggest people refrain from using these machines at night (from dusk to dawn) when they are more likely to encounter hedgehogs.”

GARDEN SAFETY

Hedgehogs are nocturnal but might occasionally be active during daytime for example if their nest has been disturbed, a mother hedgehog is collecting nesting materials or if they are poorly or injured and in urgent need of help. The present recommendations to increase the safety of hedgehogs in gardens with robotic lawn mowers are therefore to restrict the running of the machines to daylight hours and for garden owners to check for any active hedgehogs, or other potentially vulnerable wildlife such as leverets, amphibians or baby birds on the lawn before turning on the robotic lawn mower.

“Our research does not definitively answer the question of how dangerous these mowers are to live, wild hedgehogs – it shows that there is a potential risk – but so far we have not had the opportunity to test how living hedgehogs react towards an approaching robotic lawn mower. The majority may even run away and thereby avoid collisions. However, this needs to be investigated further,” explains Dr Rasmussen.

FACTS

The research project was performed in collaboration with Animal Protection Denmark and Pindsvine Plejerne and was funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen holds a PhD in biology and hedgehog ecology from University of Southern Denmark and Naturama. She continues her research on The Danish Hedgehog Project as a postdoctoral researcher at Aalborg University and WildCRU, Oxford University.

Photo credits: First photo: Dorthe Madsen, second-fourth photo: T. Pank.

Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen with a hedgehog and a robotic lawn mower.

Disclaimer: The live hedgehogs did not take part in the tests and were only out during the day as they were at a rescue centre after having received care. They were released back into the wild the same evening.

Monitoring Rehabilitated Hedgehogs

A project run by Wild Hogs Hedgehog Rescue in partnership with Making Pi and supported by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society is helping to monitor rehabilitated hedgehogs as they are returned to the wild following successful rehabilitation at the rescue.

Hedgehog Republic has ten intelligent feeding stations operating across two locations in Gloucestershire. The first area, Kingsway, is a large suburb of Gloucester city and has a good resident population of hedgehogs. The second area, Severnside, is a rural area consisting of smaller villages where hedgehogs are known to be active.

Wild Hogs Hedgehog Rescue has been microchipping hedgehogs on release for the past four years. This has provided useful information when hedgehogs return to the rescue. However, the new feeding stations can scan microchips on hedgehogs that have been released in the wild. This information allows the rescue to monitor releases in the area and view videos of the hogs to monitor their health without disturbing the hedgehogs. Built-in weighing scales give an estimate of the hedgehog’s weight and the microchip scanner allows individual hogs to be identified.

Wild Hogs Hedgehog Rescue Assistant Manager, Emily Harper said “The new technology is giving us unprecedented information to monitor how successful the hedgehogs are once we release them back to the wild. We have detected hedgehogs that were released in 2019 that are still doing well and have maintained a healthy weight. We have also been able to monitor others that have been injured or appear unwell and follow their progress. This will help us to improve rehabilitation and understand more about how hedgehogs adapt when they are returned to the wild”.

The project has been funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Chief Executive Fay Vass said “This project has enabled us to see the potential benefits of micro-chips as a way of monitoring rehabilitated hedgehogs post-release. We are also able to compare the different behaviours of hedgehogs in suburban and rural gardens. This is important as we know that hedgehogs have been declining more in rural areas and we are keen to understand if rural gardens could provide  support for hedgehogs in the same way that we have seen in suburban gardens”

The video footage is available online for everyone to access at http://kingsway.hedgehogrepublic.org/ and http://severnside.hedgehogrepublic.org/

Hedgehog Awareness Week 2nd – 8th May, 2021

Hedgehog Awareness Week runs from 2nd – 8th May this year and it aims to raise the profile of the Britain’s only spiny mammal. This year the Charity is asking people create their very own hedgehog haven! Gardens are a stronghold for hedgehogs, and we can make their lives so much easier with very little effort! Tips will be given out on the charity’s social media accounts during the week using #hedgehogweek with daily competitions to win hedgehoggy prizes.

There are many things we can all do to help hedgehogs; here are just a few:

  • Make sure hedgehogs can access your garden with a ‘Hedgehog Highway’ a 5” x 5” (13 x 13cm) square gap in the bottom of fences or walls should do it! Once created you can log these on the BIG Hedgehog Map at www.bighedgehogmap.org
  • Create a log pile that will offer shelter and natural food.
  • Move piles of rubbish to a new site on the day you are burning it and check it carefully before setting light to it, lighting from only one side so that there’s an escape route should you have missed anything.
  • Check areas carefully before mowing or strimming.
  • Ensure netting is kept at a height that allows hedgehogs to pass safely under it.
  • Check compost heaps carefully before digging the fork in.
  • Stop using pesticides and poisons.
  • Cover drains or deep holes.
  • Ensure there is an easy route out of ponds & pools.

BHPS Chief Executive, Fay Vass, said 
“Our gardens take up such a lot of habitat, and by each making our own plot more hedgehog friendly, we can improve a huge amount of habitat for them. If you don’t have a garden yourself, you can still help by contacting public space managers, neighbours, family and friends to ensure they are all doing their bit. We urge everyone to become a Hedgehog Champion for their area at Hedgehog Street – a project run by BHPS and our partners People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Join more than 93,000 Champions by signing up for free at: www.hedgehogstreet.org – you will get an email with top tips on how you can help hedgehogs each month and there’s even a Hedgehog Street app you can download from The App Store or Google Play!”

BHPS is hoping to raise £2,000 during Hedgehog Awareness Week 2021, you can donate to the 2021 #hedgehogweek appeal at: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/HAW21

Leaflets and posters are available on this website under ‘information’ or we can post paper copies out on request. A downloadable copy of the Hedgehog Awareness Week (HAW) poster is available by clicking below

Hedgehog Friendly Campus Awards announced

Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a UK-wide university accreditation scheme funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Teams of staff and students work to apply hedgehog-friendly actions on and around campus.

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to all universities achieving their Bronze and Silver accreditations for 2020/2021! Don’t see your university listed? If you would like to get your university involved please find out more by emailing info@hedgehogfriendlycampus.co.uk.

The following Universities have achieved Bronze Accreditation (2020/2021):

Aberystwyth, Bangor, Bath Spa, Birmingham City, Bishop Grosseteste, Brunel, Cardiff Metropolitan, Durham, Edge Hill, Edinburgh Napier, Falmouth Exeter Plus, Harper Adams, Kingston, Leeds Beckett, Middlesex, Nottingham Trent, Newcastle, Queen Mary (London), Robert Gordon, Swansea, University Centre Myerscough, Brighton, Chester, Chichester, Derby, Glasgow, Greenwich, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, London, Nottingham, Reading, Salford, Southampton, Stirling, Suffolk, Sunderland, Westminster, Wrexham Glyndwr.

The following Universities have achieved Silver Accreditation (2020/2021):

Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Essex, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, Keele, Kent, Lancaster, Lincoln, Liverpool, Northampton, Northumbria, Roehampton, Sheffield, Surrey, University of East Anglia, UWE Bristol, Winchester, Worcester, York.

The following universities also renewed their Bronze accreditation (2020/2021):

Birmingham, Bristol and Keele.

Well done all – keep up the good work!

COVID-19 has NOT been detected in hedgehogs

We are aware of reports in some media outlets about a new study implicating hedgehogs as a possible host for coronavirus. The study identifies 876 possible mammal hosts, including cats and rabbits, but unfortunately, it’s the hedgehog, a species already in decline, that has hit the headlines. There is currently no evidence to suggest that hedgehogs are likely to transfer coronavirus to humans, and we encourage the public to continue to cherish and help protect their local hedgehogs.

There are many viruses and other pathogens that can be transmitted to humans by animals, and sometimes they do cause trouble. Viruses, especially, are likely to mutate frequently, varying the degree of threat they pose. In other words, there is nothing new about this situation. We have always advocated that people carrying out field studies of hedgehogs or handling them for rescue purposes should take hygiene precautions to avoid cross-infection.

A wide range of viruses are known to infect mammals and birds. The study is a theoretical analysis that points up a potential problem. Given the relative paucity of data on hedgehog pathology and ecology, any conclusions from such an analysis need to be considered in context at this time. For example, research by Damas et al 2020 (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010146117) suggests that hedgehogs would be nowhere near the top of the list of candidate mammalian hosts for the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2). The new study identified hedgehogs as a potential host to a future coronavirus and is merely theoretical. To date COVID-19 has not been detected in hedgehogs.


For more information Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen has prepared a document on this matter. 

Sign our petition to get greater legal protection for hedgehogs

We have launched a new petition calling on the government to offer greater legal protection for hedgehogs.  Hedgehogs have recently been added to the UK red list as a species vulnerable to extinction.  Every other mammal on that list has greater legal protection than the hedgehog.  We must do all in our power to help the steep population decline of our prickly friends, before it’s too late. And link to petition.

British hedgehog now officially classified as vulnerable to extinction

The inclusion, today, of the hedgehog in the Red List for British Mammals is not a surprise for us at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). We have been at the heart of research that has charted the demise of the nation’s favourite animal.

The recognition of the vulnerable status of the hedgehog is, however, an opportunity. It will give impetus to those of us campaigning to protect the habitats that the hedgehog needs to thrive, and increase the awareness of the importance of connecting those habitats. 

This has been central to the campaign Hedgehog Street – which we run in partnership with  People’s Trust for Endangered Species. All over the country people are working in their gardens to help wildlife – and we are encouraging them to connect those gardens with small 13cm square holes. 

“What people do on behalf of the hedgehog is amazing,” said Fay Vass, CEO of the BHPS. “The holes made in fences, the feeding, the hedgehog houses, the wildlife friendly planting, the removal of hazards – all makes such a difference locally.”

“But it is not enough to rely on the good will of individuals to protect this important creature,” Fay continues. “We need Government to enforce wildlife friendly practices. From farming to development to transport – wildlife needs to be taken seriously.”

The BHPS is calling on Government, in the light of this new internationally recognised classification, to increase the protection offered to the hedgehog under the Wildlife and Countryside Act by moving it to schedule 5, allowing the level of protection appropriate for such a keystone species in decline.

NEW BHPS funded study

Do robotic lawn mowers harm hedgehogs?

Hedgehog researcher Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen will investigate whether robotic lawn mowers are dangerous to hedgehogs by using dead hedgehogs. Photo: Troels Pank Arbøll.

Robotic lawn mowers running at night have been declared a great threat to the population of European hedgehogs. However, it has yet to be documented scientifically whether the robotic lawn mowers can harm hedgehogs. Hedgehog researcher Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen from Aalborg University in Denmark has decided to put it to the test.

Countless news features have described how robotic lawn mowers running at night are mutilating hedgehogs. Worried citizens share pictures of injured hedgehogs on the social media encouraging garden owners to stop using robotic lawn mowers in order to protect the hedgehogs. But are the robotic lawn mowers in fact to blame for the injuries?

“People are truly fond of hedgehogs and frequently share advice regarding on how to help them, such as alerting people to the fact hedgehogs are lactose intolerant or suggesting that bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit, as hedgehogs may build nests inside the piles of wood and branches. The latest advice that is being shared is regarding robotic lawnmowers but we do not have scientific documentation proving that the robotic lawn mowers are causing the horrific injuries we see. We know that some of the injuries are consistent with lacerations caused by garden strimmers or dog bites,” says hedgehog researcher Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen.

In her previous research she has necropsied 697 dead hedgehogs collected by volunteers throughout Denmark, and none of these hedgehogs showed signs of being killed by robotic lawn mowers. 

Testing on dead hedgehogs

Sophie Lund Rasmussen is therefore keen to investigate whether robotic lawn mowers harm hedgehogs. By September, she will commence her postdoc position at Aalborg University and also join the WildCRU at Oxford University, where she will continue her research on The Danish Hedgehog Project. But until then she will spend her summer holiday investigating if there is any truth to the claim that robotic lawn mowers kill hedgehogs, or if the explanation for the injuries should be found elsewhere. 

The research project is performed in collaboration with Animal Protection Denmark, Pindsvine Plejerne, WildCRU at Oxford University and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

The scientific investigation will be based on dead hedgehogs placed in front of approaching robotic lawn mowers, to record exactly how the machines react towards the hedgehogs. Do they detect them, stop and change direction, as they are supposed to? The dead hedgehogs in the study will be collected from hedgehog rehabilitation centres, where they were sadly too poorly to save. By using them for this project, the dead hedgehog will not have died in vain as they will instead help the living population. 

“It is important to discover and document what is causing the horrific injuries we see on hedgehogs every year so that we can improve the conservation initiatives directed at this declining species. If my research shows that the robotic lawn mowers are not the cause, it is important to shift people’s focus to the real source of the problem to best protect the hedgehogs,” explains Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen.

Hedgehog friendly robotic lawn mowers

The hedgehog researcher will investigate whether it is only special types of robotic lawn mowers with specific features that are causing the injuries, and if e.g. only smaller, juvenile hedgehogs are in danger of being injured or killed by the machines. Based on the results of the study, Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen will collaborate with the producers of robotic lawn mowers to develop more hedgehog friendly models.

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who is funding the project, says “This is important work, we need to find out if these mowers are in fact harmful to hedgehogs. If so we can offer advice to industry and to the public on how best to help hedgehogs when caring for the lawn. If these devices are of no threat, we can focus our efforts elsewhere.  We would hasten to add of course no live hedgehogs will be in danger from this study.”

Facts:

Sophie Lund Rasmussen holds a PhD in biology and hedgehog ecology from University of Southern Denmark and Naturama. She will continue her research on The Danish Hedgehog Project as a postdoc at Aalborg University and WildCRU, Oxford University from September 2020, where she will conduct research into accumulation of poisons in hedgehogs.

The research project on robotic lawn mowers and hedgehogs is funded by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.


Sophie Lund Rasmussen was one of five finalists in the science communication competition called PhD Cup 2020, established as a collaboration between Danish National Television (DR), Information and the Lundbeck Foundation. Read more here: http://www.phdcup.dk/english/

You can follow Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen’ s research on the Facebook page Pindsvineforskning Hedgehog Research Denmark: https://www.facebook.com/Pindsvineforskning

Hedgehog Friendly Campus

Hedgehog Friendly Campus

Huge CONGRATULATIONS to all 23 universities who just achieved Bronze Hedgehog Friendly Campus Accreditation in our Hedgehog Friendly Campus project! Onwards to Silver now! It's not too late to join in!

Posted by British Hedgehog Preservation Society on Tuesday, 21 January 2020

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS

to all universities achieving their Bronze accreditation for 2019/2020 – onwards to Silver now! If you would like to get your campus involved please find out more by emailing info@hedgehogfriendlycampus.co.uk.

The following Universities have achieved Bronze Accreditation (2019/2020):

Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Essex, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, Gloucestershire, Keele, Kent, Lancaster, Lincoln, Liverpool, Loughborough, Northampton, Northumbria, Roehampton, Sheffield, Surrey, University of East Anglia, UWE Bristol, Winchester, Worcester, York, York St John