Hedge­hog res­cuer’s talk spiked

The Southland Times - - NEWS - JAY BOREHAM

Are hedge­hogs spiky bun­dles of joy, or deadly preda­tors de­stroy­ing New Zealand’s en­vi­ron­ment?

De­bate has erupted fol­low­ing a li­brary talk on res­cu­ing ail­ing hedge­hogs and suc­cess­fully re­leas­ing them back into the wild.

Les­ley Wheat­ley, of Hedge­hog Res­cue New Zealand, hosted the talk at Orewa Li­brary in north Auck­land to teach adults and chil­dren about hedge­hogs, and give a shout out for vol­un­teers to help fos­ter an­i­mals while they re­cu­per­ate.

Wheat­ley, who has res­cued hedge­hogs for about four years, also talked about how hedge­hogs get a bad rap about be­ing dis­ease and flea rid­den.

Be­fore the talk started, For­est and Bird’s Pauline Smith crashed it to in­form peo­ple about the darker side of hedge­hogs. Hedge­hogs preyed on na­tive snails, skinks, ground nest­ing birds and their eggs, Smith said.

Smith started the Pest Free Whanga­paraoa Penin­sula project in 2011, where vol­un­teers trap pests to help na­tive birds and plants flour­ish. The re­lease of hedge­hogs into the wild un­der­mined and made a mock­ery of the work of vol­un­teers, she said. ’’It is a to­tal in­sult to ev­ery­body’s hours that they put in.’’

Wheat­ley sup­ports the work of For­est and Bird, but also be­lieves ev­ery crea­ture de­serves a chance to live.

Hedge­hogs were re­leased in sub­ur­bia away from ar­eas where they could af­fect na­tive birds, Wheat­ley said.

In places where the New Zealand dot­terel and vari­able oys­ter­catch­ers nest, Wheat­ley will re­move hedge­hogs if she sees them, so they can’t prey on the birds.

Wheat­ley said the type of fleas that lived on hedge­hogs did not ar­rive in New Zealand with them, and the dis­eases and mange mites they could carry could also be caught from pets or cat­tle. She also wanted to dis­pel the myth that all hedge­hogs seen dur­ing the day were sick, as in late spring fe­males were out work­ing to cre­ate nests.

‘‘They’re out there busy gath­er­ing bits of hay, grass and moss, what­ever they can find, and it might be un­der your deck, shed, or what­ever, but they don’t need res­cu­ing. They’re just about to have ba­bies - so please don’t bring them into care,’’ Wheat­ley said.

Wheat­ley has had a soft spot for hedge­hogs since some­one brought her a sick one and asked her to look af­ter it five years ago.

The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion kills hedge­hogs on its land, but re­leas­ing them did not breach the Biose­cu­rity Act, as they were not classed as an un­wanted or­gan­ism, Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries man­ager of re­cov­ery and pest man­age­ment John San­son said. ’’They are not man­aged un­der a na­tional pest man­age­ment plan, so MPI doesn’t have any di­rect in­ter­est in this is­sue.’’

There were no plans to man­age them un­der a na­tional plan or other na­tional pest pro­gramme led by MPI, he said.

Un­der Auck­land Coun­cil’s Auck­land Re­gional Pest Man­age­ment Strat­egy, hedge­hogs are only con­trolled from es­tab­lish­ing on Hau­raki Gulf Is­lands. Hedge­hogs are also ex­empt from the Gov­ern­ment’s Preda­tor Free 2050 tar­get, which will tar­get pos­sums, stoats and rats.

PHOTO: JAY BOREHAM/STUFF

Les­ley Wheat­ley has been res­cu­ing hedge­hogs for four years.

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