The Daily Telegraph

Dead hedgehogs pressed into service to test out robotic mowers

- By Helena Horton

DEAD hedgehogs are to be placed in front of robot lawnmowers to see if the machines can detect them, in a project backed by the University of Oxford.

There have been complaints to hedgehog sanctuarie­s by members of the public reporting that hedgehogs have been injured by automatic mowers. However, a lack of conclusive proof has spurred Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen, of Aalborg University in Denmark, along with the University of Oxford and the British Hedgehog Preservati­on Society, to conduct a study.

They are to place the carcasses of hedgehogs, which have died of natural causes, in a garden to see if electronic mowers can detect and avoid them. Fay

Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservati­on Society, told The Daily Telegraph: “Even though the sensors are supposed to detect hedgehogs and move away from them, we still hear reports of them being injured, often fatally, by robotic mowers.

“So are the mowers to blame or are the injuries caused by something else, such as garden strimmers or dog bites?

Perhaps smaller hedgehogs, juveniles primarily, are too small to be detected by the sensors. We need to investigat­e and document this scientific­ally.”

Dr Lund Rasmussen will investigat­e whether it is only specific types of robotic mowers that are causing the injuries and whether only smaller, juvenile hedgehogs are in danger from the gadgets. Based on the results the study provides, she will work with mower producers to develop more hedgehog-friendly models.

“It is important to discover and document what is causing the horrific injuries we see on hedgehogs so that we can improve the conservati­on initiative­s directed at this declining species,” Dr Lund Rasmussen said.

“If my research shows that the robotic lawnmowers are not the cause, then it is important to shift people’s focus to the real source of the problem in order to best protect the hedgehogs.”

She has previously carried out necropsies on 697 dead hedgehogs which were collected by volunteers throughout Denmark. None of those animals showed signs of being killed by robotic lawnmowers.

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