Published: 06:00, 28 August 2021
A hedgehog found with a tracking device stuck to its body has created a prickly problem between two animal rescue organisations.
Ray Allibone, who runs Swampy Wildlife Rescue in Sheerness, warned on social media that the tracker was so big it could trap the animal under fences or sheds and stop it from feeding. He has vowed to remove any he finds.
But Lorraine St John, who runs the Kent Wildlife Rescue Services, also in Sheerness, says she is looking after the hedgehog and insists it is perfectly safe.
She said: "It was brought into us by a well-meaning member of the public but it is part of a legitimate university research programme. The tracker is approved and specially made for this project. It is very light, about 17 grammes, and doesn't restrict the hedgehog in any way.
"The hedgehog is perfectly fine. We have weighed him, removed some ticks and will release him shortly. He is part of a master's degree. All the appropriate government licences and certificates have been obtained and strict protocols followed. We have been authorised to provide support to the study alongside our specialist vet."
She said removal or interference of the hogs was an offence under the 1996 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Mr Allibone said: "It is all a bit unnerving. There have been quite a few calls about hedgehogs being seen in daylight with this type of tracking device attached to their backs. It's plain to see it is very intrusive and could easily lead to them becoming trapped under heavy-planted hedges, fences or sheds. It is obviously very uncomfortable."
He promised to remove any device he found and said: "The owner of the device is welcome to call and retrieve it but I will need their information to ensure it is going to the correct person. If no one claims it, the tracker will be discarded after a week."
The hedgehog was handed in by retried school teacher Laura Burford who found it at her mother's home in Victoria Street, Sheerness.
She said: "This poor little chap had been wandering around my mum's garden for a couple of days. When I managed to find him he was exhausted and starving and unable to curl up due to this contraption on his back.
"Initially, I thought the hedgehog had been bound by wire as I could see the aerial sticking out. It turned out it had been glued to its spines. It seems an awful thing to do to an animal."
She contacted the Medway Hedgehog Trust which she says told her it had received several calls about other hedgehogs found in daylight with devices attached. She took it to Kent Wildlife Rescue Services.
Mr Allibone said: "Everyone who has anything to do with hedgehogs would love more information about their lifestyle but until something less intrusive comes along, let's avoid making their life any more uncomfortable than it is. These things could end up killing a hedgehog."
A researcher, who did not want to be named, said: "The tags used for this study are approved and hedgehog-specific. The vet did not find him to be exhausted, starving or unable to curl up. He has full mobility and can curl up fully.
"Other tracked hogs have been staying under sheds and travelling freely between gardens so the trackers are not restricting them in any way. I understand it can be shocking to come across a hog with a tracker but please be assured all proper thoughts and attention have gone into this study. The hogs' welfare is top priority."
She said the study would be "over soon" and the tags removed with "specialist solvent".
The discovery of the tagged hog came shortly after police announced they were investigating 10 dead hedgehogs and three kestrels dumped by the side of Harty Ferry Road, at the east end of Sheppey.