Hedgehogs are to blame

There was a Hedgehog in my garden in Orkney. We all ran outside to see it and it curled up in a protective ball.

Hedgehog - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

As soon as I mentioned it online I got a comment; Hedgehogs were to blame for the decline in ground nesting birds. Hedgehogs to blame? Really?

In the last few thousand years people have cut and burnt all the native forest here and destroyed everything that lived in it. We’ve poisoned the remaining fields with artificial fertiliser and weed killer to destroy the wildflower meadows that replaced the forest and what we have left is a desolate monoculture of grass.

In the last few hundred years we have continued hunting wild ground-nesting birds for food and eggs and have hunted Great Auks to extinction to make feather pillows. We have poisoned beaches with animal slurry from intensive agriculture with beef cattle kept in unnaturally high densities in artificially lit barns. We feed animals on silage which is harvested mechanically, destroying eggs and chicks in fields by mincing them in their machinery. Corncrakes are now rare. We have hunted seals for food and skins and have hunted whales to near extinction to melt their bodies down to burn in our Stevenson’s lighthouses. We have introduced feral cats and rats and stoats to island communities. We’ve introduced rabbits which erode sensitive dunes. We are still running businesses killing wild geese for pleasure as a ‘sport’. People have overfished the seas leading to extreme declines, where industrial boats with 5mm mesh have taken a million tonnes of sand eels and juvenile fish a year out of the North Sea, leading to Puffins and Kittiwakes starving to death. The sea and our shores are full of single use plastic debris and discarded fishing nets which drown or trap our birds and lead to Fulmar chicks starving with bellies full of plastic.

The decline in ground-nesting birds? Let’s blame Hedgehogs shall we? Perhaps, just perhaps, we ought to look at our own actions first.

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