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11 April 2003
Hedgehog Problem is not new
Reproduced from the correspondence column of
The Scotsman, 11 April 2003
(Filed 11 April 2003)
To many country dwellers, the most interesting
story about the hedgehogs on North Uist is not the farce of the
cull and the controversy over whether to kill or move, it is the
reason why the cull is being undertaken now. The problem has been
known about for years.
In my book, Isles of the West: a Hebridean Voyage,
I published an interview with a bird researcher in the Western Isles
in 1996, in which he said the cause of the decline of the waders
he was investigating was hedgehog predation. If Scottish Natural
Heritage knew about the problem then, why did it not act?
The reason, I suggest, is that in those days
the problem only affected crofters and the business which they do
with bird-watching tourists. Since the hedgehogs moved to North
Uist, in particular to the western side around Balranald, SNH has
suddenly sprung into action. Why?
Could it be because the only Royal Society for
the Protection of Birds reserve in the Western Isles is at Balranald?
One of the many criticisms which rural communities
in Scotland have against SNH is that it is far too ready to listen
to the often self-serving "science" put about by the RSPB.
The trend started when Magnus Magnusson was appointed
the first chairman of SNH in 1991. He came to this job after having
been president of the RSPB for five years.
One benefit of moving SNHs headquarters
to Inverness will be that it will be less closely in touch with
the RSPBs principal Scottish branch office.
Port Ellen, Islay
Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care
Mitchell, I. (2001). Isles of the West: A Hebridean Voyage. Birlinn
Limited. (ISBN: 184158150X).