Baby hedgehogs under threat from robot lawnmowers
The increasing popularity of robotic lawnmowers in the Netherlands is posing a major threat to hedgehogs, especially baby hedgehogs, according to hedgehog interest group Egelwerkgroep Nederland. More and more young hedgehogs are mutilated or even completely torn apart by these automated lawnmowers, that often don't recognize the tiny critters as an obstacle, the interest group said on its website.
According to Egelwerkgroep Nederland, the number of robotic lawnmowers in the Netherlands increased by around 25 percent per year over the past 5 years. And with that rise came an increase in the number of hurt or killed hedgehogs.
"Hedgehog carers see a striking increase in serious injuries, especially on the back", Merel Klaarmond of Egelwerkgroep Nederland said to newspaper AD. According to her, the accidents happen because many mowers don't stop when they register small obstacles, which means that they mow right over the hedgehogs they hit. "We regularly receive phone calls from people who find a torn-apart or wounded hedgehog in their yard. This often concerns robotic lawnmower owners who want to know how to prevent recurrence."
Another problem is the hedgehog's main defense mechanism. Instead of running away from perceived threats, hedgehogs curl up into a small spiky ball. "The hard and sharp ball that is created in this way has protected hedgehogs from predators for a long time. But a robotic lawnmower sees a rolled up hedgehog as a bump and then drives over it. The consequences can be terrible. The blades can get stuck in the skin of the hedgehog or, when it concerns little ones, cut them into pieces", Klaarmond said.
Exactly how many hedgehogs are killed or injured by robot lawnmowers per year is not clear. The interest group is therefore calling on the owners of these mowers to report any incidents involving hedgehogs. This can be done through the Egelwerkgroep Nederland site. "Our goal is to publish hard figures by the end of this year and pass them on to manufacturers so that machines can be adjusted", Klaarmond said to the newspaper.
In the meantime, there are precautions robot lawnmower owners can take to minimize the chance of victims. The main one is to only run your lawnmower during the day, as hedgehogs are mainly active at night. Remove all animals from the lawn before turning on the lawnmower. Buy a robotic lawnmower with a low edge, 4.5 centimeters from the ground at most, so it can't go over hedgehogs. And make sure your device has the necessary safety mechanisms, such as blades that automatically fold away if they encounter obstacles.