A Co Armagh rescue organisation is urging people to be wary of hedgehogs when tending to their weeds this summer.

After a brief spell of good weather, the lawnmower and strimmer have returned to gardens recently, but this can also mean a rise in injuries caused to hedgehogs due to garden equipment being used in areas where they are nesting.

Andrea Cowan (53) has been running Loughgall Hedgehog Rescue for the past five years and has rescued and rehomed approximately 400 hedgehogs from across Northern Ireland.

She said that the help of some local vets has been “essential” in helping to save the lives of the animals.

Her interest in hedgehogs was sparked some years ago when her mother’s dog disturbed a mother hedgehog and her hoglet and the mother fled, leaving Andrea to tend to and look after the hoglet herself.

“I couldn’t allow it to starve and die,” she said, revealing this is where her idea for establishing a rescue for the animals stemmed from, realising there was no dedicated rescue for just hedgehogs available to her.

Loughgall Hedgehog Rescue is not a registered charity yet and any help that Andrea offers the hedgehogs that come into her care are either self-funded or helped by donations.

“I also work full time so anything I do is usually in my spare time or in the evenings,” she said.

“Anything I can do to help I will.”

In the 1960s there were over 30 million hedgehogs recorded in the UK, but this has dropped to just under one million, according to recent data.

“They are supposed to have protection, but I don’t believe it’s worth the paper it’s written on,” the Co Armagh woman said.

“They are listed as endangered and heading for extinction, which in itself is so sad as they are incredibly valuable little animal to have in your garden.”

In the past two weeks, Andrea has received at least four different incidents where hedgehogs were badly injured due to garden equipment.

“One had severe neck, head and back injuries due to a robot lawn mower and three from strimmers, one of which was so bad that we had to put her down,” she explained.

“Myself and other rescuers, who have seen these types of injuries on the rise lately, are urging people to think before they strim; it is so important to just take a couple of minutes and check through the base of the area you are about to strim.

“A hog nest is easy to identify because it looks like a rounded pile of grass,” she added.

“Many people ask why do the animals not just run away when they hear the noise, but hogs fight or flight response is to roll into a ball, so there is a need for a physical check first.”

Some weather-related incidents have also affected the habitat of hedgehogs in Northern Ireland.

“The heavy storms in October and November of last year have had a huge knock-on effect on numbers of the species as I had many come to me after being washed out of their nests due to flooding,” Andrea explained.

“It’s important, due to this extreme loss of habitat, that people can introduce ‘hedgehog highways’ in their garden fences so they can easily move as well as regularly leaving out shallow dishes of water for them and maybe kitten food if you think they are hungry.

“Opting not to use chemicals in the garden can also help as well as maybe sectioning off a part of the garden to go ‘wild’ and not mown to allow a safe place for them to stay,” she added.

For more information or to make a donation, visit the Loughgall Hedgehog Rescue Facebook page, or contact Andrea on [email protected] or 07810 876470.