Funds to be sought for large-scale removal of hedgehogs
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) hopes to secure funding for a large-scale eradication of hedgehogs from the Western Isles.
The mammals are not native to the islands, but in 1974 seven were released on South Uist to eat slugs.
Over the years the population grew and conservationists found the creatures eating eggs of ground-nesting birds.
A project to tackle the problem began in 2001, but SNH now wants to step up the trapping and removal operation.
Hedgehogs are found on South Uist and Benbecula.
SNH said it had started investigating sources of funding for a large-scale eradication project.
The plan, still at an early stage, would build on previous work to catch the hedgehogs and transport them to the mainland for release.
The effort to control hedgehogs followed declines in numbers of ground-nesting birds such as dunlins, ringed plover and redshank.
The Uist Wader Project was launched in 2001.
Initially hedgehogs were culled, but this was soon stopped and Uist Hedgehog Rescue was launched to trap and relocate the animals.
Since 2002, hundreds of hedgehogs have been relocated.
SNH is also involved in other projects to control non-native species, including stoats in Orkney and mink in the Western Isles.