Prickly pest shocks conservationists as hedgehogs spotted 2000m up NZ mountains

Source: 1News

A nocturnal visitor to urban gardens is making an unwelcome appearance in the South Island's high country.

Hedgehogs are a threat to several of New Zealand's native species and their discovery 2000 metres up mountains in the Mackenzie Basin has shocked conservationists, who are now fighting back.  

"They're probably the nicest animal to deal with in terms of pests in New Zealand," Te Manahuna Aoraki researcher Nick Foster told 1 NEWS.

There's no denying that hedgehogs are super cute but the issue is, they're super deadly too.

"For every moment they are awake and not hibernating, they are just guzzling up New Zealand's invertebrates and skinks and ground nesting birds," Foster says.

That's why Foster has tagged 30 of them over the summer, clipping their spines to attach GPS trackers so every lethal move can be recorded.

Foster says the hedgehogs can travel quite big distances; a sighting on an infrared camera nearly 2000 metres up a mountain proves that.

"It was quite a surprise to be flicking through camera footage from above 1900m and to see a little spiky hedgehog wander by," Foster says.

"I usually think of them in a garden in England."

Just last month, a trial project was launched to completely eradicate hedgehogs from a 2500 hectare area using 560 traps.

Some fine-tuning is needed, with many hedgehogs weighing more than 1kg.

"We're putting in mayo or fresh rabbit, we're still working out the best bait," Foster says.

"They are a bit of a prick of a thing to catch."

But the killing spree needs to stop, Foster says.

"If we did remove them, there could be twice as much birdlife out there."

The ultimate goal is a 300,000 hectare predator-free zone out at the Mackenzie Basin.

"We've already taken a pretty big hit out of the hedgehog population in a relatively short amount of time," Foster says.

They won't rest until this prickly little predator is eradicated from the tussock land.