Rescuers trying to save more than 5,000 hedgehogs from a cull on islands off the north-west of Scotland ended their operation yesterday after protecting only 120 animals.
Activists have scaled down their efforts early because the hedgehog mating season has started. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is also expected to call off its cull for this year.
Since the hedgehogs began emerging from hibernation in April, a consortium of animal welfare groups, under the umbrella of the Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR), has been offering £5 to islanders for every animal handed in.
SNH says a cull is vital if wading birds on North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist are to be protected from the egg-scavenging animals, which have reduced some bird colonies by up to 60 per cent in the past 30 years.
UHR said: "The bounty has been a great success. Our rescue would not have worked so well without it but we do not want any females lifted now as they are probably all pregnant and it would cause too much suffering." The group intends to return next spring when the second stage of the cull begins.