With New Zealand's predator free aspirations focused on rats, stoats and possums, hedgehogs may be a forgotten predator causing tomorrow's endangered wildlife.
The European Hedgehog was introduced into New Zealand from Great Britain starting in 1869 when the Canterbury Acclimatisation Society released a pair at Lyttelton. Introductions continued until the 1890's to remind the colonists of their British homeland and as a biological control agent to eat slugs and snails in gardens.
While hedgehogs no doubt do eat slugs and snails in gardens they also eat a lot else besides, including the eggs and young of ground nesting birds, large invertebrates such as weta and native lizards. Their impact is particularly severe in open habitats, such as riverbeds, where birds may nest in colonies and offer easy pickings for these nocturnal hunters.
What's in a Name?
The familiar saying "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" warns about the risks that come with trying to achieve more by challenging the status quo.