The homeless hedgehog


I know you can see a kitten and possibly an egg but hidden off to the right is ‘Parky’ , our  ‘homeless’ hedgehog.  Water surrounded our home on new years day and flooded Parky from his nest where he had been hibernating.  I didn’t find him wandering the ‘streets’ so to speak – I found him by accident one morning in our cat house. I found that the chickens had laid an egg in it and when I was pushing the straw aside I got spiked and was treated to a short grunt.

I first met Parky one night in early November when I heard something  rattling the cat bowl on the decking beside the house – looking for some tidbits.  I was delighted to see a hedgehog in the area again because I hadn’t seen any since the winter of 2009 when the last flooding killed off many of them (like the one below) that were all around our area of Kiltartan.

A previous visitor in summer 2009 that was probably killed by the floods.

When floods rise here it’s not like these animals can stampede and keep ahead if it  (Although, in fairness, these guys can move surprisingly fast when they want to) – They are marooned against hedges and walls or even on open land and eventually succumb to the floods.

Why Parky? ….Well – when I ask who is responsible for this homeless hedgehog – I assume it to be the National Parks and Wildlife service (NPWS) – so Parky suits. The Hedgehog is a protected animal under the Wildlife act and NPWS aims to ‘secure the conservation of a representative range of ecosystems to maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland

If I ask again who is responsible for this homeless hedgehog- but in the context of why he is homeless – it’s of course, because of the flooding?

OK who is responsible for the flooding? – Then the finger-pointing happens – it’s the climate, it’s the forestry, it’s the land-owners, the  farmers, … the government, etc.  Regardless of the ‘who’ – an indisputable fact is as follows….

In South Galway, underground rivers bring water to the sea and swallow-holes that are not maintained or blocked will always lead to flooding.

Special Areas of Conservation

[Disclaimer – I’m not an expert but would love to hear from one!]

There are certain areas of Ireland classed as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)  and the NPWS again comes up and the body that is responsible for their conservation.  There are strict rules about what can be done in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)  and several fines/penalties for non-compliance.

In South Galway, between Coole and Kinvara, there are several SACs. Within these Caherglassaun lough has 3 swallow holes (one of them is completely blocked) and Cahermore tourlough has also a number of these (Again suppposed to be in poor condition).

There are many stories flying around about swallow-hole clearing being blocked because they are in SACs – The rumors (Let’s hear from all sides)  are that landowners have been blocked directly from clearing swallow holes (The NPWS/OPW halting works).  There are of course the indirect controls which could be land owners losing hundreds of thousands in penalties/fines so they simple don’t bother with touching the swallow-holes.  Doing work in SACs is probably possible but would require Environmental Impact Assessment + other and it sounds like a lot of red tape – I’m not sure as I’m not an expert.

There is a much bigger elephant in the room here around the overall human cost as well as the overall environmental impact of flooding that I will address in a later post but for now let’s focus on Parky.

Historically the NPWS would perceive landowners, farmers, developers etc as the main ‘threat’ to the wildlife that they seek to protect e.g. Parky.  In South Galway, with the flooding crisis, I would contend that any government body or service that impedes solutions to alleviating flooding is the main threat that the NPWS should be looking out for.  Therefore, is there a confict within the NPWS – Do they need to look within their own organization?

Meanwhile Parky , whom I found out wandering the island last night, has  settling down in a new abode where hopefully he won’t be disturbed over the winter.


I intend to address, at a later date, some of the broader issues but thought it was useful to take some small ‘hedgehog-like’ steps at first.

-David Murray



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