People doing work in gardens across France have been warned to look out for hedgehogs, which often hide in piles of vegetation, and may be at risk from major work or clear-ups, especially in the evening.
As the weather remains good in most parts of France, especially after the periods of high heat seen recently, people with gardens may be even more tempted than usual to do work in their gardens, including clearing overgrowth.
However, environmentalists have warned that moving piles of plants without due care, especially in the evenings or nighttime, can be fatal for animals such as hedgehogs.
Lydia Bourdeau, a manager at an animal shelter in Châtellerault, told France 3 that the shelter is currently caring for 50 hedgehogs that have been injured, some severely, by garden tools in recent weeks.
She is also caring for saving orphan baby hedgehogs, including some only a few days old, whose parents were killed by garden tools such as hedge cutters or lawnmowers.
Ms Bourdeau said: "Nighttime is when hedgehogs go hunting, so if we could only use tools or lawnmowers during the day, we can avoid crushing the mother hedgehogs.” she begs, holding a baby hedgehog a few days old.
Around 1.8 million hedgehogs are also killed by vehicles on roads in France per year. Only 30% of hedgehogs live for longer than a year, due to premature death.
Experts say that by 2050, the animals could be extinct, despite their being extremely useful to the natural ecosystem.
Wildlife care centre le Centre de soin de la faune sauvage in Poitevine, Haute-Vienne (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), carers are also warning gardeners to be alert to other species including weasels.
One very young weasel is being cared for at the centre after a tree being felled killed its mother and caused it injury. When its strength has returned, it will be returned to nature.
Both shelters are pleading for gardeners to approach their outdoor spaces with caution and watch out for any animals that could be hiding or hunting nearby.
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