A TINY hedgehog was kicked to death and another was left traumatised after being used as a football in a “staggering act of cruelty”.
The hoglet, weighing just over 100 grams, died from a suspected punctured lung shortly after being rescued from a group described as “monsters” on Stroud Green after the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday.
The two females were rushed to the hedgehog rescue centre, Hedgehog Bottom, in Thatcham, which fought to keep the hoglet alive.
Founder and manager of Hedgehog Bottom, Gill Lucraft, said that an Australian woman had turned up on her doorstep with the two babies.
The woman had told Mrs Lucraft that she had witnessed the men shouting “Catch it! Catch it!”, at first thinking they were throwing a ball.
But when the lady realised that the group were lobbing the tiny mammals around she stepped in to rescue the hoglets.
“The littlest one was just over 100 grams and had blood on its nose,” Mrs Lucraft said.
Hedgehog Bottom is awaiting the result of a post mortem examination but Mrs Lucraft said she was pretty certain that it had a punctured lung.
The other hoglet, weighing around 200 grams, was left traumatised.
When asked how she felt about the cruel incident, Mrs Lucraft said: “Resignation I’m afraid. People seem to treat our wildlife with disdain.
“It’s pretty horrific but we have had heard it before and heard much worse.
“It would have been nice to have them brought in rather than kicked about. The cruelty is staggering; them flying through the air and in pain.”
Mrs Lucraft said that the crime had not yet been reported to the police as they could not act without a description of the culprits.
The act has prompted strong reaction on Hedgehog Bottom’s Facebook page.
Hazel Gibbons said: “I am so very sorry and sad to hear this. Poor little thing did nothing to no one and she ends up dead because of inbreds.
Rachel Rushmer said: “So sad. Let’s hope the pathetic excuse for human beings who did this get what they deserve.”
Natasha Kendall added: “Absolutely heartbroken at this news.
“We need to get this situation into the NWN and let people know about these thugs, help the profile of these declining native animal and to raise the profile of the wonderful hedgehog rescue shelter.”
Mrs Lucraft said that at this time of year baby hedgehogs would be trying to fatten up for winter.
But she said it was “a Catch-22” as the hedgehogs that were used as footballs may not have survived the winter; needing to weigh around 500g to make it through hibernation.
She said: “It’s been so bad this year.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure why. We had dry winter last year so they started to breed early and had more litters than normal.”
She said that the centre was currently full, with 174 hedgehogs being sheltered.