Warning that robotic lawnmowers kill hedgehogs: Scientists suggest essential garden gadgets come with ‘safety certificates’

  • Robot lawn mowers do not have safety features to protect hedgehogs in the grass
  • Scientists want to create a ‘hedgehog-friendly’ certification for robotic lawnmowers

Hedgehogs are increasingly being killed and injured by encounters with robotic lawn mowers that have few safety features to protect wildlife, according to scientists from the University of Oxford.

Researchers carried out a series of tests on the mowers, the latest must-have garden gadget, with the aim of creating a ‘hedgehog-friendly’ certification so gardeners don’t have to fear prickly victims when they prune the grass.

To ensure no harm was done to live hedgehogs, scientists instead used rubber ‘crash test hedgehogs’ to see if the robotic lawnmower would turn away when it encountered Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s trunk on the lawn.

Hedgehog numbers are already in serious decline, including habitat loss, road accidents, intensive farming and injuries from dog bites and garden trimmers.

But now the threats are made even worse by mowers.

Researchers from the University of Oxford have carried out a series of tests to create ‘hedgehog-friendly’ robotic lawn mowers that won’t maim the spiny mammals when they come to roost in our gardens

The researchers said that ‘many hedgehog rehabilitation centers have reported a significant increase in the number of hedgehog injuries caused by robotic lawnmowers.’

Dr. Sophie Lund Rasmussen from the University of Oxford said: ‘There is an urgent need to identify and phase out models of robotic lawn mowers that pose a threat to hedgehogs.

‘Our new standardized safety test will greatly promote hedgehog conservation, by allowing robotic lawnmower manufacturers to ensure their models are ‘hedgehog friendly’ before they go on sale.”

The researchers tested the responses of fifty hedgehogs in a closed environment to a switched-off (bladeless) robotic lawnmower that was stopped 50 cm away from the hedgehog.

Overall, the hedgehogs showed three responses: running away from the mower; standing stiffly in front of it, partly curled up; or curiously sniff the lawn mower.

Robotic lawn mowers like this Honda Miimo can help people relax, but they can be a nightmare for hedgehogs who often get tangled in the blades of passing mowers

Robotic lawn mowers like this Honda Miimo can help people relax, but they can be a nightmare for hedgehogs who often get tangled in the blades of passing mowers

In general, younger hedgehogs were bolder than adult hedgehogs.

Based on the responses of the live hedgehogs, they created rubber hedgehogs for use in safety tests, which can be created by manufacturers using 3D printers.

Ultimately, the researchers hope that the hedgehog safety test using the dummies will become standard on the British and European markets.

To make mowers more hedgehog-friendly, sensors that can detect hedgehogs and blades that retract when they hit something harder than grass should be used, the authors suggest.

Co-author Dr Anne Berger from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research said: ‘Cuts caused by robotic mowers pose a huge burden on many hedgehog care centers and consume important resources, as these injuries often require above-average care and care. treatment’, with the victims being found days or weeks after the accident.

Fay Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, added: ‘Hopefully the results of this work will stop or drastically reduce the risk of robotic lawn mowers causing harm to hedgehogs.’

The research is supported by mower manufacturers STIHL and Husqvarna.