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Research: Robotic lawnmowers can cause injury to hedgehogs

6th May 2021

Robotic lawnmowers are becoming increasingly more popular in the UK. They work by detecting a line laid out on the boundary of the lawn. Though expensive, they are popular for their ease of use and saving on time and effort.

The lawnmower issue

It has often been thought that robotic lawnmowers can cause injuries to hedgehogs, just like strimmers. Now a new study has shown that to be the case. Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen (known as Dr Hedgehog) of Aalborg University and WildCRU, University of Oxford, has shown that different brands of lawnmowers cause injury to hedgehogs. They also have vastly different effects on the hogs, depending on the features they sport.

Dr Hedgehog with a robotic lawnmower and a hedgehog which did not take part in the study.

Features such as front wheel drive, pivoting blades and skid plates mean that the lawnmowers are much less harmful to hedgehogs. Unfortunately all mowers tested had to physically bump the hedgehog to detect it, though some did not harm the hedgehogs.

No live hedgehogs were used in the study. Dr Hedgehog collected dead hedgehogs from rehabilitation centres, after they had passed away from disease or illness, and used their bodies to test the lawnmowers’ effects.

Investigating solutions

As there was a major difference between manufacturers, the next step for Dr Hedgehog is to prevent the finding to the manufacturers and encourage collaboration. She also wants them to design a standardised test so that hedgehog friendly products can be labelled.

Credit: Rosie Simpson

“We needed to find out for sure if these mowers were in fact harmful to hedgehogs. Hopefully now we have this information we can offer advice to industry on producing hedgehog safe mowers and to the public on how best to help hedgehogs when caring for the lawn.”

Fay Vass from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

In the meantime, if you own a robotic lawnmower, it is best to only run them during the day, and check the lawn for any vulnerable wildlife before you start.

Is your garden hedgehog friendly? Take the Garden Challenge here!