An animal welfare charity has highlighted the shocking cases of hedgehog abuse that have occurred in Ireland this summer.
Hedgehog Rescue Dublin, an animal welfare charity founded by zoologist Yvonne McCann, said they have seen some "shocking" cases of abuse this year.
The latest case saw two hedgehogs kicked to death in a park in Clondalkin, on Dublin's southside.
"They were kicked to death. Kicked like little footballs by a group of teenagers," Ms McCann told Independent.ie.
The volunteer who had come across the gang of teenagers called the charity and then went to her mother for help. By the time the two of them returned to the park there was nothing they could do. The hedgehogs were already dead.
The case was reported to Ronanstown Garda Station and the National Parks and Wildlife Services on Tuesday but because the teenagers couldn't be identified, the incident couldn't be followed up.
Ms McCann said that her animal welfare charity is "way over capacity" this summer. They normally hold up to 40 hedgehogs at a time but they currently have 60 hedgehogs in their care.
"We have a lot of hedgehogs coming into us that have been kicked around. That's unfortunately quite normal. Especially when people are drunk on the way home from the pub, they just kick them around like little footballs."
She said: "We had a horrific case where a hedgehog had been pounded repeatedly with a can."
Not all the hedgehogs who are brought to the centre have been abused. In many cases the injuries are caused by accidents.
"We take the injured in for assessment. Then we send them on to a vet for a check up and they come back to us for rehab. If they're fit for release, we set them back out into the wild," she explained.
"Dogs are a big threat for hedghogs. We have 10 litters with us now and they've all been attacked by dogs.
"It's hard for dog owners to be aware of hedgehog presence in their gardens. The mother will always keep the babies well hidden, under a garden shed or a place where the family can't be seen.
"When the babies are about four weeks old she brings them out to teach them how to forage and that's when the problems occur. They're slow and vulnerable at that age. Easy for dogs to attack.
Slug pellets also pose a grave threat for hedgehogs. They die a slow and painful death from metaldehyde poisoning after eating poisoned slugs and snails.
"It's a horrific death. It's hard for us to diagnose too. We only pick up on it when they're foaming at the mouth. They're in agony. It's really the worst way for a hedgehog to die.
Ms McCann advised people to opt for organic slug pellets, as they're bird and hedgehog-friendly.
She explained that "anything from coffee grinds, crushed eggshells and bran and porridge oats" will work as a slug pellet alternative.