Simon Cowell—no, not the one you know from American Idol—didn’t exactly know what kind of animal needed rescuing when he arrived at the scene. The Wildlife Aid Foundation founder got a call from a concerned individual who heard rumbling from a distressed critter. When it turned out to be a hedgehog trapped in some rubbish, the rescuer wasn’t surprised.
“We’ve got so many problems with this sort of thing,” Cowell says in the above video as he finds the tiny animal stuck in a can. With a little bit of jiggling, he’s able to free the hedgehog. “He would’ve died in there.”
The United Kingdom’s entire hedgehog population is in trouble. Experts estimate that only about a million hedgehogs roam the country, down from 30 million in the 1950s. The causes aren’t clear, but agriculture—especially its use of pesticides, which lessen the number of insects and other pests that hedgehogs eat—and urban sprawl have put the mammals at risk.
Motorists kill tens of thousands of hedgehogs on the road each year. In residential areas, the animals find themselves stuck in cups so frequently that in 2006, McDonald’s was forced to make the opening of its McFlurry dessert containers smaller. Residue from the treat was attracting the hedgehogs, which were getting stuck and starving to death inside the cups.
“He’s really just at that age when he would be breaking away from his mum now and finding his own food,” explains Cowell about the animal in the video before crushing the can in which it was likely trapped all day. “Now it’s hedgehog-proof,” he says.
Watching clips of hedgehogs being rescued or even just watching them sneeze may inspire a collective aw on the Internet, but neither shouldn’t encourage people to keep the critters as pets—especially in places where hedgehogs don’t naturally belong.
“Hedgehogs in the United States were all bred in captivity [they were imported from Africa in the 1970s], and they cannot exist out in the elements,” Deborah Weaver, president of the Hedgehog Welfare Society, told ABC News. Keeping them as pets is illegal in many states, including California, Georgia, and Hawaii.
To get our cute-hedgehog fix, videos like this one will just have to do. “Thirty million down to a million,” says Cowell of the rescue. “At least we saved one of them.”