Big Mac helps out a prickly customer

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IT was the battle they thought could not be won - hedgehog fans versus global fast food giant McDonald’s.

However, McDonald’s revealed today it has completely redesigned the cup it uses to serve its McFlurry ice cream - in order to stop hedgehogs getting their heads stuck in it.

The move follows a spate of incidents in which the animals became wedged inside the tubs after poking their snouts in for a lick.

Ten hedgehogs found with McFlurry containers on their heads - including one from South Queensferry - have recently been treated at an SSPCA wildlife centre or freed by staff and volunteers in the field.

There have also been widespread reports across Britain of similar problems, prompting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society to lobby McDonald’s for a redesign.

Now McDonald’s is to trial a "hedgehog-friendly" style of McFlurry cup in selected restaurants from October, with a view to using it across the UK.

Wildlife charities first noticed the phenomenon of the McFlurry hedgehog trap about two years ago when the product came out.

When discarded, the dregs in the tub of ice cream attract the animals, which eat a wide range of foods, and they investigate by sticking their noses through the hole in the lid.

But they then find they cannot reverse out because their prickles get stuck in the lid. If they remain trapped, they cannot feed and rapidly weaken.

In the latest incidents, an SSPCA volunteer was notified of a McFlurry-bound hedgehog in South Queensferry. That was followed by several more cases from the Lothian area, with a number of animals ending up at the Middlebank Wildlife Centre in Dunfermline. Others were freed by SSPCA ambulance drivers or inspectors.

All the hedgehogs taken to the centre have since been released after recovering.

Altering the cups posed a problem for McDonald’s because the design of the tub was linked to the way McFlurries are prepared.

But the company now believes it has come up with a lidless version, which won’t affect the manufacturing process but should allow hedgehogs to remove their heads.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said: "We have taken this issue very seriously and our suppliers have investigated several new designs.

"We are now focusing on one new design and this is to be finally tested for practicality in a group of McDonald’s restaurants from October, with a view to replacing existing packaging, if it proves successful.

"We also conduct regular litter patrols around our restaurants to control packaging that people have dropped and would remind people to dispose of their rubbish carefully, in a bin."

SSPCA spokeswoman Doreen Graham said: "It’s really good news if the design is going to be changed.

"What first brought this to our attention was when one of our wildlife volunteers, who works quite near McDonald’s in South Queensferry, was told a hedgehog had been seen with its head stuck in one of these cartons.

"Since then we’ve had about another ten calls. In some cases our ambulance drivers or an inspector could remove the carton but in others the animals needed treatment before they could be released.

"If you’re a hedgehog a McFlurry carton smells yummy, but it’s just the right shape and size for them to get stuck in."

But she added: "This highlights the fact that a lot of different types of litter can harm or kill wildlife. People need to be extra-vigilant when disposing of it, whether it’s ring pulls or tin cans or McFlurry cartons."

Fay Vass, spokeswoman for the British Society for the Preservation of Hedgehogs, said: "This is a particular problem but it is claiming a lot of hedgehogs. We brought this to McDonald’s attention a long time ago.

"The sweet smell from the cartons can be detected quite easily and if hedgehogs find them they’ll have a go because they’re scavengers."