Hedgehogs and eels flee from enclosures

Petting corner co-organisers Dale and Jaclyn Harris, of Outram, cuddle American miniature Mediterranean donkey Daisydowns Rosebud and her foal Maungatua Poppy's Petal at the Otago-Taieri A&P Show in Mosgiel on Saturday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Slippery and prickly pets set to star at the Otago-Taieri A&P Show made a break for freedom on Saturday.

Petting corner co-organiser Jaclyn Harris, of Outram, said she and her husband Dale Harris had run the pet show for four years.

Animals on display included eels caught from canals in a 200ha dairy farm they contract milked on in Henley.

“We have a lot of eels on the farm and they are like our pets.”

The eels were on display in an open tank at the show and could “slither” out and needed to be caught and returned, to the joy of the crowd.

Some hedgehogs were set to star but escaped as the sun rose on the morning of the show.

Mr Harris had caught the six hedgehogs in a net and put them in a box, she said.

“I told him ‘they might get out of there’ and he said ‘no, they’ll be right’ and as always wifey was right.”

The hedgehogs were last seen in the box at 3am on Saturday, before the couple left for milking, so the “big escape” happened after that.

“It was disappointing for my husband because he spent a few nights looking for them.”

Mr Harris said he searched for hedgehogs in a vehicle and they were hard to catch because they could run fast.

“You have to slam your brakes on and run down the road with a net.”

He was philosophical about the prickly situation.

“Hedgehogs are renowned escape artists.”

Mrs Harris said the number of animals in the pet show had grown since cattle competitions were cancelled three years ago in a bid to reduce the risk of Mycoplasma bovis spreading.

The first year the pet show was run in a tent but had moved into a big shed, The Wallace Pavilion, which was previously used to show cattle.

Despite the ban, the pet show featured two cows – an Ayrshire and a Jersey – which had been cleared for the disease and were hand-milked in the shed by her brother, Kelly Allison.

She thanked staff and parents from the Green Street Early Learning Centre in Mosgiel for their help.