Hedgehog rescue plea from Scottish SPCA

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HEDGEHOGS are bearing the brunt of the winter weather as many have not had a chance to go into hibernation before the freezing temperatures hit.

A wildlife centre in Fife has rescued 84 of the tiny creatures and the Scottish SPCA is encouraging members of the public to call its animal helpline if they find any during the freezing winter weather.

The prickly mites are suffering as many have not had enough time to store up body fat to go into hibernation and others are the product of late litters.

Staff at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fife have said some of the hedgehogs have arrived weighing around a third of their ideal body weight.

Colin Seddon, centre manager, said: “Hedgehogs should be hibernating by now but there will some out there who won’t survive without help.

“Most of the hedgehogs in our care have either been caught out by the bad weather and didn’t have enough time to store up the necessary body fat to go into hibernation or are from late litters, which is common.

“These youngsters will be out foraging for food such as earthworms, beetles, slugs, snails, insects, fruit and carrion but they’ll be finding it very difficult because of the cold weather.

“Some of them have arrived weighing only 200g, which is around a third of the weight they’ll be when we release them.

“If anyone finds a hedgehog during this spell of bad weather they should try to contain it by picking it up using gardening gloves or a thick towel and placing it in a secure box.

“It can then be left with fresh water and tinned cat food until it can be collected.”

The centre feeds the hedgehogs cat food mixed with dried crushed insects – which is a product that is bought in.

Mr Seddon added: “When the hedgehogs come into our care they are kept inside in cages by themselves on a base of newspaper along with shredded paper for them to hide in.

“They are fed, given water and cleaned out every day.

“To begin with they are kept in a heated room. Once they reach around 550g we then move them into a room without heat which helps prepare them for living in the wild again.

“In the final stage we move them into an outside pen, still providing them with food, water and shelter, and then it’s a case of waiting for the temperature to be consistently high enough for them to be released safely.”

Earlier this year hedgehogs at the centre had to be put on a calorie controlled diet after a prolonged winter delayed their release.

Mr Seddon said: “The hedgehogs were doing less exercise than they would in the wild so we had to ration their food and put them on a diet when we noticed them putting on weight.

“This year we are closely controlling their food intake and keeping them singly, which helps us monitor them more effectively and also prevents more dominant hedgehogs eating more than their fair share.”

Anyone who finds a hedgehog this winter is asked to call the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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