Hedgehogs rescued during winter
The harsh weather of recent weeks has been taking its toll on the hedgehog population of Berkshire.
Hedgehog Bottom Rescue Centre in Thatcham has taken an unprecedented number of hedgehogs into its care due to the cold weather.
"On a normal winter we would be looking to have about 24 in the hospital. This year we have over 80," says Gill Lucraft from the centre.
"They are still turning up and I can't see any respite from it."
Ms Lucraft explained the reasons behind the increase in hedgehog casualties.
"The mothers are breeding too late in the year," she said.
Too many slugs can cause hedgehogs to suffer from lung worm disease.
"Because we've had the cold snap early they've gone into hibernation and the little ones don't have anything to eat."
Usually hedgehogs feed on all sorts of insects, worms, beetles and slugs, but at this time of year, this food is in short supply.
As a result, hedgehogs are eating a greater number of slugs and snails, which is a cause of lung worm disease.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, sleeping during the day and foraging for food late evening through to early morning.
Hedgehogs found outside of their nests during daylight may be in trouble - people with concerns about a hedgehog's health can call the
Hedgehog Bottom Rescue Centre
on 01635 826120.
"People all over the place are picking them up," says Ms Lucraft.
"There is more and more awareness that hedgehogs are in trouble.
"We've lost 50% of the population in the last ten years and hedgehogs out in the day or which are under 600g are not going to survive at this time of year.
"They need to be a minimum of 600g to make it through the winter because they lose a third of their body weight in hibernation," she said.
Hedgehogs at the centre need feeding up
"So even if they do make it through to the spring, they don't have enough resource to keep them alive and people find them collapsed all over the place."
Centre staff advise leaving hedgehogs alone if they are in their nests, are not injured and weigh over 600g, or if they have made a nest in your garden if it does not bother you.
If you see orphans in a nest, do not touch them but contact your nearest rescue centre and under no circumstances feed hedgehogs milk - they should be fed with a milk substitute such as Esbilac which contains all the fats, vitamins and minerals they need.
For more information go to the
Hedgehog Bottom Rescue Centre.