The survival of one of Britain’s most rapidly declining mammals, the hedgehog, is in serious jeopardy as the colder weather heightens the threat to their young.
The demise of the spikey creature is stark. In the 1950s an estimated 30 million hedgehogs populated Britain but latest wildlife surveys indicate that they now number around one million, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said.
At this time of the year, they tend to give birth to a second litter of babies. Hoglets leave their mothers at seven weeks of age but many do not survive beyond a few weeks.
Roaming solo, they struggle to find food and are often seen out in daylight scrounging for food beneath bird tables. Food supplies have been depleted by habitat loss and the fragmentation of traditional feeding grounds - caused by more fences around gardens among other factors - making hibernation a challenge.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is asking people to help hedgehogs’ search for food by making gaps in their garden boundaries that are large enough for a hedgehog to pass through.
In North Yorkshire, Annette Pyrah of Selby Wildlife Rescue asks anyone who finds a hedgehog to pick it up, keep it warm and contact a hedgehog rescue.
She said: “Hedgehogs seen out in daylight are often cold, hungry, ill or a combination of all three. Poorly hedgehogs do not have the luxury of time and go downhill very rapidly. They need help quickly if they are to be saved.”
Ms Pyrah expects to care for around 40 baby hedgehogs this winter at her wildlife rescue centre in Barlby near Selby. The little hoglets will be kept warm, receive veterinary care and will be fed a nutritious diet for at least five months before their release in spring.
Anyone who wishes to donate tins of meaty cat food or dried meal worms to help feed the rescued hoglets can contact Selby Wildlife Rescue on 07803 180720.