THE SCOTTISH SPCA is urging the public to contact its animal helpline if they find a hedgehog this winter.
Although it depends on the prevailing weather conditions, most hedgehogs hibernate during November, December and January but the animal charity is currently caring for some which are too small or weak to survive without help.
As the weather gets colder hedgehogs’ usual food source becomes more difficult to find and, to compensate they slow down their use of energy by becoming immobile, their bodies cool and their heart and breathing rates decrease.
Colin Seddon, of the SSPCA, said: “Hedgehogs should be hibernating by now but there will be some out there who won’t survive without help.
“Most of the hedgehogs in our care have either been caught out by the long wet spell of weather and haven’t been able 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 at this time of year.
“Many of them arrived weighing between 300g and 400g, almost half their ideal weight.
“We would be particularly concerned if a hedgehog is out during the day and would urge anyone who finds one to call us so we can come and collect it.
“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 we arrive.”
Favourite nesting sites include under hedges and roots of trees, in piles of brushwood, inside compost heaps or in old rabbit burrows and under timber buildings and sheds.
Most hedgehogs wake up during their hibernation but rarely leave their nests and, although generally unprompted, it may be caused by a disturbance or unexpectedly hot weather.
Mr Seddon added: “Our rehabilitated hedgehogs will be released once they achieve a suitable weight of over 600g and when the weather warms up to a consistent night time temperature of over four degrees centigrade.”
Anyone who finds a hedgehog this winter is urged to call the Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.