RSPCA centres have been swamped with calls from people worried about the welfare of the animals in recent weeks – 154 in Tyne and Wear, 113 in Durham and 24 in Northumberland.
As winter approaches, hedgehogs’ favourite prey - invertebrates like slugs, worms and beetles - becomes less available – and many fail to gain the weight they need to survive through hibernation.
Of the 793 hedgehogs admitted to RSPCA wildlife centres over the past three months, half were affected by hunger, 194 were starving, 113 were orphaned and another 187 were admitted due to ‘abnormal behaviour’ - including being active during daylight hours, often a sign of extreme hunger.
The charity says leaving out food can help them get through the winter and recommends tinned dog food, crushed dog or cat biscuits (not fish based) and specialist hedgehog food available from suppliers of wild bird food
It also recommends leave a shallow dish of fresh clean water every day but never feed hedgehogs bread or milk.
Milk can cause diarrhoea and bread is very low in nutrients.
RSPCA Scientific Officer Evie Button said: “Hunger hits hedgehogs hard in the winter. But the public can play a vital role in helping them get through these colder months by putting food out for them.”
Anyone with concerns about a wild animal’s welfare can contact the RSPCA advice line 0300 123 4999.
For more information about how to help hedgehogs, go to https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/inthewild/gardenhedgehogs