RSPCA at East Winch is home to more than 160 prickly visitors and is appealing for newspaper, towels and flannels to help.

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Whether your preference is an array, or a prickle, there is no doubt that there is a large number of hedgehogs receiving care at an RSPCA wildlife centre.

The collective noun for a gathering of our spiny friends may be a matter for debate, but there is no question that the hedgehog is among the best-loved of all our native wildlife.

Which is why it is all the more worrying that there are more than 160 of them currently being looked-after at the East Winch centre.

Most of them are tiny and often less than half the weight they should be to successfully hibernate through the long winter ahead.

Manager Alison Charles said there was no identifiable single reason why there were so many hedgehogs are being brought in this autumn.

“We certainly have a lot more than we normally have. They are juveniles and under-weight, arriving at about 2-300g which they should be 550-600g to successfully hibernate,” she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be any reason we can identify for this. The ones arriving here would not make it without help. Apart from being under weight, they are also dehydrated and unwell,” she added.

The hedgehogs receive immediate care including a course of antibiotics and drugs for lungworm. They are fed protein-high dog food and kept warm with the aid of hot-water bottles, heat pads and heat lights.

They will be released when they achieve a healthy weight and would be able to survive on their own.

Concerned members of the public have been taking the hedgehogs into the RSPCA as they are being seen out and about during the day, and clearly not well.

One tiny hedgehog arrived on Friday morning, weighing-in at just over 100g.

Members of the public are being asked to keep an eye out for small, ‘wobbly’ hedgehogs who are unwell and should be referred to the RSPCA. Larger hedgehogs who look healthy would still benefit from cat or dog food being put out at the moment.

The centre is desperately in need of newspapers and towels, particularly small towels or flannels for the hedgehogs. Hot water bottles would also be welcome, as would electric heat pads.

There is also the chance to sponsor a hedgehog for £20 which will cover its care cost before it goes back to the wild.

For more information see: www.rspca-eastwinch-wildlifecentre.co.uk or contact the centre at Station Road, East Winch on 0300 123 0709 during office hours.

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