Nearly 200 hedgehogs are now being cared for at a Norfolk animal hospital

Staff at the RSPCA's East Winch Wildlife Centre are facing an influx of sick and under-weight youngsters.

More hedgehogs than usual have needed care at the centre this autumn and the number of new cases coming in is only just starting to slow.

Often the prickly creatures need treatment for lung worm, but many are simply too small to survive the winter without some extra help.

To hibernate successfully, hedgehogs need to weigh between 550 and 600g, but some of those coming into the centre have weighed little more than 100g.

'We have 193 hedgehogs with us at the moment,' centre manager Alison Charles said. 'Some of the smaller ones will have perished with the weather turning colder.

'We hope the rest are safely tucked up and hibernating by now.'

As temperatures regularly drop below freezing, members of the public are being asked to keep an eye out for small, 'wobbly' hedgehogs who look unwell.

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Larger hedgehogs who look healthy would still benefit from cat or dog food being put out at the moment.

'It's more important than ever now the weather is so cold,' Mrs Charles added. 'People should also put out some food and fresh water if they are able to.'

The centre still needs newspapers and towels, particularly small towels or flannels for the hedgehogs. Hot water bottles are also welcome along with 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. If you can help, call the centre on 0300 1230709 during office hours.

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