RSPCA centre near King’s Lynn helps Norfolk’s wildlife battle on through the cold

Staff at the RSPCA's East Winch Wildlife Centre have had their work cut out in the recent cold snap.

For as temperatures fell well below zero acrosss East Anglia, pipes froze at the complex, near King's Lynn.

That meant water to top up pools used by swans and seals which are being nursed back to health had to be carted by watering cans.

'It's not too bad now but the hosepipes still haven't thawed yet,' said centre manager Alison Charles.

'We've just got to keep going, the swans have got their pool and there's water that goes on top of their feeds.

'There's also water for all the hedgehogs to drink - at the last count we had 167 off them.'

The Arctic weather has caused a sharp increase in the number of hedgehogs being brought in out of the cold.

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Some young animals may not hibernate because they have not accumulated enough body fat to see them through until spring.

Ms Charles said one woman had found a tiny hedgehog foraging in the snow in her garden at Blakeney. It weighed just 160g - which is pretty emaciated in hedgehog terms. Feeding Mrs Tiggywinkles to get her strength back up costs nearly �2 a day. That means a daily food bill nudging �500 for hedgehogs alone.

As well as seeing an increase in the number of animals being admitted, centre staff are having to look after them for longer because of the weather.

'We can't release animals when it's this cold, it's not fair on them,' said Ms Charles.

Conservationists are also urging people to remember to put food out for the birds.

When temperatures drop below freezing, the insects, berries and seeds that garden birds depend on can be hidden by frost and snow.

Food we provide is often esssential for their survival. The RSPB recommends meal worms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain.

Leftovers like grated cheese, porridge, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also good sources of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital.