Dozens of hedgehogs have been rescued as the winter weather begins.

This winter could be particularly hard for hedgehogs, the numbers of the iconic creatures admitted to wildlife centres have already topped 2020 figures.

By mid-November this year, the number of hedgehogs taken into care by the animal charity’s four wildlife centres, 1896, was already more than the total for the whole of last year,1883 in 2020.

In Cumbria there have been 35 hedgehog rescued already this year.

Every year, the RSPCA receives thousands of calls reporting their concerns about a hedgehog.

Hedgehogs born late in the year often do not have enough fat reserves to survive the long winter hibernation without some help. They'll have to forage for longer to find enough food - often during the day - and that’s often when they are spotted by concerned animal lovers determined to help them.

The decision whether or not to intervene with a hedgehog depends on how much they weigh during early winter and whether they are healthy or not.

RSPCA Scientific Officer Evie Button said: “A cold snap can be lethal for underweight hedgehogs if it means they go into hibernation before they’ve put enough weight on.

“If you see a young hoglet that’s only about the size of an apple - around 300g - they really need to be rescued and taken to a rehabilitation facility, as they won’t have enough fat reserves to last the winter.

“We fear this may turn out to be a bad year for hedgehogs as admission numbers into our centres have already overtaken 2020’s. We urge people to visit our website for advice on what to do if they see a sick or injured hog, particularly if it’s out and about during the day.”

The best way to help juvenile hedgehogs depends on how much they weigh. As part of its online hedgehog advice for the public the RSPCA recommends that:

If the hoglet weighs less than 300g (about the size of an apple), then it will need specialist care to survive the winter.

If a juvenile hedgehog weighs between 300 and 500g after mid-October, they probably won't have enough weight to see them through the winter so may also need help.

If the hedgehog weighs over 500g and is only seen out at night, it should be healthy enough to hibernate as normal in the wild.