HEDGEHOGS adjusting to the mild winter could be in mortal peril by the weekend as experts forecast a cold snap.
Concern is spreading for the thousands of small prickly creatures living in the North East.
The unusually mild winter weather has disrupted their hibernation patterns and allowed them to shed vital layers of insulating fat.
And by tomorrow temperatures are expected to plummet to an Arctic -11C leaving them in danger of death.
These little critters are among 93 creatures safe at a hedgehog hospital at Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust.
Unable to survive in the wild, volunteers feed them dry cat food in the morning and wet cat food later on in the day. Except for one picky hedgehog, Billy, who sticks to chicken and fairy cakes.
Carole Catchpole, from the trust, said: “What we call the Autumn Orphans are particularly at risk this year. They are the ones born in August and September last year that are not old enough to be away from their mother.
“The hedgehogs need to be a sufficient weight to survive the winter, they need to be at least 600g to hibernate into spring.
“Because this winter has been unusually mild, the hedgehogs haven’t been eating enough to get up to the weight they need to be, as they don’t think it’s time to hibernate yet. Others have been hibernating and then coming out when they need to eat, but there aren’t any of their natural food sources around - snails, slugs and worms. There aren’t many around at this time of year.”
Normally hedgehogs eat in October and November to put on weight to survive the winter. Baby hedgehogs born in August are most at risk.
Mrs Catchpole said: “If members of the public see a hedgehog during daylight hours, that is a sign something could be wrong. They should never be out in daylight as they are nocturnal.
“It could be a sign that they are ill, or malnourished as they are looking for food.
“They can often be found near bird tables, eating food left for birds. If members of the public were to leave some dry food and water out for them that would be very helpful for them.”
To report a hedgehog call the trust on 01665 570 650.