WILDLIFE rescuers in Fishcross are encouraging people to keep an eye out for hedgehogs as part of an awareness drive.

The Scottish SPCA has issued advice on problems faced by the animals and how people can help them as the charity marked Hedgehog Awareness Week, organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

The good cause’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre, based in Fishcross, is currently caring for 28 “prickly pals”.

Some were admitted after being found outside during the day in a poorly condition and dehydrated while others were uplifted after being tangled in netting, resulting in wounds and swollen joints.

Jenna Lister, triage assistant at the centre, said: “In the coming weeks, you may see females wandering around during the day to find food and nesting materials.

“Unless the hog is in poor condition or showing signs of sickness, they should be left alone to carry on with these natural behaviours.

“Small hoglets with pink skin and closed eyes and ears should not be out of the nest alone.

“At four-weeks-old they will begin to leave the nest with their mother to go on foraging trips but they should not be seen out alone before they are fully independent.

“If they are wandering around, lying lifeless and cold or are making a peeping noise to call for their mother, then they are likely in need of our help.

“Hoglets are fully independent by eight-weeks of age, weighing around 250 grams and look just like a mini hedgehog with their spikes.”

With less suitable habitats available, people are being encouraged to make their gardens more hedgehog friendly and safe.

Jenna added: “To help hedgehogs, leave materials in gardens that can be used for nests such as moss or leaves.

“You can also put out water dishes and cat food to help expecting mothers and juveniles later on in the season. Just make sure you avoid fish-based food.

“Check for signs of hedgehogs before carrying out any work in your garden, to try to prevent disturbing active nests.

“If nests are disturbed accidentally, please ensure there are no injuries to any young and put the nesting materials back. The mother will still return to the nest.”

People working in their gardens are being urged to look out for signs of hedgehogs before using any types of netting as the animals will begin to struggle to free themselves once they feel trapped, which can result in them becoming tangled deeper.

Alternatives to netting should be used if possible as this could help to save the life of a hedgehog.

Anyone concerned for the welfare of a hedgehog is being asked to contact the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.