Tayside has seen a huge decline in hedgehog numbers, a local charity has revealed.
The Wormit Hedgehog Care Centre has taken in 98 of the prickly creatures this year up from 52 in 2013, but still far below the 322 brought in 2008.
Numbers have dipped gradually every year since then, with 268 rescued in 2009, 228 in 2010 and 103 in 2011, as well as 102 in 2012.
Sandy Boyd, who runs the centre with his wife Alice, said the weather had a large part to play in the declining numbers.
He said: “We’re not only rescuing fewer hedgehogs, but we’re seeing fewer of them in general.
“The problem is they are not sexually mature until they’re a year old.
“This spring was cold, meaning the litters were delayed.
“In turn, those being born later have only been having litters recently.
“A hedgehog needs to be 600 grams by the end of September to survive hibernation and if they’re only being born recently then they don’t have a chance to gain weight.
“Also if the mums are going into hibernation any time from October onwards then the babies are left alone.
“These are most likely the ones being brought to us.”
Hedgehogs are listed as an endangered species, after UK numbers dipped from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to around 1.5 million now.
Those brought into Sandy’s care centre are a mixture of male and female, weighing between 126 grams and 162 grams meaning they’ve little chance of survival.
“One season’s bad weather can have a knock-on effect, with future litters less likely to live every year,” said Sandy.
“If anyone finds a hedgehog and is are unsure if it’s a baby or adult, they should weigh it to check it’s over 600 grams.”
His charity’s website also offers the following advice: “Hedgehogs should be handled with thick gloves.
“Once you have established that a hedgehog is in need of assistance, pick it up and put it in a cardboard box. The box should be lined with newspaper and a towel. Never give a hedgehog cow’s milk or bread.”
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and if they are seen during the day, it’s likely they are unwell.
The Wormit Hedgehog Care Centre can be contacted on 01382 541311.