WINTER is upon us and one local animal sanctuary is putting out its annual appeal for food to help the hedgehogs in its care make it through the coldest part of the year.

Hedgehog numbers have declined dramatically over recent years and Annette Pyrah - who runs the Wildlife Orphanage in Barlby, near Selby - says that they have been inundated with desperately underweight hedgehogs: "Over the last few weeks we've admitted 24 very small hedgehogs, all likely to have perished if they had not been picked up.

Sadly, these young hedgehogs no longer have time on their side to gain the weight and fat reserves needed to last them through the winter."

The timid little creatures are munching their way through hundreds of sachets of cat food a week, and the sanctuary is desperate for donations of meaty cat food and kitten biscuits.

Annette said: "These little hedgehogs will be with us until next Spring. That's a long time and an awful lot of food for our small rescue."

Anyone who finds a hedgehog should contact Annette on 07711 883 072. Donations of food can be dropped off at the rescue at Low Mill, York Road, Barlby.