A HEDGEHOG rescue centre is urging gardeners to look after their "best friend" as they prepare their gardens for spring.

Annette Pyrah said hedgehogs are already waking from hibernation, prompted by the warmer weather.

And she warns that spring tasks can lead to gardeners accidentally giving them "dreadful injuries" or disturbing them in any way.

Annette, who runs The Wildlife Orphanage and Hedgehog Hospital in Barlby, Selby, said: " Hedgehogs are a gardeners best friend" because they eat slugs and other pests that damage plants.

Hedgehog numbers are in such a serious decline they are on the IUCN Red List.

Here is Annette's advice on how to ensure gardens are hedgehog friendly.

1) Check an area before strimming. Hedgehogs continue to arrive at the Wildlife Rescue with dreadful injuries caused by strimmers.

2) Before replacing an old shed, take a look underneath as sheds and also decking are a favourite place for hedgehogs to hibernate and also have their babies.

3) Leave out a shallow bowl of water and kitten biscuits. This will greatly help hedgehogs as they emerge from hibernation hungry and thirsty.

4) Never offer dried mealworms to hedgehogs as mealworms offer no nutritional value and can cause serious metabolic bone disease.

5) Football netting and vegetable netting should be raised so that hedgehogs don’t become entangled. Each year we admit hedgehogs who have been injured with netting.

6) Ponds can also be a danger to hedgehogs and should have an escape ramp for hedgehogs or any other creature who may accidentally fall in.

7) Create a small gap in your garden fence so hedgehogs can roam from one garden to another. We really need to get hedgehog numbers up so this will really help.

8) Avoid using slug pellets or pesticides.

9)Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures and should not been seen out in daylight hours. If a hedgehog is spotted in the day looking weak and wobbly, it will need a helping hand so please seek advice from your local Hedgehog Rescue.

To walkers she says: Have a quick check down any cattle grids as hedgehogs and other mammals can become trapped if there is no ramp to escape”