A HEDGEHOG society is calling on people in East Lancashire to give the animals a helping hand as they come out of hibernation.

Due to the warm winter, hedgehogs have been emerging sooner than expected this year, causing an increase in road kill and making them encounter a lack of food.

The Hedgehog Preservation Society is calling for people to turn a corner of their gardens into ‘wild space’ suitable for hedgehogs and to put out food and water for them if they see them in their garden.

The society is also calling on people to create a five-inch gap in their fences to aid hedgehogs in their two-mile nightly trek.

Nationally, hedgehog numbers have been on the decline for many years and have dropped 37 per cent in the last ten years. The society has said that because last year saw more conventional weather than 2012 there was a ‘less confusing pattern’ of hedgehog emergence.

However, because of the warm weather this winter, hedgehogs have been spotted earlier than normal, raising concerns over their safety.

Fay Vass, chief executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society, said: “It’s too early to say whether this year is going to be a good year for hedgehogs. We have received some reports of them emerging early and there are lots of things people can do in their own gardens to help them.

“They will be starving and very thirsty so any food and water that can be put out for them would be very useful.

“Also a ‘wild space; in the corner or gardens would be great which is a simple but very effective way to help them find new habitats.

“Road kill is a serious problem for them and that of course increases if they are out and about earlier than normal.

“But it’s the loss of habitat that mainly affects them and it’s so important to help them if you can during those first few days after hibernation.”