Cubert 'Hogspital' warns people to look out for struggling hedgehogs this winter
WHERE do poorly hedgehogs go when they need urgent care and attention? A hogspital, of course.
It may sound like a joke, but one Cubert family has made the punchline a reality, transforming a garden shed into a treatment room that has housed 70 animals this year.
They even decided to keep the name 'hogspital' after setting up a charitable organisation, Prickles & Paws Hedgehog Rescue, to help injured or abandoned critters.
The pair, backed by Diane's husband Martin, secured a grant from Cornwall Council's community chest to transform the shed and install electricity and custom-built hutches earlier this year.
Now they are urging people to keep their eyes peeled for "wobbly", underweight hedgehogs this winter, as a late autumn means many hoglets will not be big enough to hibernate.
Mrs South, 49, said: "If you see hedgehogs out during the day, especially in winter, then that's usually a cause for concern, particularly if they are wobbly on their legs. We're here to look after them at the hogspital and at the moment we are doing very well.
"It's very rewarding releasing them. To see them snuffling around in their natural environment is amazing. It makes it all worthwhile."
They currently release around three quarters of the hedgehogs that come into their care, although a tough summer saw many youngsters die across the county.
"We lost a good few," said Mrs South. "We had an awful lot of tiny hoglets, some just 20g in weight, and it's almost impossible to get them to survive. It's heartbreaking."
The family now spends more than three hours a day caring for 15 hedgehogs, and is looking for funding to pay for a 'chick brooder' which provides gentle heat for weak babies, and an incubator.
Mrs South said: "We are always grateful for donations, and really rely on them.
"We were funding it ourselves but it got too expensive so we became a charitable organisation. It means we can access grants, like the council's community chest."
The hedgehog rescue service began three years ago when animal-lover Katy, now 19, took in several animals from a local vet's, before beginning a degree in conservation.
She and her mum then became registered carers with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, and it "snowballed from there", according to Mrs South.