Two rare blonde hedgehogs have been released at historic sites in the north west of England after being nursed back to health by the RSPCA.

The hedgehogs, one female and one male, were brought in separately to the RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre & Cattery in Nantwich, Cheshire last year after being found wandering outdoors during daylight hours.

Blonde hedgehog Although not true albinos, blonde hedgehogs are extremely rare in the UK except on the Channel Island of Alderney where they have become common since a pair were released in the 1960s. Their unusual colouring is caused by a rare, recessive gene and, of the 7,000 hedgehogs admitted to Stapeley Grange since it opened in 1994, only three have been

The female hedgehog was admitted in July 2008 after she was found in Gobowen, Shropshire by a member of the public. She weighed just 110g but, after a few months being cared for by RSPCA staff, reached a healthy weight and was released at Norton Priory Museum & Gardens in Tudor Park, Runcorn on March 27. She was released together with a regular hedgehog companion into a large walled garden with plenty of flowers and plants.

The male hedgehog was admitted in October 2008 after being found out during the day in Llanfaelog, Anglesey. He weighed just 280g but steadily gained weight during his stay at Stapeley Grange and was released into a large walled garden at Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire on March 27.

Andrew Smith, supervisor at Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, said: “Blonde hedgehogs are extremely rare so it was a real delight to have two in our care. We’ve worked hard to get them back to a healthy weight and are thrilled they’ve responded so well.

“We decided to release the hedgehogs at Norton Priory and Tatton Park so as they could live in a wild environment but with some degree of safety and protection. We always try to release animals back where they came from but blonde hedgehogs are so conspicuous because of their colouring that they often prove attractive to predators such as foxes, badgers and dogs.

“We’re now looking forward to seeing them both thrive in their happy new homes.”

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