A rescued baby hedgehog will never be able to attract a mate because of a mystery skin condition which has left her completely bald and without spines.
Betty was abandoned by her family before she was found by a member of the public and handed in to staff at an animal rescue centre.
Animal experts are baffled by her mystery skin condition, which has caused the lonely hedgehog’s skin to become dry and left her without any spines.
Six-week-old Betty is now so scared of other hedgehogs that staff at the animal sanctuary believe she will never find a mate.
However, she cannot be returned to the wild because her lack of spines means she would be unable to defend herself against predators such as badgers and foxes.
Tonia and John Garner, 47 and 52, who run Foxy Lodge rescue centre, Norfolk, England, revealed Betty will endure a lonely life unless her spines return.
Mum-of-one Tonia said, ‘She’s healthy and everything is absolutely fine apart from she doesn’t have any spines.
‘It’s very sad because she cannot protect herself. She rolls up in a little ball but because she doesn’t have the spines she is easy meat for any predator.
‘We won’t let Betty be with alone with the males. She is very frightened of being near other hedgehogs and any offspring could have the same genetic condition.
‘We keep her alone in an enclosure indoors and I mix almond oil and tea tree oil to put on her back sometimes because her skin can get very dry.
‘We have to keep her out of the sun because she can burn up as her skin is very sensitive. We just hope the spines will return so she can have a normal life.’
Betty is being kept in her own enclosure at Foxy Lodge rescue centre and has become too scared to approach other young females.
Because she has no protective spikes she is also being kept away from aggressive hedgehogs and males.
Many of the other hedgehogs have ostracised Betty because of her unusual skin condition and she now faces a life of solitude.
Without her spines Betty’s skin is too sensitive to be allowed outside in the blistering sun and her rough hide is moisturised every day to stop it from drying out.
After eating a diet of fine chopped chicken and cat food the battling hedgehog has grown to a healthy 650g and regained some of her strength.
Tonia believes Betty could be the youngest in a family of spineless hedgehogs living nearby.
by David Livingstone