A fire crew from St Austell were called out to help a hedgehog this afternoon, after it had become trapped in a drain.

The animal was released from its gulley prison by a team of firefighters, who used small tools to dig up an area of tarmac and free the frightened creature.

The incident took place at 1.20pm on Boldventure Road, a quiet cul-de-sac in the town's eastern suburbs.

Nigel Dyer, from the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The hedgehog was rescued successfully and placed in the hands of an RSPCA inspector."

The original call for help was made by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), who state in their promotional material and on their website: "We specialise in rescue, animal welfare and preventing animal cruelty."

The RSPCA often work closely with Fire and Rescue services around the country, most recently helping stricken pets and farm animals affected by this month's floods:

  • In Aberystwyth, two dogs were rescued from a caravan on a flooded holiday park.
  • A cat and some budgies were transferred to an animal shelter after 20 basement flats on the seafront at Littlehampton were evacuated because of flooding.
  • 20 cattle in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex were marooned on a bank and had to be recovered by a six-strong RSPCA Water Rescue Team.
  • In Billingshurst, also in West Sussex, the fire brigade were called to rescue sheep after some had already drowned.

The European Hedgehog was included in the "United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan" in 2007 under a list of species and habitats in the UK that needed conservation and greater protection.

They thrive in many countries in northern and western Europe and are protected by law in Denmark, where it is illegal to capture or hurt them.

In the Western Isles of Scotland, however, they are considered a serious pest due to their tendency to feast on the eggs of ground-nesting wading birds.

Regular culls, designed to reduce the number of hedgehogs in the islands, which are also known as the Outer Hebrides, have caused consternation amongst animal rights activists.

This lead to a programme of "transportation" by the Scottish Natural Heritage board, who removed the animals to the mainland at great cost, but without harming them.