WITH Christmas just around the corner, Somerset's wildlife is preparing itself for winter.

Secret World Wildlife Rescue in East Huntspill is appealing for donations to help animals get through the cold winter months.

The wildlife centre is asking residents to fill up shoeboxes with food, toys and blankets to give animals a special treat this Christmas.

Samantha Hannay, head of external relations at Secret World, said: “We are encouraging members of the public and schools to get involved and send us shoeboxes filled with goodies that will help us look after the wild animals in our care throughout the winter.

"Christmas is about giving and it will be wonderful for our wildlife to receive a special Christmas treat this year - any donation will be greatly appreciated."

The charity is looking for dog or cat meat flavoured food and dog or cat biscuits, chew toys, fleece blankets, bird feeders, fat balls and vet beds to help badgers, fox's, hedgehogs and birds survive the winter months.

Secret World Wildlife Rescue, which cares for more than 5,000 animals and birds a year, has also issued some advice for those who wish to support wildlife in their own back gardens.

Laura Benfield, Head of Animal Care Services at Secret World, said: "At this time of year, most wild animals are building their reserves to survive the cold season.

“The best way to support our wildlife is to supplement their diet with enough food for them to build their reserves but not so much that they become reliant on it.”

Laura also warned residents against handling injured animals if they come across them in their back gardens.

“Your safety is paramount so don’t approach the animal.

"Instead call your local vet or the nearest wildlife centre for advice," Laura said.

Residents who would like advice on how to look after wild animals or would like to report injured wildlife should call 01278 783 250.

Shoeboxes can be sent to: Secret World Wildlife Rescue, New Road, East Huntspill, Highbridge, Somerset, TA9 3PZ.

For a full list of items you can donate visit secretworld.org.