When you're a critter that settles in for hibernation, you don't expect to be interrupted, least of all by teeny-tiny ear mites.
Such was the situation that a hedgehog, now dubbed Bear, found himself in this winter. Now the little fella is bald and receiving massages from humans to keep him healthy and to encourage spine growth.
A concerned member of the public brought Bear to the Curan Wildlife Rescue charity in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England, because the person didn't know what kind of animal he was. (Let's be honest: Most of us wouldn't know it was a hedgehog without those iconic spines.)
Workers at the rescue think an ear mite infection woke Bear from his hibernation and that the infection stressed his body so much that he lost all of his spines.
"We can only assume that he went into hibernation and had these ear mites which took hold," Fran Hill, the manager of the charity, said in a statement. "When hedgehogs get stressed, they lose their spines. I think that prematurely brought him out of hibernation, which added to the stress.
"He must have been so cold as well," she added.
When Bear — who was given that name by Cuan staff member Dani Peat — arrived, he was "incredibly hungry," according to Hill, and dug right into some cat food and drank water for almost four minutes straight.
In addition to getting plenty of food and water, Bear also receives daily massages. Rescue staff rub his skin with aloe vera to soothe the exposed skin and increase blood circulation to promote spine growth. He will also receive a weekly bath.
"We think his spines will grow back," Hill said, "but it will just take a bit of time."
Hill isn't sure when Bear will be able to return to the wild, though she expects it'll at least be a couple of months. She's very optimistic about his progress and chances, however.
"The fact he's eating us out of house and home is a good sign. If they will eat, they're almost half way there. We've a great team and he'll get all the care he needs. He's a little poppet."
You can make a donation to the Cuan Wildlife Rescue to help Bear and other animals at the charity. (Please note that donations are done in pounds so there will be some currency exchange differences depending on your location.)