SHE just survived, after appalling cruelty by sadistic thugs.

Now a hunt has been launched to find the person or people who targeted a defenceless hedgehog.

Veterinary staff have been praised for saving the life of a hedgehog, now called Valerie after she was targeted by torturers who snapped cable ties around her.

The hedgehog was brought into the out-of-hours emergency care provider's clinic in Easton Lane, Winchester recently suffering from horrendous neck injuries. She was found near Weeke Park in Winchester.

Horrified vets and nurses from removed the ties and treated the wounds of Valerie, whose name means strong and healthy.

They applied manuka honey dressing and disinfectant before administering fluids, pain relief and antibiotics.

While Valerie is still not back to full health, she is on the road to recovery and is being kept under close observation at the home of one of the clinic staff.

Vet nurse Amy Kneller said it was clear from the way the cable ties had been tightened that it had been a deliberate act of cruelty.

She said: “I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve not seen many intentional cruelty cases in my career. However, I was horrified by what had been done to this young hedgehog.

“The injuries she sustained were very similar to a cat collar injury and must have been very painful. It’s great that she’s recovering and her neck wound has completely healed but, unfortunately, it’s unlikely she’ll put on enough weight to be able to hibernate this year.”

Fay Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said she was sickened to hear about Valerie’s plight and praised the vets and vet nurses involved in saving her.

She said: “The pain and fear this poor animal must have gone through at the hands of its torturers is unimaginable. Thank goodness it is now safe and receiving the care and treatment it so needs.

“We ask that anyone who has any information about this attack contact the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018. Let us ensure these people have the fullest most severe punishment possible for carrying out such a cowardly attack.”

Once a common sight, estimated at 30 million-strong in the 1950s, there are now fewer than one million hedgehogs in the UK. Their decline is believed to have been caused by loss of habitat in towns and countryside, road deaths and a possible rise in predator numbers such as badgers.

In 2015, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society launched a joint, 10-year conservation strategy for the species, which has been voted the nation’s favourite wild animal.