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The RSPCA has asked home-owners to check bird-feeders – even supposedly squirrel-proof ones – regularly, and to call for help if they find a trapped animal

A squirrel that beat a bird-feeder designed to keep it out had to be rescued by the RSPCA after finding itself too fat to escape.

A home-owner in Hartlepool went to replenish the nuts in her garden bird-feeder on Saturday, only to find the squirrel imprisoned by its metal bars.

The animal-lover called the RSPCA and rescue officer Ruth Thomas-Coxon used wire cutters to free the trapped grey, which then scampered off down the garden to freedom.

Ms Thomas-Coxon said: “This greedy boy must have gone in – even though this is a squirrel-proof feeder – and obviously he had such a good feed he got wedged and was unable to exit.

“Luckily his predicament was spotted or he could have endured prolonged suffering.

“He was obviously frightened but otherwise appeared unscathed from his ordeal – however he probably needs to lay off the nuts for a while.

“I freed him in situ, as we’re legally allowed to do, and as soon as he was free he made a quick getaway – which was good to see.”

The RSPCA has asked home-owners to check bird-feeders – even supposedly squirrel-proof ones – regularly, and to call for help if they find a trapped animal.

The charity also said that, although grey squirrels are considered an invasive alien species and cannot legally be released back into the wild if taken into care for rehabilitation or treatment, they can be legally released in situ.