The RSPCA has received a total of 594 reports across Devon of animals found severely injured, trapped or even dead from carelessly discarded litter over the past four years.

Shockingly, Devon came second after Greater London as the county with the worst litter problem in the country.

Across England as a whole, there were almost 13,000 reports during the same period.

Among the incidents dealt with by the animal charity was a hedgehog that was entangled in barbed wire, a fox cub with litter caught round his neck (see picture), a goose with an old drinks can stuck to her lower beak and a Great Black Backed Gull whose leg became almost completely detached due to an old fishing line cutting in.

The new data - released this week by the charity - also reveals that it received an average of 13 reports per day last year during the peak months from May to August, when there is a particular litter hazard for animals.

In response, the animal charity is urging the public to help "create a better world for every animal" by getting involved in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean’ (between March 15-31). Individuals, groups or schools can pledge their support - and say how many bags of litter they intend to pick up - with more than 400,000 collected in total last year.

Among mammals, litter-related reports to the RSPCA were highest for foxes, hedgehogs and deer, while among wild birds, swans, pigeons and gulls bore the greatest brunt of discarded rubbish. The charity also received reports of pet cats and dogs being affected.

RSPCA anti-litter campaigns manager Carrie Stones said: “Sadly, for every animal we’re able to help there are probably many others that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives. “Spring is an ideal time to go on a litter-pick because it falls before the breeding season when young animals such as fox cubs are at risk of getting into trouble, while litter in hedges will be more visible to pickers before the vegetation really starts growing.”

She urged the public to help by disposing of litter safely and responsibly, adding:

“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind. Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one piece of snagged line to be left in a tree or dropped near the water to endanger the life of an animal. We ask anglers to follow the Angling Trust Anglers Against Litter campaign and make use of recycling schemes to dispose of their waste tackle.”