NEW signs featuring a picture of a hedgehog are to appear on roads across the country to warn motorists of the potential hazards caused by small wild animals.

The signs will be used to warn drivers in areas where there are large concentrations of animals such as squirrels, badgers, otters and hedgehogs.

It comes as the Department for Transport revealed that hundreds of people are injured every year in collisions involving animals on the road.

In 2017, 629 people nationwide were injured in accidents involving an animal in the road (excluding horses) and four people were killed.

The new traffic sign was unveiled by the transport secretary Chris Grayling earlier this week.

The signs are set to be placed in areas of high accident rates, and Mr Grayling has called on local authorities and animal welfare groups to identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the signs should be located.

The road sign is also designed to reverse the decline in wildlife numbers.

The population of hedgehogs in rural areas has halved since the year 2000.

Mr Grayling said: "We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking at how we can make them safer.

"Motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users are particularly at risk.

"The new small mammal warning sign should help to reduce the number of people killed and injured, as well as helping our precious small wild mammal population to flourish."

The Transport Secretary has also met with road safety experts, including Brake, the AA and the RAC Foundation, together with animal protection groups including the Wildlife Trust, to discuss the scale of the problem.

Between 2005 and 2017, 100 people were killed, with a further 14,173 injured in accidents where an animal was in the road.

Tony Campbell, chief executive of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), added: "Powered two-wheelers provide a great solution to road congestion, but like all road users, riders must be aware of those around them.

"Therefore the MCIA is pleased to welcome these new signs that will help everyone, including those on two wheels or four legs, complete their journeys more safely."

The small wildlife sign complements other warning signs already used on UK roads, filling a gap between warnings about smaller animals such as migratory toads and wildfowl, and large animals such as deer and livestock.