Fastfood company McDonald's has been accused by wildlife campaigners of dragging its heels on a carton redesign that could save hedgehogs from starving to death, the Belfast Telegraph newspaper reported.

Vanessa Reavy, director of the Happy Hedgehog Rescue Centre in Castlereagh, said many of the animals would be saved with just a slight adjustment in the design of the McFlurry cartons produced by McDonald's.

"They put their heads in to try and get the remaining ice cream and they can't get their heads out again. They are going against their spines and they get stuck," she said.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society said that four years after it first alerted McDonald's to the hazards posed by discarded McFlurry cartons, but nothing had changed.

"While we appreciate that McDonald's cannot be accountable for irresponsible customers littering the countryside, in this particular instance they have the power to save lives by making a very minor change to the design of their packaging," said chief executive Fay Vass.

She urged people to make their voices heard to the fast-food giant.

However, McDonald's said it had trialled a number of different packaging options but a suitable alternative had not yet been found.

Any new design would have to be introduced in around 1,250 restaurants in the UK and be approved for all European markets, a spokeswoman said.

"We recently trialled a revised design of the McFlurry lid," she said. "This lid had a smaller opening and featured messaging warning of the danger posed to wildlife through littering."