As bonfire night approaches, consider the plight of hedgehogs before you set your pile alight. Bonfires are very dangerous for hedgehogs as woodpiles are ideal places for shelter. Sadly many hedgehogs fall foul of un-checked bonfires and are killed because of it.
The Wildlife Trusts have outlined 8 steps to avoid harming hedgehogs in your bonfire pile:
- Build it on the same day that you will light it. The longer it’s left for, the more likely it is that a hedgehog will wander in.
- Place chicken wire one metre high, at an outward angle, all the way around the bottom while you’re building it.
- If you have stored materials for your bonfire outdoors then move them to a different patch of ground.
- Always place the bonfire on open ground – never on a pile of leaves as a hedgehog may be hiding underneath.
- Always check the entire bonfire for hedgehogs before lighting it. They tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet in particular.
- When checking, lift parts of the bonfire section by section using a pole or broom. Do not use a fork, spade or rake as this may injure a hedgehog.
- Use a torch to look inside the bonfire and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise that hedgehogs make when they are disturbed or distressed.
- Always light your bonfire from one corner, rather than in the centre, in order to give hedgehogs a chance to escape if they need to.
If you do find a hedgehog then move slowly and calmly. Pick it up with gardening gloves, along with any nesting material it may have been sitting in, and place it in a cardboard box lined with newspaper. Relocate the box to a safe location that is far from any fires or wait until the bonfire is over and dampen down the fire site with water before releasing the hedgehog under a bush or a log pile.