5 November 2021
At this time of year, hedgehogs start looking for a place to hibernate for the winter. So on Guy Fawkes’ Night, a pile of dry leaves in the garden or an unlit bonfire are attractive places for a hedgehog looking for somewhere to build a nest.
Born Free’s Tarnya Knight, says: “Hedgehog populations are in decline in the UK, so it’s important to be vigilant at this time of year and protect these amazing creatures. Hedgehogs can die or suffer awful injuries through contact with bonfires, so we’re asking people to take some simple precautions to avoid causing them any harm.”
Born Free’s tips for a hedgehog-friendly bonfire:
• Build your bonfire on the day it will be lit, putting the pile of material next to the bonfire site and rebuilding before lighting it.
• Choose clear ground, never on top of a pile of leaves or near to a pampas grass as these are ideal nesting sites for a hedgehog.
• If you are unable to build the fire on the day of lighting, use a broom handle to check the bonfire by gently lifting section by section and using a torch to look and listen for hedgehogs. Please also only light the bonfire on one side and make sure everyone is away from the side that is unlit. There is always a possibility that you have missed a hedgehog and hopefully this will give it a chance to escape.
• If a bonfire has to be built in advance, prevent hedgehogs from getting in by putting chicken wire one metre high all the way around the bottom. This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers!
• If you do find a hedgehog in your unlit bonfire, place it in a box with some leaves or shredded paper, with some water and meaty cat or dog food, and place it in a shed where it can be left in the quiet until the fireworks have finished and the bonfire dampened down.
Autumn and winter months are also challenging times for hedgehogs born late in the year known as ‘autumn juveniles’. They are unlikely to have gained enough fat reserves to enable them to survive hibernation and will need specialist care at a wildlife hospital. Another sign that something isn’t right is if you see a hedgehog out during the day. As nocturnal creatures, this is usually a sign that they need help. If you do find a poorly or injured hedgehog then gently place it in a high sided box or cat basket with some shredded paper or a towel for it to hide under and call your local wildlife hospital for advice.
To find out more about hedgehogs and how to make your garden more hedgehog friendly then please visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/