Hedgehogs & bonfires

A wild hedgehog in the undergrowth


It’s easy to remember hedgehogs this Bonfire Night, thanks to Born Free’s simple guide to celebrating a hog-friendly Guy Fawkes’ Night.

At this time of year hedgehogs start looking for a place to hibernate and, with Guy Fawkes’ night only a couple of days away, an unlit bonfire can be an attractive place for a hedgehog to build its nest.

“As you can imagine, hedgehogs can die or suffer awful injuries through contact with bonfires,” explains Tarnya Knight, Born Free’s Rescue & Care Coordinator. “So, we are asking people to take some simple precautions to avoid causing them any harm.”

Here’s how to help keep hedgehogs safe:

  • Please 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 pampas grass as these are ideal nesting sites for a hedgehog.
  • If you are unable to build the fire on the day of lighting, before you light your bonfire, use a broom handle to check carefully by gently lifting section by section, using a torch as you look and listen for hedgehogs. AND please only light the bonfire on one side and make sure everyone is away from the side that is unlit. If you have missed a hedgehog this will hopefully give them 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 them carefully in a high sided box or cat carrier with leaves or shredded paper, plus some water to drink and meaty cat or dog food. Then place the hog in a shed or outbuilding where they can be left in the quiet until the fireworks have finished and the bonfire dampened down.

Autumn and winter months are challenging times for hedgehogs born late in the year, known as ‘autumn juveniles’. They are unlikely to gain enough fat reserves to enable them to survive hibernation and may need specialist care at a wildlife hospital. One such autumn juvenile we named Timothy was found not far from our Horsham office on a frosty December morning, he was cold, hungry and underweight. Timothy needed our help but thankfully, with specialist care, he thrived and the following year when the weather was warmer he was returned to his home range.

For many years Born Free has supported hedgehog hospitals up and down the United Kingdom by supplying them with incubators, overwintering pens, an ultra sound scanner, heat pads and helping with vet and food bills.

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/