Check your bonfire for hedgehogs! Experts warn animals are using log piles to stay warm and dry


If you’re lighting up a bonfire this weekend, don’t forget to check it for hedgehogs first.

Experts at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have warned that the tiny animals commonly use log piles as places to stay warm and dry as they hibernate.

Come Bonfire Night, their cosy shelter can become deadly, as many Brits ceremoniously set them alight.

The organisation recommends moving your logs before you intend to light the fire, and lighting it from one side so that any hedgehogs still have the opportunity to escape.

Experts at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have warned that hedgehogs commonly use log piles as places to stay warm and dry as they hibernate

Mr Fogle was joined by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for an event in London last Thursday to teach families how to have a responsible Bonfire Night

Mr Fogle was joined by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for an event in London last Thursday to teach families how to have a responsible Bonfire Night

HOW TO HAVE A HEDGEHOG-FRIENDLY BONFIRE 

Re-site the entire log pile just before it’s about to be lit. 

Check the bonfire carefully by looking and listening for signs of hedgehogs before lighting. Use a torch and something blunt like a broom handle to help you do this.

Light the bonfire from one side only to offer an escape route for any wildlife you may have missed. 

Broadcaster and UN Patron of the Wilderness, Ben Fogle said: ‘People spend days or weeks building bonfire in the lead up to bonfire night and hedgehogs view this as the perfect habitat to make a home. 

‘What we’re trying to encourage is that if you are going to build a bonfire, make sure you check it for hedgehogs.’

Hedgehogs have experienced a harsh decline over the last 70 years, and are deemed a ‘Vulnerable’ species in the Red List for British Mammals.

In 1950 there were an estimated 36 million in the UK, but this had dropped to just one million in 2013.

According to 2018 research, the hedgehog has disappeared from almost 80 per cent of the British countryside. 

The prickly mammal is increasingly moving to urban areas, which act as refuges for the small woodland creatures, University of Reading scientists said at the time.   

There are some simple steps that people can take to minimise the risk their bonfire poses to hedgehogs.

Firstly, moving the entire log pile just before it’s about to be lit is the best way to make sure there are no hedgehogs sheltering inside it.

It’s also a good idea to check the bonfire carefully by looking and listening for signs of hedgehogs before lighting. 

Using a torch and something blunt like a broom handle can help you do this.

Finally, lighting the bonfire from one side offers an escape route for any wildlife that may have been missed during the check. 

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said: ‘Bonfire night is a dangerous time for hedgehogs all over the UK. 

‘Just as hedgehogs are thinking about hibernation and looking to make nests in log piles and hedgerows, we prepare what appears to be the perfect spot by creating bonfire piles! 

‘But, by being aware and following a few simple steps, people can reduce the risk to hedgehogs and enjoy a fun, responsible bonfire night.’

Hedgehogs in particular have experienced a harsh decline over the last 70 years. In 1950 there were an estimated 36 million in the UK, but this had dropped to just one million in 2013 — a third of levels at the start of the century

Hedgehogs in particular have experienced a harsh decline over the last 70 years. In 1950 there were an estimated 36 million in the UK, but this had dropped to just one million in 2013 — a third of levels at the start of the century

BIODIVERSITY IN THE UK

The UK has 50 per cent of its nature richness left compared with historic levels.

This makes it one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

Once common wildlife such as skylarks and hedgehogs are no longer everyday sightings.

While 92 per cent of sea grass habitat and 97 per cent of wildflower meadows have been lost since 1970.

Pumpkins dumped in woodlands after Halloween can also pose a threat to hedgehogs.

Experts at Woodland Trust have warned that pumpkin flesh can prove fatal to them and other animals, and can also attract rats and upset soils, plants and fungi.

Hedgehogs are opportunistic eaters and spend autumn and early winter building up their fat reserves for hibernation.

‘As a result, hedgehogs can gorge themselves on easily available food like dumped pumpkins,’ said Trevor Weeks at East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service.

‘Although not toxic to them the fleshy fibrous fruit can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea as they are not designed to eat large quantities of fruit.

‘This can lead to them becoming bloated and dangerously dehydrated which in turn can be fatal. 

‘At this time of year, they can’t afford to become ill, or they may not survive the winter hibernation.’ 

Instead, the charity advises the public to responsibly dispose of their pumpkin in a food waste bin or compost heap, or even eat it if it’s still in a good condition.

DOS AND DON’TS OF PROTECTING HEDGEHOGS IN YOUR GARDEN 

DO

– Leave some areas of wilderness where the hedgehogs can snuffle for insects

– Put out water for drinking

– Put out a bowl of dog food or meaty cat food around dusk.

– Install, in a quiet part of the garden, a hedgehog house.

– Look to see if your hedgehog is limping or appears to be injured, or in late autumn look out for underweight hedgehogs

DON’T 

– Put out bread or milk

– Pick up fit hedgehogs

– Leave black sacks lying around

– Use slug pellets or other chemicals as they may poison hedgehogs and other animals

– Light a bonfire without checking to see if a hedgehog or other wild animal has moved in

– Fork over compost heaps in case hedgehogs or other animals have taken up residence.

– Spray hedgehogs with dog or cat flea sprays. It will be detrimental to the hedgehog

Source: Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital  

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