As Guy Fawkes’ night approaches, Horsham-based international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation is reminding people to check for hedgehogs when building bonfires.
Dark nights and chilly mornings herald the beginning of hibernation season for hedgehogs, and piles of dry leaves and unlit bonfires in back gardens, are ideal places for sleepy hogs, looking for somewhere to spend the winter months.
Born Free’s Tarnya Knight, says: “Hedgehog numbers are declining rapidly across the UK, so it’s never been more important to protect the wonderful wildlife on our doorsteps. Hedgehogs can die or suffer terrible injuries through contact with bonfires, so we’re asking people to be especially vigilant for the next few weeks and take care when building them.”
Tips for a hedgehog-friendly fire include:
- 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 if necessary
- Build the bonfire on clear ground, never on top of a pile of leaves or near to a pampas grass
- If you are unable 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
- 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 also poses a threat to young or underweight hedgehogs, too small to survive hibernation. Tarnya adds: “Hedgehogs born late in the year are still very small at this time of year, and most will not be carrying enough weight to survive the winter months. We recently took in a family of four tiny hoglets and their mother, whose nest had been disturbed. It was a blessing that they were found as they wouldn’t have made it otherwise. They will all be overwintered indoors and released next spring.”
“We’d advise anyone who finds a young or underweight hedgehog at this time of year to contact their local wildlife rescue centre or vet.”
For more information about the Born Free Foundation, and its work with UK wildlife, visit: www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/uk-wildlife