With the autumn upon us, chilly mornings and dark evenings herald the arrival of hibernation season for hedgehogs. As the leaves begin to pile up and with the creation of bonfires, they become the ideal spot for sleepy hedgehogs seeking a home for the winter months. Bonfire night is one of the biggest risks of the year for hedgehogs and since 2000 their numbers have dropped by 50% in rural areas, so it’s important that we take whatever steps we can to ensure they stay safe this November.

Build on the day

It may be convenient to build your bonfire in advance however, this allows more time for hedgehogs to find their way in. It is much safer to build your bonfire as close to lighting as possible, giving local hedgehogs less time to get into the pile. If you have stored materials outdoors ahead of your bonfire, move them to a different patch of ground before you start. When building your bonfire, be sure to build on open ground where there is no leaf coverage as they could be hiding underneath.

Fence it off

If the bonfire must be built in advance, you’ll need to make it difficult for them to get inside as they’re good climbers. For precaution, use chicken wire to create a fence at least one metre high around the pile, with the wire sloping outward at an angle to prevent hedgehogs climbing.

Check before lighting

Hedgehogs can be tricky to spot so make sure to check bonfires thoroughly before lighting. Gently lift pieces of wood section by section with a broom or stick, don’t use a spade or fork as these can cause injuries! They tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet. Check again with a torch whilst listening out for a hissing sound, hedgehogs will hiss if they are disturbed or distressed!

Give them time

Always light your fire from one side only so that hedgehogs can escape from at least one direction if they’re still inside. Keep looking out for them just in case! If you can, go to an official organised fireworks display, this is not only better for the environment but a much safer option.

If you do happen to find a hedgehog, use some gardening gloves to scoop it up and provide it with some meaty cat or dog food and fresh water. Then move them to an area of your garden or local green space that has trees or shrubs they can shelter under.

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