Celebrating Bonfire night tonight? It's the Marmite of autumn celebrations: some of us love the communal feeling of gathering around a big fire and the excitement of fireworks; others dislike all the smoke and noise, and the distress fireworks inevitably cause to pets.
Last month we reported on the legal side of lighting bonfires, because whether you love them or hate them, there are circumstances under which they can become a nuisance. But did you know that bonfires are very dangerous for the hedgehogs that might be sheltering in your garden?
Very sadly, every Bonfire Night there is a spike of calls to RSPCA reporting injured or completely burnt hedgehogs that had been missed by garden owners. Needless to say, it's an awful way for an animal to die, so it's well worth making an extra effort to make sure no hedgehogs are nesting in your bonfire. Hillarys have even launched a (very fun) Find a Hedgehog online game to help raise awareness about hedgehogs hiding in bonfires.
So, what can you do to make sure no hedgehogs are injured in your garden on Bonfire Night? The main thing is not to build your bonfire in advance, as hedgehogs love piles of twigs and leaves.
If you do have to store your bonfire material for a while before Bonfire Night, try to store it in your shed, or at least spread it low on the ground, so that you can spot any hedgehogs in there.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has been campaigning to get us to remember hedgehogs on Bonfire Night. Their advice includes protecting a bonfire that has been built in advance with chicken wire at least 1m high placed all the way around the bottom. They suggest that the wire is held in place with stakes and that it should slope outwards at an angle, as hedgehogs are good climbers and will scale anything that isn't challenging.
They also advise lighting the bonfire from one side only, and keeping everyone away from the unlit side so that any hedgehogs hidden within can have a good chance of feeling safe enough to escape.
Lastly, we'd suggest avoiding building your bonfire next to hedges, tall grasses, or dense bushes, which are all spots favoured by hedgehogs. Makes sense from a fire hazard point of view, too.
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