Always check your bonfire for hedgehogs, experts warn

Don't let your autumnal celebration harm the already endangered species

Hedgehog in a pile of leaves
(Image credit: Michael Milfeit)

Hedgehogs need our help. As their native habitats continue shrinking, hedgehogs are declining in the UK. By some estimates, their population has declined by to 50 per cent in the last decade alone – an alarming statistic. And with Bonfire Night approaching, hedgehogs face potential dangers from people celebrating in their gardens.

If you want to learn how to help hedgehogs, making sure they're not injured or disturbed on Bonfire Night is a very good place to start. 

Why is Bonfire Night a problem for hedgehogs?

Hedgehogs like hiding in piles of leaves and twigs – which, basically, is your typical bonfire. If you've already been prepping your bonfire night ideas and have built your bonfire in advance, you risk setting fire to an unsuspecting hedgehog, which, sadly, results in injury and often death to the animal. 

Hedgehog rescues do receive calls about injured hedgehogs every November, so, unfortunately, this is a real problem that hasn't gone away. 

It's also not just about hedgehogs – garden pond amphibians and even people's pets have all been unfortunate casualties of bonfires.  

Hedgehog next to a tree

(Image credit: Mark Bridger/ Getty)

What can I do to protect hedgehogs this Bonfire Night?

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, has the following advice: 'If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.'

The campaign for urban hedgehogs, Hedgehog Street, has further handy tips for gardeners, which include building your bonfire last-minute so that it's definitely not left unattended for any length of time before lighting. They also recommend getting in contact with local event organisers to alert them to the need to check for hedgehogs. 

Hedgehog and toadstool

(Image credit: Mike Powles/ Getty)

What do I do if I've found a hedgehog in my bonfire?

If you've checked your bonfire and have found a hedgehog, Fay recommends taking 'as much of the nest as you can' and transferring it into a high-sided cardboard box with towels or old newspaper. Then, 'put the box in a safe quiet place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities, offer specialist hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food and water. Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.'

You can also explore wildlife garden ideas to make sure it's hedgehog-friendly year round.