Animal charities urge Londoners to check unlit bonfires for hedgehogs in danger of being burned alive

Animal charities and welfare groups are urging people to check unlit bonfires for hedgehog hibernation nests this bonfire weekend.

Scores of hedgehogs are in danger of being burned alive as they snuggle down in piles of wood and leaves earmarked for bonfires, according to the RSPCA.

Last year the charity received 310 calls in October and November related to fireworks and bonfires.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “A pile of leaves and brushwood intended for a bonfire is an attractive hiding or nesting place for some wild species, such as hedgehogs, especially when they are looking to hibernate.

“Sadly hedgehogs have been burned accidentally in bonfires after settling down in them for the winter.”

 The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) have advised those having bonfires not to build them until the day, to ensure wildlife safety. Other guidance includes surrounding the bonfire in metre-high chicken wire, held in place with stakes and slowed outwards to prevent hedgehogs from climbing over.

Chief Executive of BHPS, Fay Vass, explained that bonfire material stored in advance on open ground must be dismantled before moving it.

“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,” she said.

Hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre bottom two feet of the bonfire, and the BHPS strongly advise against using a fork to check for animals as this can also endanger them.

Fay added that if hedgehogs are found, it is important to take as much of the nest as possible and place them in a high-sided cardboard box with plenty of newspaper.

“Ideally, wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed,” she added.

“Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.”

For more information about hedgehog safety click here

Featured picture courtesy of Alexander Olm, with thanks

Related Articles