Caution – Don’t roast a hedgehog

A warning has gone out for anyone building a bonfire this Autumn to watch out for hedgehogs settling down to hibernate.

Stacks of leaves, branches and general autumn waste are ideal sanctuaries for hedgehogs looking to settle down for the winter.

At this time of year villages and communities are starting to create large piles of sticks and twigs ahead of November the 5th and bonfire night.

Many gardeners are also stacking fallen leaves and branches ready for disposal either by burning, composting or recycling.

Wildlife trusts and nature conservation bodies are urging gardeners and bonfire display organisers to check before setting alight to their bonfires. You should also check hedgehogs are not going to be thrown into recycling bins or dustbin bags.

Check for hedgehogs

Durham Wildlife Trust says that people need to keep an eye out for hibernaculums, the nests that hedgehogs build for winter, mostly made of leaves, grass and a variety of other plants.

With hedgehog numbers falling steadily, the Trust says that a little extra care could be vital.

Hog on a log, photo by Sue Charlton.

Hog on a log, photo by Sue Charlton.

Help protect hedgehogs by following these simple guidelines when building a bonfire

  • Build the bonfire as close to the night as possible
  • Re-stack your bonfire before lighting it
  • Before lighting, search your bonfire for hedgehogs using a torch and a rake (not something sharp like a pitchfork)
  • Move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire
  • In the garden, why not make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the bonfire. Hopefully hedgehogs looking for a nest will choose this alternative rather than the unlit bonfire.

Cheryl Nicholson, WildPlaces manager at Durham Wildlife Trust said, “Hedgehog numbers are falling by 20% every five years. If we all take two minutes to check our bonfires before lighting them, we can all do our bit to help hedgehogs and save them from an unnecessary death.”

About hedgehogs

The humble hedgehog is a very old species and thought to have been around for 15m years.

On average the hedgehog has about 7000 spines and contrary to popular belief they are non-poisonous.

In the UK, hedgehogs hibernate usually between November and March.

One of the main causes of hedgehog deaths is the motorcar.

The hedgehog should be welcomed by the gardener as it eats caterpillars, slugs and insects.

Further hedgehog information

British Hedgehog Preservation Society – website

Epping Forest hedgehog rescue – website

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