When we think of bonfire night our first thought is not often that the celebration is one of the most treacherous times of year for one of Britain’s native species – the hedgehog.
Lauren James, the university’s Hedgehog friendly campus Ambassador, shares some advice ahead of tonight's autumnal celebrations.
Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Fay Vass says that “A bonfire pile looks like a five-star hotel to a hedgehog seeking a safe and cosy winter home to hibernate in. They aren’t to know we plan to set light to it!”
Fears over the dwindling species have grown this year, as the continuing concern over the spread of Covid-19 means more and more people are expected to hold their own bonfire night celebrations.
So, to look after our spiky friends, here are some hints and tips to take into consideration this Friday, 5th of November:
- Try to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering and sleeping in them overnight this also stops the bonfire materials from getting soaked should it rain the night before!
- If bonfire materials are 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.
- If a large bonfire must be built in advance, protect it whilst building by putting some chicken wire, at least one metre-high, all the way around the bottom.
- This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers!
- In case you have missed anything light the fire from one side only and keep people away from the unlit side so that any hedgehogs can hopefully escape in peace.
- If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended, for however short a time, it’s imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs, and other animals, including family pets, before lighting. Hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom.
- Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help to see and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.
If a hedgehog is found?
- If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard or plastic box with plenty of newspaper/old toweling using gloves.
- Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box.
- 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 has completed gone out and dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge bush.
Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals.
If you would like to be a part of the HFC team email email@example.com or message via Instagram @hedgehogs_atharperadams