Don't let them burn.
Autumn is bonfire season; whether you're clearing garden waste or celebrating bonfire night, many of us enjoy being outdoors and toasting chestnuts and marshmallows on a roaring fire. Hedgehogs generally hibernate in autumn as that is when their food supply has itself either hibernated, migrated or gone deep into the ground. nHedgehogs need to find somewhere dry to start building a winter bed for their long sleep. Often hedgehogs use the spaces under sheds, in compost heaps, woodpiles and sometimes in hedgehog houses that we provide. They will find a nice, sheltered hedge and - of course - bonfires!
Bonfires are particularly attractive to hedgehogs; a big pile of branches, leaves and bits of wood looks like the perfect place to spend the winter. The inside is dry and warm - they are unaware of the incendiary nature of the bonfire!
The best way - and one recommended by boy scouts and wildlife alike - is to build a bonfire on the day of lighting. Storing your wood and cardboard separately under tarpaulins until the big daya nd moving it to build. This is the safest way to ensure your wood is dry and any hibernating animals are safe.
If your fire has already been built it may be possible to check, but the hedgehogs camouflage makes it very hard to see in the dark amongst the wood and leaves. You could try and check with a broom handle, gently lifting the wood pile whilst paying particular attention to the central/middle area, this will soon reveal if you have a hedgehog present. Listen too - hedgehogs will sometimes ‘hiss’ if disturbed so use this to locate them.
Larger bonfires for school or public displays are sometimes built in advance. The most practical way of keeping hedgehogs out of large bonfires is to run chicken wire and wooden stakes - around 1 meter high - around the entire bonfire. The top end of the mesh must be rolled out to prevent a climbing hedgehog from entering. Still, the safest way is to build it on the night.
If you are a local school or organisation having a bonfire in the Surrey Heath area, our #AmazingGrace team will check it for you free of charge. We can talk to the children and will even bring along some of our spiky guests to show you what we are looking for.
We hope you enjoy bonfire night safely but PLEASE remember the hedgehogs. HELP US spread the word. Why not download one of our posters and put it up in your school or office and share it on social media. Help us save Britain’s Hedgehogs - our Amazing Grace campaign is saving Britain’s hedgehogs one village at a time and you can help! Why not join our hedgehog heroes and have a soft release run in your garden? More info here - http://www.gracethehedgehog.co.uk/release-program