The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has issued a stark warning on the fate of the nation’s hedgehogs as Brits prepare for bonfire celebrations this weekend.
Hedgehog numbers are already declining rapidly and the charity believes Bonfire Night could be the most treacherous time of all, with thousands of hedgehogs at risk of being burned if the piles are not properly checked.
The BHPS is urging people to build bonfires on the day that they are due to be lit, not in advance, and to use a broom to lift the base of the pile to check for hibernating hedgehogs before lighting the bonfire in order to preserve hedgehog lives.
The number of hedgehogs living in the British countryside has plummeted over the past few decades. According to The UK Mammal Society and Natural England, the hedgehog population is estimated to be at 522,000, which is two-thirds lower than in 1995.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society uses Facebook as an integral part of driving awareness. There are nearly a quarter of a million people in its community, sharing information and tips to preserve the lives of the iconic British animal. This Bonfire Night, the BHPS is calling for every British bonfire to be re-sited and checked with a broom, to save our hedgehog friends.
Fay Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said: ‘It’s a great tragedy that hedgehog lives are still lost on Bonfire Night, especially as it is so quick and easy to take steps to avoid it. We are so proud of the community of hedgehog fans that come together on Facebook and we hope that we can help to engage and educate even more people on how to keep hedgehogs safe this winter. This November, remember remember to grab a broom and check your bonfire.’
Brie Rogers Lowery, head of community partnerships at Facebook said: ‘The work that the British Hedgehog Preservation Society does both online and offline is a brilliant example of how we are seeing people use Facebook to come together over shared passions, interests, and drive positive change. It is inspiring to see thousands of people who love hedgehogs uniting to protect this wonderful species at this very critical time.’
How to hedgehog-proof your bonfire:
Avoid building your bonfire in advance
Bonfire season is exciting, and it’s tempting to kick off the preparations early, adding more to the pile as the week goes by. But be warned, this will look very tempting to a hedgehog, so where possible, do build your bonfire on the day you are planning to light it.
But if you must keep up with the Joneses…
If you absolutely have to spend days creating an 8ft conflagration featuring every piece of scavenged wood in the neighbourhood, do move it before you light it to avoid trapping a hedgehog inside. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground, avoiding leaves (where hedgehogs could be lurking underneath) and pampas grass where they tend to nest.
Fence it off
And if you can’t move it somewhere else, place chicken wire around the bottom of the bonfire – one metre or higher. Hold it in place with stakes, and erect the wire so that it slopes outwards at an angle. Hedgehogs are good climbers, and you need to make it difficult for them to creep inside.
Broom your bonfire
Even the most attentive bonfire-crafter should check for hedgehogs and other animals before lighting. They’ll most likely be nestled in the centre and bottom of the bonfire, so grab a broom and gently lift each wooden section with a pole or broom, using a torch to make sure you can see. Don’t use a spade or fork, as this could hurt them. Listen for a hissing sound, as they’ll make this noise when disturbed.
Give them time
Light the fire from one side only so that hedgehogs can escape from at least one direction if they’re still inside
(Tips adapted from of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society)