Remember our hibernating hedgehogs

As bonfire night approaches, here's some advice to ensure that hedgehogs aren't harmed during your celebrations
Image of hedgehog in autumn leaves

Hedgehog in autumn leaves © Tom Marshall

Bonfire night provides explosive entertainment for us, but is potentially lethal for many creatures, including hedgehogs, looking to settle down for a seasonal snooze. We are encouraging all community bonfire organisers and families with back garden celebrations to include a simple hedgehog check in their routine safety procedures.

David Harpley, Conservation Manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, says: “Hedgehogs start preparing for hibernation in early November when temperatures regularly drop below 16 degrees.  They use twigs, leaves and dry grasses to build a cosy winter nest and may move to a new site at least once during the winter months. To a sleepy hedgehog, a ready-made nest such as a compost heap or a pile of timber seems ideal and a newly built bonfire will look like the perfect place to bed down.”

Here are a few simple steps to ensure that the winter nests of the UK’s only spine-covered mammal don’t go up in smoke this year:

  • Try and build the bonfire as close to the night as possible to reduce the chance of a hedgehog moving in.
  • Ideally make your pile of material next to the bonfire site and re-build the stack prior to lighting.
  • Before lighting, search the bonfire for hibernating creatures using a torch and rake, to gently pull back twigs or vegetation.
  • Move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire.
  • If possible, before bonfire night create an alternative hedgehog home by placing some hedgehog boxes in the surrounding area or raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the fire.  Hopefully the hedgehogs will occupy these rather than the bonfire. 

More information about how to help hedgehogs