Hedgehog burnt by a bonfire at RSPB Stapeley Grange © BHPS / RSPCA
In the lead-up to Bonfire Night, people are being urged to look for hedgehogs, other wildlife and family pets before lighting their bonfires.
Hedgehogs may choose mounds of leaves and wood to shelter in or to forage for food, and can suffer from serious burns or even die due to bonfires.
“While bonfires may look like large piles of leaves and wood to us, to a hedgehog and many other animals, they are great places to find food and build nests,” says the RSPCA’s Llewelyn Lowen.
“Sadly it’s not uncommon for burned hedgehogs to be rushed into our care after they have been caught up in a lit bonfire – and at this time of year, the risk is especially high.”
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) advises people not to build bonfires in advance, to minimise the risk of hedgehogs and other wildlife entering the piles of wood.
If a bonfire does need to be built in advance, BHPS recommend putting one metre high chicken wire around it, held in place with stakes.
Before being lit, bonfire piles should be checked for hedgehogs by gently lifting the material in sections (do not use a spade or fork because this could stab them).
BBC Wildlife asked BHPS chief executive Fay Vass what you should do if you find a hedgehog on a bonfire pile. Here are four steps you can follow:
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 towelling.
Ensure there are air holes in the lid and the lid is secured firmly to the box, as hedgehogs are great climbers.
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 is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.
Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine