It's set to be a record year for back garden bonfire celebrations on 5th November, with households determined to keep the Guy Fawkes bonfire night festivities alive. Though with the spike in DIY bonfires in gardens across the UK, wildlife experts have warned the public to check their bonfires for wildlife before lighting.
Hedgehogs are in particular danger as bonfire log piles appear to hedgehogs to be ideal places for shelter. Unfortunately the native British mammals regularly fall foul of un-checked bonfires and are killed because of it.
The lovable creatures were recently named on The Mammal Societies Red List of endangered mammals which makes the warning for bonfire night more crucial than ever. Since 2007, numbers of wild hedgehogs in the UK have halved, and there are now thought to be fewer than a million left in the UK.
Sean McMenemy, garden wildlife expert and director of Ark Wildlife, says "Hedgehogs are a welcome sight in any garden, as they help keep control of pests like snails, slugs and other insects. But in the UK these beautiful and valuable creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate. With their natural habitats being destroyed by urbanisation, our gardens are a crucial place of safety for hedgehogs, so it's important that people do everything they can to protect them.
Bonfires appear to hedgehogs to be ideal places for shelter. Made from natural materials like wood and compost and full of small nooks and crannies to crawl into, it's unsurprising that hedgehogs can easily mistake them for habitats. With more back garden bonfires taking place this November there's an even greater threat to hedgehogs than usual, so we all need to be vigilant. It's certainly possible to have a wildlife friendly bonfire night if the right precautions are taken!"
There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your back garden bonfire is as safe as possible for hedgehogs and other creatures. Sean McMenemy provides his top tips for having a wildlife friendly bonfire night.
If you do find a hedgehog, it's important to move slowly and calmly in order not to alarm it. Even if the bonfire is lit, if you have followed the steps above you should be able to rescue the hedgehog.
With a pair of gardening gloves, pick it up (along with any nest material it may have been sitting in) and place it in a high-sided cardboard box. Ensure this contains plenty of newspaper, and relocate the box to a safe and suitable location that is far from any fires. Wait until the bonfire is over and and dampen down the fire site with water before releasing the hedgehog under a bush or a log pile to ensure its safety.
Aside from protecting hedgehogs on Bonfire Night, there are plenty of things that you can do in order to support the hedgehog population throughout the autumn and all year round. At this time of year as hedgehogs prepare to go into hibernation, it's especially important to make sure that you try to supplement their diet and provide suitable places to shelter.
Hedgehog highways are also a great way to protect the hedgehog population. Hedgehogs travel up to a mile every night in search of food, and leaving small gaps in fences for them to move between gardens prevents them getting trapped or having to cross dangerous roads. You can even buy or make a hedgehog highway sign in order to make sure the gap is kept clear.
To find out more, visit www.arkwildlife.co.uk
This story was published on: 23/10/2020
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