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Warning: Look out for hiding hedgehogs on bonfire night!
Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) asks you to look out for hiding hedgehogs before lighting fires on Bonfire Night (Friday 5 November).
At this time of year hedgehogs begin to look for places to hibernate and unlit bonfires make an ideal refuge. Hedgehog numbers are in decline due to loss of habitat, development pressures, possible loss of food sources due to intensive farming and the effects of slug pellets. Hedgehogs have joined the house sparrow and pipistrelle bat on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan list of species in need of conservation and greater protection.
You can help protect hedgehogs by following these guidelines when building a bonfire:
• Build the bonfire as close to the night as possible so there's less chance of a hedgehog moving in; or if you have to build it in advance, surround it with a fine mesh wire fence to keep hedgehogs out
• Make your pile of material next to the bonfire site and re-build the stack before lighting it
• Search the bonfire for hibernating creatures using a torch and rake before starting the fire
• Move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire
• Before bonfire night make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the fire e.g. under a hedge or behind a shed. Hopefully sleepy ‘hogs will choose to snooze there instead of the bonfire
Dave Williams, SWT Mammal Projects Officer, said: “To a hedgehog looking for a place to sleep, an unlit bonfire is a ready made nest so this time of year is particularly dangerous for them. Please give hedgehogs a helping hand by following our instructions and checking any bonfires before lighting them. It only takes a minute to do but can save hundreds of hedgehogs from being burnt alive.
“Hedgehogs are great friends to gardeners and keep slug and snail numbers down. However, numbers are in decline and even when bonfire night is over we can still help them out. Leave a corner of your garden untidy as hedgehogs like to nest in dry leaves and piles of logs. Strimmers can cause awful injuries to hedgehogs and slug pellets can kill them. You can also help youngsters and the mothers of late summer litters fatten up before hibernation by leaving out dry or tinned meaty petfood (no bread or milk) and water.”