Friday 30-10-2020 - 13:23
Written by Charlotte Barnett (Veterinary Nurse, 3rd Year)
Whilst in the midst of a pandemic, the world has come to a stand-still. Life as we know it has been turned upside down and changes have been drastic. However, the struggle for declining hedgehogs to survive has not changed.
In the wild, hedgehogs face issues such as starvation, destruction of their natural habitat and injury or death by man-made interventions such as cars and gardening tools. Unfortunately, just around the corner and hiding in plain sight is another danger – bonfire night.
As the colder weather approaches and hedgehogs look for a place to hibernate, a big pile of leaves and branches seems almost too perfect to comprehend. The contents of a bonfire create a warm and dry environment which is very appealing to hedgehogs.
What can we do to prevent injury/fatality?
It is very important that we are all aware of the dangers that bonfires pose to our declining hedgehog population, which is estimated to have halved since the Millennium. Sadly, they are now listed as ‘vulnerable’ on Britain’s red list of mammals.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) provide lots of useful information on how to protect hedgehogs if you are planning on having a bonfire. Your bonfire should be built on open ground – steer clear of leaf piles, as there may be a hedgehog hiding amongst it! Building or relocating it on the day you are lighting will lessen the risk of injury greatly. It is unlikely that a hedgehog will settle into a pile the day that it is made. However, we should still always be aware and make checks prior to lighting! The best way to check if there is a hedgehog in a log pile is to lift it up with a shovel and peek inside with a torch. You may also hear it snuffling. This isn't instead of relocating on the day though. It's simply an additional check! Your bonfire can be made more secure by surrounding it with chicken wire that is approximately one metre high. If you do find a hedgehog in your log pile, he or she should be moved and released into a safe area such as under a hedge or bush.
How can we provide a safe environment for hibernating hedgehogs?
Once evicted from bonfire piles, hedgehogs will continue their search for a safe and warm environment to hibernate in. Providing them with a “hedgehog house” in your garden can provide the ideal location! These can made at home with materials such as wood and bricks or bought from various shops across the country.
(Examples of home-made hedgehog houses)
However, be sure to steer clear of the igloo style houses! These can lead to hedgehogs becoming trapped. For further information, the BHPS website provides lots of information on how to construct a hedgehog house.
So whilst you are enjoying the local social-distanced fireworks display or bonfire gathering, please be sure to keep these fantastic little creatures in mind. For further information please visit https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/
and if you have found an injured hedgehog you can contact the BHPS on 01584 890801 to find your local hedgehog rescue centre.