TO SAVE hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) urges that Guy Fawkes bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit.
This will save wildlife from burning to death and will also stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before.
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said: “If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground - never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”
If a large bonfire has to be built in advance, protect it whilst building by putting some chicken wire one metre high all the way around the bottom. This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers!
If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended it’s imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting.
As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork. Using a torch will help and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.
Fay added: “If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard box with plenty of newspaper/old towelling. Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box, as hedgehogs are great climbers. Ideally, wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed.
“Also, it protects your hands from their spikes. Put the box in a safe place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities. Light the fire from one side only. Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.”
An official organised fireworks display is a safer option for both humans and animals.
For free advice and to obtain the names of carers in your area, contact the BHPS on 01584 890 801 or see www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk