Bonfire Night 2022: How to protect hedgehogs during fifth of November celebrations

The RSPCA and other animal conservationists are urging people to keep an eye out for hedgehogs on Bonfire Night this year.

Bonfire Night sees excitement build for skies covered in brightly and beautifully coloured explosions and well-lit bonfires, as friends and family come together. But you need to make sure you keep an eye out for hedgehogs who see bonfire pyres as a ‘5-star hotel’.

It’s the time of year when the nation’s beloved species is on the hunt for a place to settle down for the winter. Somewhere warm, dry and sheltered is ideal, so it makes sense the piles of wood all set to be set ablaze, are viewed as an ideal location.

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Now is more important than ever to protect hedgehogs, as it is estimated a third of all of Britain’s spikey friends have been lost since the turn of the millennium. Loss of food and habitat are the main reasons behind this. Hedgehogs were even put on the International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List which means they are at risk of extinction.

The British Hedgehog Prevention Society (BHPS) said: “At this time of year hedgehogs are looking for hibernation nests. When they see a bonfire pile, it looks like they have lucked out and found a des res [desirable residence].”

Hedgehogs tend to find home in the centre and bottom two feet of bonfires, which gives them very little time to escape to safety once it is lit. They are not helped by their natural defence mechanisms either, which involves curling up into a ball when they are caught off guard and frightened.

Once someone sets a bonfire ablaze, the first sign of a hedgehog will be the hissing noise, which is what they do when they feel threatened or disturbed by something. Experts advise the bonfire is lit from one side only, as it would allow the hedgehog an escape route.

BHPS has also pleaded for people to take certain precautions before a match is even used on Bonfire Night this year. It said: “We are asking people to move any bonfire material to a clear site before it is lit and just before you are about to light it, lift up bits of firewood and use a torch to look for signs of life.”

In the event a hedgehog is found, the advice is to adorn gardening gloves or use a cloth or towel to pick them up and move them somewhere safe. A cardboard box is often used to make sure they are protected until the end of Bonfire Night, but for anyone taking this precaution, it is important to feed them cat or dog food, and provide them with water. Once celebrations have ceased and the bonfire has dampened down, hedgehogs should be returned to the area they were discovered.

If the hedgehog is injured, advice is to get in touch with local rescue centres, animal conservation organisations or the BHPS. Visit the BHPS website for further advice and contact information.