Log and leaf piles are the perfect winter nest for hedgehogs, so it is likely that a bonfire in your garden attracts hedgehogs looking for a sheltered site to hibernate over winter.
Keeping hedgehogs safe before bonfire night
This poses an increased risk for hedgehogs looking for comfy garden nests! Find out what you can do to ensure they stay safe.
How can you avoid harming hedgehogs in your bonfire pile?
• Build bonfires on the day they are to be lit.
• Re-site or move your bonfire to a different spot on the day it is lit.
• Do a full check around the bonfire using a torch, to make sure nothing is hiding underneath.
• Light the bonfire from one side only, giving anything left inside a chance to escape through the unlit side.
A good way of avoiding any accidents on bonfire night is to make sure your have plenty of other potential nest sites or hedgehog houses around the garden. For example, leaving piles of autumn leaves, or sticks, or making/buying a hedgehog house filled with dried leaves or straw to help them create a nest.
This will show your visiting hedgehogs that there are much safer options on November 5th!
What if you accidently disturb a hibernating hedgehog whilst out in the garden?
Around the end of October, hedgehogs are looking to cosy up for the winter beneath tree roots, in piles of wood, in garden waste or under sheds. They emerge from their nests around mid-March.
It's very easy to mistake a hibernating hedgehog for a dead one, as the hedgehog slows down most of its body's activity in order to conserve energy. They curl into very tight balls, feel stone cold to the touch and hardly seem to breathe at all. If you do discover a hibernating hedgehog, try to gently replace the nest around it and leave it be. The hedgehog will wake up at some point and move to a new nest.
If you think the hedgehog is at risk or in danger for any reason, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice on 01584 890801, to make sure the hedgehog gets the best possible chance this upcoming winter. The society may advise your hedgehog to be rescued, or tell you what to do if they will be okay in your garden. Either way, it is our job to make sure hedgehogs feel safe and secure in our gardens, especially during this crucially risky time of year.