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Celebrate Bonfire Night – but don’t harm hedgehogs!

Friday 4th November 2016

Hedgehog in fallen leaves (credit Tom Marshall)Hedgehog in fallen leaves (credit Tom Marshall)

Londoners urged to check their wood piles for hedgehogs before lighting bonfires this weekend

London Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to check their wood piles thoroughly before starting bonfires – because under threat hedgehogs may be sheltering in them.

 

Checking in and around where you intend to set a bonfire won’t take more than ten minutes, but could save the life of a hidden hedgehog.

With annual Bonfire Night celebrations taking place this weekend, there will likely be thousands of people starting bonfires in their gardens using piles of wood they have built up. However, such piles can provide a habitat for several wildlife species in the capital, most notably hedgehogs.

The Trust is today urging Londoners who plan to celebrate with a back garden bonfire to check for hedgehogs and other wildlife before lighting their fires. Ideally bonfires should be built on the day they are to be lit, which reduces the chances of hedgehogs seeking shelter.

Hedgehogs are in steep decline in the UK, with their numbers plummeting from around 30 million in the mid-20th century to less than one million today. In the capital, hedgehogs have been pushed further out of the city and are now virtually unheard of in central London – with the only recorded breeding population now confined to Regent’s Park. But suburban gardens remain an important habitat for hedgehogs, which love to forage for berries, insects and slugs in bushes and hedgerows.

Mathew Frith, Director of Conservation at London Wildlife Trust, said: “Checking in and around where you intend to set a bonfire won’t take more than ten minutes, but could save the life of a hidden hedgehog.

“At this time of the year hedgehogs are preparing to hibernate, which means they are searching for piles of leaves and wood in which they will take rest for the winter. Please ensure none are harmed by your bonfire, and help reverse the decline in London’s hedgehogs.”

A hedgehog found by Trust ranger Charlie Owens at Walthamstow Wetlands this summer (credit Penny Dixie)

If a hedgehog is found people should wear garden gloves to gently remove them and place them in a high-sided box with plenty of newspaper, towelling or straw, and any nest material found in the wood pile. Put air holes in the lid, and fasten it securely. Once the bonfire is over and dampened down, take the box to the edge of a hedge, bush or log pile, and gently release the hedgehog.

People who want to do their bit for wildlife and encourage hedgehogs into their garden can take simple steps such as creating a small gap or hole in their fence for them to crawl through. There is also a London Wildlife Trust fundraising campaign for hedgehogs; go to: www.wildlondon.org.uk/hedgehog
 

Tagged with: Species, Wildlife gardening, Hedgehog