Top tips for celebrating bonfire night without harming hedgehogs

Advice issued by Warwick University includes placing a barrier at the bottom of the bonfire so hedgehogs cannot crawl under the pile. Credit: PA

People are being reminded to take extra care this Bonfire Night because hedgehogs can often get trapped and killed in the piles of wood.

The number of hedgehogs in the UK has dropped by 15% since the year 2000 due to habitat loss, litter and garden hazards.

The advice this year, issued by the University of Warwick, includes making barriers at the bottom of the bonfire to stop hedgehogs from gaining entry before its set on fire.

Hedgehogs are also nocturnal animals, which means they crawl into things during the nighttime, so people are advised to build their bonfire the same day as lighting it.

The University of Warwick was awarded the Bronze Hedgehog Friendly Campus Award in 2021, recognising the efforts of staff and students.

This year, staff hope to receive a silver for their efforts, which will include volunteer-led litter picks, campaigns and fundraising.

A firework display on Bonfire Night over the River Trent, Nottingham. Credit: PA

Three tips for keeping hedgehogs away from harm on bonfire night are:

1) Build bonfires on the day of lighting. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so building the bonfire in the morning of the day you are lighting it, will decrease the chances of hedgehogs crawling underneath it.

2) Place a barrier at the bottom of bonfires. This can be chicken wire, old tyres or bricks to stop hedgehogs from climbing underneath bonfires. Make sure barriers are at least a metre tall because hedgehogs are good climbers.

3) Check bonfires before lighting. Hedgehogs tend to sleep in the bottom two feet of bonfires. Use a broom handle to gently lift up objects section by section, all the way to the centre of the bonfire, and shine a torch to look out for hedgehogs. Listen carefully for movement, or a hissing sound - which is the noise they make when disturbed.

Katherine Mayfield, a Sustainability Champion at Warwick, said: "The University is committed to protecting, creating, and enhancing spaces for wildlife on campus.

"Hedgehogs have declined in the UK by 50% since the year 2000 and are vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss, development, roads, litter, and garden hazards. We are therefore playing our part on their journey to recovery.

"We have installed hedgehog houses and bug hotels, and log piles are often left by the Grounds and Gardens Team to provide habitat for a whole host of wildlife.

"In addition, we are raising awareness to our community about how we can all make a difference such as checking bonfires for hedgehogs, providing feeding stations, and opening hedgehog highways in our local community."