With fireworks night on the horizon, Surrey Wildlife Trust is appealing to all bonfire builders to think about hibernating hedgehogs when constructing and lighting their wood piles. Unfortunately bonfire night coincides with the season when small mammals are looking for cosy places to hide, which can be disastrous.
“A stack of dry wood and leaves piled up for a bonfire might look to a hedgehog like the perfect place to overwinter and sadly we fear many animals do perish in fires every year,” said Dawn Fielding, the Trust’s Wildlife Gardening Officer.
“Gardeners love these adorable prickly creatures, as they eat bugs and slugs and are great for natural pest control. But hedgehogs are undergoing an unprecedented decline, with some experts recently warning of possible extinction within ten years! So it’s vitally important we all do what we can to protect them.”
The Trust wants bonfire night to be a safe night for all concerned – but especially hedgehogs. So it’s put together these top tips to help protect these prickly visitors:
- Consider piling material near the site of your fire and building your bonfire just before lighting. This will give small creatures less chance to move in.
- Check your bonfire carefully before setting it on fire and remove any small inhabitants – rehome in a safe area away from dogs or cats, such as under a hedge or large bush and well away from your bonfire.
- If you do have to build your bonfire beforehand, consider constructing a fence around it made of chicken wire, to help deter any mammals looking for a cosy home.
Hedgehogs were voted as the UK’s national species in 2013 but since the 1950s their numbers have seen a startling 95% decline. They’re disappearing from our landscape as fast as tigers are worldwide and there are thought to be fewer than a million left in the UK.
The declining quality of hedgerows, over-management of parks and the loss of gardens to paving and decking have been partly to blame for the hedgehog’s decline. The increased use of chemicals in gardening and farming means there are fewer insects, slugs and snails for hedgehogs to eat.
Surrey Wildlife Trust is working to improve habitats for hedgehogs and trying to raise awareness of their plight. It’s launched a new ‘Adopt A Hedgehog’ pack to help support conservation work, which includes an adorable cuddly toy hedgehog, official adoption certificate and a fact sheet for £25.
The Trust has also set up a Hedgehog Hotspots campaign to survey numbers of hedgehogs in the county. Animal lovers are asked to keep an eye out for the prickly mammals and report their findings on the Trust’s website, which is hosting a map of recent sightings.
Adult hedgehogs travel up to two kilometres a night hunting for food and they need to be able to move between gardens and green spaces. You can help them by cutting a hedgehog-sized hole in your garden fence. Or why not build your own hedgehog house out of a wooden box or pile of logs or sticks with some warm dry straw or leaves inside?
The Trust is also working to conserve and create habitat for hedgehogs with its new ‘Hedgerow Heroes’ citizen science project. Volunteers are needed to help survey, monitor and conserve hedgerows and plant new ones. Why not help hedgehogs where you live by signing up as a volunteer?
For more information about all the Trust’s work to help hedgehogs, including Hedgehog Adoptions, Hedgerow Heroes and Hedgehog Hotspots, visit www.surreywildlifetrust.org.