Yesterday was Guy Fawkes night, and many people will be lighting bonfires this weekend. Before you strike the match, spare a thought for hedgehogs who may be hiding in among the sticks.
The hedgehog population in the UK is dwindling. There are now only about a million left in the UK, and they could die out altogether. As a child I remember finding the little creatures in the back garden and feeding them with cat food. It makes me sad to think that my children have never seen a hedgehog (except for dead ones in the road) and may never get to see a live one. It’s not just bonfires that are killing hedgehogs; cars are a big killer (hence the dead hedgehogs on the roads.) Our gardens are another factor in the decline in the hedgehog population. We like neat, tidy gardens with decking and paving. This destroys the hedgehogs’ habitat and makes it harder for them to find food. They can become entangled in garden netting. We use pesticides to kill unwanted visitors such as slugs, but we may not realise that these are toxic to hedgehogs too.
Here are some ways you can help to stop this decline in the hedgehog population and save them from extinction.
- It’s best to put the bonfire together the same day that you intend to light it, leaving no time for hedgehogs to move in.
- If your bonfire has already been in position for a few days, you might like to move it to another location so that you can check that no hedgehogs are hiding inside.
- Avoid using slug pellets and look for a hedgehog-friendly alternative. You can find plenty of ideas here and here.
- Drive slowly at night to avoid running over hedgehogs.
- Check your garden netting to make sure no hedgehogs have become entangled, and if you are not using the netting any more, don’t leave it lying around the garden.
- Make a hedgehog house. Find out how here.
- Cover up drains in your garden so the hedgehogs don’t fall into them.
- Make a wild area in your garden with long grass, logs and sticks where the hedgehogs can forage
Enjoy your bonfire this weekend and don’t forget to look out for hedgehogs!