We all love a nice big warming bonfire as there is something about being gathered around it with family and friends keeping the night chill out that harks back to the cave dweller in us. But, at this time of the year, we all have to take extra care as many small garden dwellers hibernate and they love nothing more than a huge pile of rotting wood and leaves to hide away in till Spring returns.
Hedgehogs, in particular, are under pressure as thanks to the Summer running into Autumn and their babies have not had the opportunity to gain body fat before the much-anticipated very cold Winter this year.
You can help our prickly little friends by adopting the following measures (as recommended by the Wildlife Trust)
• Build your bonfire as close to the night as possible to lessen the opportunity for hedgehogs to move in but if you have to build in advance, surround your bonfire with a fine mesh wire ‘fence’ to keep the hedgehogs out of harm’s way.
• Make your pile of ‘bonfire material’ next to the bonfire site so that you can re-stack before lighting just in case any wildlife has already moved in.
• Search the Bonfire thoroughly before lighting for hibernating creatures using a torch and a stick.
• Move any hedgehogs discovered to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere safe, dry and warm away from the fire.
• Before bonfire night make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance away from the fire for example under the hedge or behind a shed. Hopefully, sleepy hedgehogs will choose to sleep there for the winter instead of in the bonfire.
Delaying the construction of your Bonfire is not the only way of helping hedgehogs as providing food for them will build up their weight before hibernation starts. The best food to give them is chicken flavored cat food for some very obscure reason.
A little extra care this Bonfire Night will help to maintain the English countryside’s best-loved creature for generations to come.