Northumberland Wildlife Trust is urging members of the public to look out for hiding hedgehogs before they light their fires this Bonfire Night.
At this time of year, hedgehogs start looking for places to hibernate and, to a hog, an unlit bonfire is the equivalent to a five-star hotel.
The wildlife charity is advising people to help protect hedgehogs by following a few guidelines when building a bonfire: Build the bonfire as close to the night as possible so there is less chance of a hedgehog moving in; make the pile of material next to the bonfire site and re-build the stack before lighting it; search the bonfire for hibernating creatures using a torch and rake before starting the fire; move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box somewhere dry and safe and away from the fire; and before Bonfire Night, make an alterative home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the pile.
Steve Lowe, Northumberland Wildlife Trust head of conservation, said: “To a hedgehog looking for a place to sleep, an unlit bonfire is a ready-made est. We are asking people to give hedgehogs a helping hand by following our instructions and checking any bonfires before lighting them. It only takes a minute to do, but can save hundreds of hedgehogs from an unnecessary death.
“Hedgehogs are great friends to gardeners as they are natural pest-killer. However, numbers are in decline due to increased pesticide use and we need to do all we can to help them. Why not create a hedgehog haven in your garden?
“Hedgehogs need garden habitats that mimic woodland so try and provide a few twiggy places for hibernation – small piles of logs and leaves are ideal and don’t keep your garden too tidy – what an excuse not to do the garden.”