People have been lighting bonfires and burning Guy Fawkes effigies on the 5th November for centuries. However, whilst these family-friendly events are a source of joy for many, venues should ensure that they’re not only paying attention to the health and safety of their human crowd, but also for any unexpected prickly visitors.
Since bonfires are made from piles of twigs, logs and leaves, they’re the perfect den for hibernating hedgehogs looking to make their bed for the winter. They often make their way into bonfires when they’re constructed prior to the event and then find themselves in danger when the bonfire is lit.
How to rescue your visitors
It’s recommended that you build your bonfire on the day you intend to host your event so the chance of any wildlife making it their home for the winter in advance is significantly reduced. This could also serve to benefit you as if it rains before the event, your materials will get soaked through before you get a chance to light them. Additionally, try to avoid building on areas with a large amount of leaf fall and instead focus on bare ground or concrete.
If you need to make it in advance, attempt to re-site your bonfire the day you light it in order to unearth any potential wildlife underneath. You can perform a quick check immediately before lighting the bonfire by using broom handles, not a fork or spade, to lift the pile. Use a torch to check for anything underneath, whilst listening carefully for any signs of life. Hedgehogs will always be in the bottom two feet of the bonfire and often dig down into the ground beneath it. Listen for a hissing sound—this is the noise a hedgehog will make if it’s disturbed.
After completing your checks, you should light your bonfire from one side only. This gives any remaining wildlife a chance to escape from the other side.
Finding a hedgehog
If you unearth any hedgehogs, use a pair of gloves to gently place them in a high-sided box filled with newspaper and leaves and keep them away from the noise of any fireworks. After the event, simply release them back into the wild, ensuring to douse any bonfire remnants with water in advance. Try to release them under a bush or log pile to ensure safety.
So remember, remember this 5th of November, to check your bonfires carefully for wildlife before you light them to prevent any needless suffering this Bonfire Night.