How to avoid hedgehog horror on Bonfire Night

Every autumn, many hedgehogs perish when they take shelter in piles of wood – only to find themselves later trapped inside freshly lit bonfires. But if you are planning a blaze for Halloween or Guy Fawkes Night, don’t worry, there’s a simple solution

adult wilde Eastern European hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) on the rotten log

With Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night just days away, bonfire-builders are being urged to take some simple precautions to keep hedgehogs safe.


In gardens, parks and fields across the UK, thousands of bonfire-lovers are busy building up piles of wood, ready to light for traditional autumn celebrations.

The problem is that hedgehogs love to take shelter beneath loose piles of wood. When you come to light your wood pile, the panicked hedgehog remains inside the bonfire, and is soon overcome by smoke.

How do you make sure a hedgehog isn’t hiding beneath your bonfire when you light it? Picture: Getty

The answer

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) say there’s a simple solution: build your bonfire on the day you use it.

That may mean piling up wood temporarily in one place, and moving it to the site of the bonfire on the day of the blaze.

Fay Vass, chief executive of BHPS, said that if you store wood on open ground before having a bonfire, “it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting.”

And there’s more advice from Fay, too.

6 more ways to keep hedgehogs safe on Bonfire night

• Build your fire on open ground – not on piles of leaves which are also a favourite place for hedgehogs.

• Light the fire from one side only – and keep people away from the unlit side, so any hedgehogs have an escape route.

• Avoid setting bonfires near pampas grass – another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under. Pampas grass can ignite very easily from bonfire sparks.

• If a large bonfire must be built in advance, build a hedgehog-proof fence around it using chicken wire. Hedgehogs are good climbers – so your fence should be at least 1m high, firmly staked, and sloping outwards at an angle to make it hard to climb.

• If a bonfire is left unattended for even a short time, check for hedgehogs before lighting. Hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, so check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Use a torch to help see into the shadows. Listen for a hissing sound – this is the noise they make when disturbed.

If you find a hedgehog…

Fay says:

• Wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on the hedgehog.

• Take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard or plastic box with plenty of newspaper or old towelling.

• Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box.

• Try to keep them calm, as hedgehogs are easily stressed.

• Put the box in a safe, quiet place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities, offer either specialist hedgehog food, or meaty cat or dog food, and water.

• Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.

Find out more…

…from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.


MAIN PICTURE: Getty Images