Why You Need to Check Your Bonfire Before Lighting It

Every year, an unknown number of hedgehogs are burned alive because bonfire piles are not being checked before being lit.

In autumn, hedgehogs are on the lookout for the perfect place to hibernate, and unlit bonfires are an ideal refuge. To help keep these curious creatures safe, we need to take more care to ensure hedgehogs don’t become victims on bonfire night.

Bonfires Built in Advance are Hedgehog Hotels

To save hedgehogs and other wildlife from burning to death, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society are urging people to not build bonfires until the day they are to be lit. Providing what can seem like the perfect home on first appearance, hedgehogs happily bury themselves into the center of bonfire piles, which is why we need to take extra precautions to stop these horrific incidents from happening.

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said “Piles of bonfire material look like five star hotels to a hedgehog in search of a hibernation site. It is crucial to dismantle and move bonfire material that has been stored in advance on open ground. Move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favorite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”

Follow these Guidelines When Building Your Bonfire

To help protect hedgehogs, stick to these guidelines when building your bonfires:

  • Build your bonfire on the day it is to be lit so there is less chance of hedgehogs taking up residence in your pile
  • Make your pile of material elsewhere and re-site the entire stack before lighting
  • Always search the bonfire for hibernating creatures by lifting the base of the pile with a broom handle and using a torch to look inside
  • Listen carefully for hissing sounds when investigating your pile — this is the noise hedgehogs make when disturbed
  • If you find a hedgehog, move them somewhere safe and away from the fire
  • Before the night of the fire, make an alternative hedgehog home in a different part of the garden by raking up leaves and grass cuttings
  • If a large bonfire has to be built in advance, place outward sloping chicken wire held in by stakes all around the bottom to make it difficult to climb

Morag Shuaib, The Wildlife Trusts‘ Wildlife Gardening Officer, said: “To a hedgehog looking for a place to sleep, an unlit bonfire is a ready made nest. 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 in Dramatic Decline

Once common, hedgehog sightings are now becoming a rare occurrence. Down from an estimated 36 million in the 1950s, there are now thought to be fewer than one million hedgehogs left in the UK.

Their dramatic decline in numbers is largely due to habitat loss, development pressures, road traffic and loss of food sources caused by intensive farming and use of slug pellets.

Recently joining the red squirrel and bottlenose dolphin on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan list of species in need of conservation and greater protection, hedgehogs are a creature we all need to work to protect as every single one is precious.

Photo Credit: Keith Jones

239 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

Great piece of advice! I am sharing, thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

What a horrible thing to happen. I would not forgive myself if I did that to one. Thanks for the information.

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Carmen Baez
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Oksana Herrmann
Past Member 4 years ago

poor babies, unfortunately many people are too lazy to check for hedgehogs.

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Kay M.
Kay M4 years ago

poor guys. sharing.

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Mandy H.
Mandy H4 years ago

The poor things :( We don't have hedgehogs in Australia but it's a good reminder because you never know what other animals might be hiding in an unlit bonfire.

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Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

Thank you

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oliver mally
oliver mally4 years ago

a good one!

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Iohn James Parr
john james Parr4 years ago

Good information in your article, thank you for making people aware..good job

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