It’s Bonfire Night tonight, and while we’re as excited as anyone about the Catherine Wheels and beautiful shimmering displays, we want to give as much advice as we can to protect any spiky dwellers that you may have in your bonfire.
While to you it looks like the perfect place to toast marshmallows, a bonfire is to a hedgehog exactly the log pile that they’re looking for to hibernate in. The hedgehog is one of only 3 UK mammals to hibernate – the others being the dormouse and the bat. During hibernation, the hedgehog is to all outward appearances dead. Its heart rate drops to a staggering 20 beats per minute, and brain function is dramatically limited. Just imagine trying to escape a burning building when your core body temperature has dropped to around 10˚C, and you may understand a little of the plight of your hedgehogs on Bonfire Night.
Of course, your hedgehogs may not be hibernating yet – we’ve had a very mild autumn so food should still be fairly available – but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great deal easier to escape the burning building. Equally it only takes a few nights below 5˚C to send hedgehogs into hibernation, so you might be surprised how the change in the weather this week has affected them.
So what should you do?
- The best practice if you’re having a bonfire in your garden is to build it immediately before you burn it. That way nothing has had time to curl up and fall asleep in there (don’t forget that there are probably other creatures besides hedgehogs also living in your log piles).
- If you do build it a few days before then try to move it to a different spot in the garden on the night.
- If neither of those are possible then at the very least poke around in the bonfire with a long stick to disturb any creatures inside (and give them a few minutes to get out!)
A bit more info
While we’re here, it’s a good opportunity to share a few more tips and tricks for the winter.
- Don’t be too alarmed to see hedgehogs up and about in the middle of winter – they will sometimes get up and move nests. However, if the hedgehog is small then pick it up and weigh it. A hedgehog needs to be at least 600g to survive the winter; anything less than this and you should take it to your local hedgehog carer (a list for Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull can be found here).
- As hedgehogs sometimes get up, please keep leaving food and water out. If you’re worried about other local animals munching the food then buy a cheap plastic box from the supermarket, cut a 4” x 4” hole in it and create a tunnel of bricks leading to the hole – this will stop most other things from getting in. You’ll also want to weigh down the box with a couple more bricks.
- If you’re lucky enough to have an open fire or a wood burner, try not to dismantle your pile of firewood all the way down to ground level just in case you’ve got a hibernating hedgehog in there.
Have a brilliant Bonfire Night one and all, just please take care of those hogs!
You can find more information on our Help for Hedgehogs campaign here, and you can like and follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Support our campaign by adopting a hedgehog, the perfect Christmas gift!
Thanks to St Tiggywinkles for some of those fabulous facts.