This weekend is when young children and fun-loving adults begin to collect material for their November 5th bonfires – and one that can sentence Britain’s favourite mammal to a terrible death.
Piles of fuel left in situ where the fire is to be lit can prove alluring as a winter resting place for hedgehogs looking for a suitable hibernation spot at this time of the year. And that means that they can be burnt alive.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has issued its annual plea for bonfire organisers to store their material in one place and not move it to the actual site until November 5.
And when they do finally begin to build the fire, they should search the material with a pole – rather than sharp spades or garden forks – and if a hedgehog is found, place it in a cardboard box and move it to a sheltered spot like the bottom of a thick hedge.
Says Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS: “If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and 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 favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”
The hedgehog, Mr. Prickles of children’s stories, was voted Britain’s favourite mammal in a poll some years ago but its numbers are in steep decline from a mixture of causes: road deaths, poisoning by gardeners’ slug pellets or injury from garden strimmers, and falling into cattle grids.
Some naturalists have predicted that they come become extinct in some parts of the country within the next 20 years.