‘Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and bonfires’, whether this is in celebration of 5th of November or just general garden clearance, bonfires will light all across the UK. In 2020 more people will celebrate at home as organised events are shut and people are already collecting bonfire materials.

We at TWiGS are adding our voice to the many other organisations and individuals calling for people to check their bonfires before lighting them. Each year many animals are attracted to bonfire piles as they are often made of natural materials and look like an ideal place to shelter from the cold. Hedgehogs love wood piles and will view a pile of wood and leaves as an ideal place to hibernate, but it’s not just hedgehogs, reptiles, amphibians and small rodents like voles and shrews will also seek shelter in this kind of place.

We don’t want you to give up your enjoyment so we have some tips for those of you who will have a bonfire on the 5th November or other times in the coming months:

  • Build your bonfire the same day you intend to light it.
  • If collecting materials for the bonfire over several days or weeks, store it away from the final bonfire site.
  • If you have to stack it in the same place as you will light it, as you build it put a ring of wire like aviary wire (chicken wire has large holes many animals can slip through) all around the base of the fire. This ring fence will need to be about 3ft/1m high and the upper edge angled out so animals don’t climb over it.
  • Even with these precautions, check for wildlife before lighting with a stick or pole rather than a garden tool as these can also injure wildlife.
  • Start the bonfire in a corner so that anything that has made it’s way in has a chance to escape once the fire is lit.

If you spot any injured hedgehogs or other wildlife that needs medical attention call a local rescue for further help. Help Wildlife website has a directory of wildlife rescues around the UK. If you can’t see any physical injury check the help pages on Help Wildlife to see if you can help and how you can help.

Help your pets to stay safe by keeping them indoors, many pets don’t enjoy outdoor fires or fireworks and in the excitement may become anxious, stressed or behave differently.

Enjoy your bonfire night, look after wildlife and stay safe!