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Top tips to help keep wildlife safe on Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night

hedgehog bonfire safety

As the nights get shorter and colder, and with Bonfire Night just around the corner, many of us will be celebrating with a bonfire in our garden. With this in mind, the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service have published an article on their website which provides nine excellent tips on how to keep wildlife safe this autumn.

1. Re-site your bonfire if you can

Sure, this may seem like an inconvenience, but it could save a few lives. What many don't realise when they're prepping the wood for their bonfire is that it can be an attractive place for wildlife to hide - especially hedgehogs. The last thing you want is to light the fire and see a distressed, scorched animal crawling out from the flames when it's lit. This may sound deeply disturbing, but it's what sometimes happens. So, for the sake of all concerned, make the effort to stack the wood in one place well beforehand and then move it on the day you're planning to light the bonfire. If you do this, you can then be sure that there aren't any wild animals sleeping or hibernating within the pile. If you really don't have the time or inclination to do this, the very least you should do is meticulously move the pile around with a broom handle, carefully lifting up bits at a time to check for any signs of wildlife. You can go even further by using a torch as well, whilst listening carefully for any sounds that may indicate movement.

2. Mesh protection for larger fires

If tip number one simply isn't practical due to the size of your wood stack, you can easily prepare by nipping down to your local DIY centre and buying some wire mesh. This should be firmly placed all the way around the perimeter of the fire and then bent over at the top, outwards, to form a lip. This will help prevent smaller animals from being able to climb the mesh and enter the pile.

3. Light your fire on one side only

Whilst it may be tempting to get your fire going more quickly and evenly by lighting it in several places around the base, please don't. If you only light it on one side, it will at least give any wildlife a window of opportunity to make an escape from the side that hasn't yet been lit.

4. Move birdfeeders well in advance

Most animals find it beneficial to stay as close to known food sources as they can. If you have a bird feeder, move it away well in advance so that the birds can get used to its new location away from where your fire will be. Bear in mind that it's not just birds who are attracted to your birdfeeder - mice, squirrels, rats, foxes and hedgehogs will also often be looking for fallen food around the base.

5. Don't place the firewood near a tree or large bush

From a safety point of view, this may sound obvious. If the fire spreads to a nearby tree or bush (which can easily happen just with a few sparks flying) you may well end up killing and birds that are nesting in the foliage. Aside from that, a burning tree or bush can quickly spread to nearby fencing, sheds or even your home!

6. Avoid buying fireworks, or get silent ones instead

Loud noises can quite literally frighten animals to death, and this includes fish in your garden pond. The noise and vibration from loud bangs can easily be avoided by buying low-noise fireworks or simply avoiding them altogether. If you have a cat or a dog, they'll thank you for it too.

7. Provide alternative accommodation

With hedgehog numbers on the decline, having these beautiful animals grace your garden is a real honour. If you can, buy or make yourself a "hog house" well in advance to encourage regular visits from them. Hedgehogs love safe spaces, particularly if they're lined with fresh, clean straw/hay. You can also buy a small hutch and use dried leaves or shredded paper, which can also attract other animals that are looking for a safe place to shelter. This will also encourage them to stay away from your bonfire stack if they have a better alternative.

8. Keep lots of water handy

This serves two purposes. Firstly, it's a good safety tip in general and you can also keep a bucket of water handy if the unthinkable happens and a wild animal you missed is getting burnt

9. Contact the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service if you have a casualty

If you've made a mental note of all the points above, then hopefully you won't need to. Bonfire night is a busy time for them so please take all the precautions that you can. Also, please bear in mind that they rely on charitable donations to keep going so please consider donating to them, regardless of whether you need their help or not.


We hope you've found the above tips useful and, if you're celebrating Guy Fawkes Night this November 5th, you can also get a few extra tips on the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service website too.

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