Check for hidden hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, warns RSPCA

As government restrictions prompt more people to have DIY fireworks displays at home, the RSPCA urges people to check for wildlife before lighting their homemade bonfire.

The warning comes as a hedgehog mother and her five babies narrowly escaped death earlier this month when they were discovered hiding in a bonfire minutes before it was due to be lit.

The lucky hog family are being cared for at the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire.

With the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres in Somerset, Cheshire, Norfolk and Sussex reporting a surge of admissions of orphaned, sick or underweight hedgehogs, the charity is hoping to minimise additional admissions from avoidable injuries such as burns from bonfires.

RSPCA scientific office, Evie Button said: “Wild animals can sustain terrible burns or even die in bonfires so it’s really important people check carefully before lighting them. Piles of leaves or wood are attractive nesting places for many wild animals, especially hedgehogs. So, ideally a bonfire should only be built on the day it is going to be lit, to reduce the possibility of an animal hiding inside it.

“It’s also worth remembering that some animals like hedgehogs may be hibernating underneath leaves and will be very hard to see. Moving the whole bonfire by hand immediately before setting it alight is the best way of ensuring that hedgehogs and other wildlife are not sleeping in there.

“Our centres are already caring for so many sick, orphaned and underweight hedgehogs, and bonfires are an additional hazard that could be the tipping point of these lovely creatures.”

In mid-October, the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres were already caring for nearly 200 hedgehogs.

If you find an injured hedgehog or other injured wild animals the RSPCA website has more information about how you can help them.

This bonfire warning comes as the RSPCA highlights its campaign to restrict the private use of fireworks on all but four days of the year.