TIGGYWINKLES: Check bonfires before setting them alight

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It is that time again, the beginning of November, the Gunpowder Plot and all that.

I know that every year I go on about bonfires and the unfortunate animals that get caught in them. And it is not just bonfires on the 5th of November; all through the winter in the garden there are those tempting piles of leaves that are so easily tidied up with a match and a bit of newspaper.

Your garden hedgehogs are also tempted by those piles of leaves. A heap of old, dry leaves set on fire, will, within seconds, become an incinerator for any fast asleep hedgehog. They may wake up as a fire gets to them, but the smoke and speed of the inferno soon kills them.

I always think it is fascinating to feel into a pile of leaves and touch a sleeping hedgehog. Leaving the pile alone gives him time to go off the following night to build a nest elsewhere, but it may like your hospitality or may even decide to hibernate in your garden. I believe we owe it to them to repay their trust by checking for them if they are in your leaves. After all, a pile of leaves will not look that untidy giving safe haven, not just to hedgehogs but to other small animals and visitors.

The bonfire on Guy Fawkes night is quite different – it will be a temporary feature before it is set alight, but may also be a temporary dormitory for hedgehogs. Why not leave a six-inch gap under the bonfire, making it unattractive to hedgehogs, or with smaller bonfires turn them over before lighting them, you will be surprised how many have been adopted by hedgehogs.

Sometimes a hedgehog will emerge panicking if the fire catches it out. Many brought into us have burns, and even if there are no obvious wounds they can be suffering from smoke inhalation.