East Sussex Wildlife Rescue is asking people thinking of having an autumn bonfire to take care not to cause injury to local wildlife.
It is unclear how may hedgehogs and other wildlife die in bonfires each year, mainly because they rarely get found afterwards. Numerous families have unfortunately had their bonfire celebrations ruined after finding escaping hedgehogs and other wildlife crawling out from bonfires burnt or injured.
East Sussex WRAS has published these Top Ten Bonfire Safety Tips to help keep not just our declining hedgehog population safe but also other wildlife like bats and birds:
1) Re-site the entire bonfire pile before it is lit where possible.
2) Use broom handles to lift the bonfire up to check for wildlife sleeping inside before lighting the fire. Use torches to check underneath and listen carefully for any signs of life.
3) With larger bonfires, erect a mesh fence with an overhang round the bonfire to avoid small wild mammals getting inside.
4) Light the bonfire at one side rather than all round so that any animals or bird inside have a chance to escape.
5) Move bird feeders and other food left out on the ground for wildlife away from the bonfire site for at least a week before building a bonfire.
6) Light bonfires away from overhanging trees and bushes.
7) Use fireworks away from trees and woodland.
8) Place a hedgehog house or simple small hutch with clean and fresh straw, hay and hand shredded paper to provide an alternative home for any animals which might be visiting your garden.
9) Have a bucket of water available in care you need to put out the fire or an animal on fire.
10) Know who to call if you find a wildlife casualty.
For more details visit www.wildlifeambulance.org or call 01825 873003 to make a donation. Reg Charity 1108880.