How to check your bonfire for wildlife

We give our top tips on how to avoid harming wildlife this bonfire night.

It is November, and we are all looking forward to sparklers, fireworks and bonfires. However these activities, in particular bonfires, can actually put wildlife in danger if not lit responsibly. Andrew Impey, CEO for Essex Wildlife Trust, gives his top tips on how to avoid harming wildlife:

1. Prepare the bonfire on the actual day, not beforehand. Wildlife such as hedgehogs will be looking to hibernate at this time of year, and may have seen your prepared bonfire as the perfect spot. 

2. If you have already prepared the bonfire, move it to a different spot before lighting. You can simply move it bit by bit, to ensure no wildlife has settled inside.

3. Check the bonfire area using a broom or a pole. Simply work your way around the bonfire, making sure to lift and check deep in the centre. 

4. If you do find a hedgehog, put on a pair of gloves and carefully remove it taking with you as much of the vegetation as possible. Place the hedgehog in a cardboard box, with the lid down, ensuring there are ventilation holes. Once the fireworks are finished and the bonfire is completely out, wait until the evening time and carefully move the hedgehog back into a quiet, secluded area such as a hedge or somewhere overgrown.

How to check your bonfire for wildlife - Essex Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Officer Andrew Impey

5. Hedgehogs are not the only ones to look out for - toads, frogs and other reptiles may be taking shelter in the leaves. Divert them by creating other small piles of leaves and logs they can use. 

6. Avoid using fireworks near trees or hedgerows - they can disturb and potentially harm birds nesting or sheltering there.

7. Do not pin Catherine wheels to trees - if you must include them in your display, pin them to fences or posts in an open area. 

8. Once you are finished with the bonfire, ensure it is completely put out - a burning bonfire can stay hot for days and produce ash that is harmful to wildlife. 

9. Don't leave empty firework debris or litter after your display, as wildlife can become stuck or injure themselves.

10. Don't burn all of your leaves and logs, save some to create winter habitats for our garden visitors!

Please be mindful of wildlife this 5th November, and please check your bonfire. Thank you!