NATURE groups in Northumberland are putting people on hedgehog alert as bonfire night nears.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust is reminding the public to check for hedgehogs before lighting a bonfire as such sites seem an ideal place for the creatures to hibernate.
Visitors to Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre will also be made aware of the issue as the outlet supports a British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) campaign.
General Manager Roger Wale said: “Hedgehogs provide a vital role in helping to naturally control slugs in the garden and are an important friend to the gardener.
“We need to ensure they are protected from harm at this time of year and that’s one of the reasons we are supporting this BHPS initiative.
“During November we will be chatting to our visitors about caring for hedgehogs.”
Advice to avoid harming the animals is to build a bonfire as close to the night as possible so there is less chance of a hedgehog moving in, make the pile of material next to the chosen bonfire site and then re-build the stack before lighting it, search for hibernating creatures using a torch before lighting and move hedgehogs to a ready-made box, somewhere dry and safe away from the fire.
People should wear gloves to handle the hedgehogs and may provide pet food and fresh water in the box, releasing the animal under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs once the bonfire is dampened down.
It may also help to make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings and leaves into a pile a safe distance from the fire.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust Head of Conservation Steve Lowe said: “To a hedgehog looking for a place to sleep, an unlit bonfire is a ready-made nest.
“We are asking people to give hedgehogs a helping hand by following our instructions and checking any bonfires before lighting them.
“It only takes a minute to do, but can save hundreds of hedgehogs from an unnecessary death.”
For free advice about hedgehogs contact the BHPS on 01584 890801 or visit www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk