Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside Branch

Hedgehog family burnt in bonfire

Please remember to check carefully before lighting fires this autumn

We’re warning people to be careful lighting fires this autumn after a hedgehog and her three babies were caught in the flames of a bonfire.

Hedgehog with burns to its back © RSPCA

The mother hog and her three youngsters were taken to our East Winch Wildlife Centre near King’s Lynn, Norfolk on Sunday evening (4 October) after being discovered in a fire in a back garden in Norfolk.

Manager at the centre Alison Charles said:

“All four had burnt skin or spines and were suffering from smoke inhalation and sadly the mum hedgehog died shortly after arrival. Our vets said it was likely a combination of heat and smoke which killed her.

Her three daughters have survived but we are keeping a close eye on them, as problems caused by smoke inhalation can take a while to show sometimes.

“This sad story is, unfortunately, not an uncommon one for us at this time of year. It’s a cautionary reminder as we enter the fireworks and bonfire season about the importance of taking the time to check bonfires before they’re lit.”

Check bonfires before starting them

Alison added:

The members of the public who brought this hedgehog family in were really upset as they did the right thing and actually had checked the bonfire before starting it – but just didn’t see them. They did see the hogs once the fire was lit, and pulled them out, but not until it was too late for the mum, unfortunately.

It can be very hard to see a brown hedgehog in amongst a pile of wood, and the only way to be sure is to move the bonfire before actually lighting it. It helps to build the bonfire as near as possible to the time of lighting, to ensure hedgehogs and other wildlife are not sleeping in the pile when it is lit.

The surviving hedgehogs are doing well but are very young so they’ll need some time in our care to recuperate and gain weight before being returned to the wild, well away from bonfires.

Find out more information about caring for hedgehogs and some seasonal advice for autumn.