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Don't put spiky pals in danger; WILDLIFE EXPERTS URGE PEOPLE TO CHECK THEIR BONFIRES FOR HEDGEHOGS.

Byline: AMY HUNT

AS FAMILIES gear up for Bonfire Night, wildlife experts are urging them to check for hedgehogs.

During autumn hedgehogs start to look for somewhere to hibernate over the winter.

And they can be tempted to make a nest in piles of logs and unlit bonfires.

Numbers of hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society saying nearly a quarter of hedgehogs born die before leaving their nest and about half of the rest do not survive their first hibernation.

So the Wildlife Trusts in the North East are asking people to be careful when building a bonfire.

You should build it as close to the night as possible or dismantle and restack the bonfire before lighting it.

Just before you start the fire use a torch and a rake to carefully search the bonfire for hedgehogs.

Move any creatures you find to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire.

Raking up leaves and grass cuttings into a pile away from the bonfire can give hedgehogs an alternative hibernation spot.

Steve Lowe, Northumberland Wildlife Trust Head of Conservation 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.

"Hedgehogs are great friends to gardeners as a natural pest killer. However, numbers are in decline due to increased pesticide use and we need to do all we can to help them." To help gardeners help hedgehogs prepare for winter the North East Wild-Places team is holding a series of events next week for all the family.

Visitors can learn all about hibernating mammals, make their own bat box and try setting up a video camera to capture wildlife images.

The events will take place at Sunderland North Family Zone from 3pm to 7pm on October 26 and at the Thomas Gaughan Community Centre, Walker, from 3pm to 7pm on October 28.

Visitors can also take a pumpkin-lit bat walk through Hylton Dene on October 26 and through Walker Riverside Park on October 28.

For more details contact the Wild-Places Team on (0191) 584 3112 or visit www.urbanwildplaces.co.uk Northumberland Wildlife Trust is selling ready-made hedgehog hibernation boxed at the reduced price of pounds 10. For details, contact Laura Lowther a (0191) 284 6884.

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SEARCH FOR A HOME: Hedgehogs are looking for a place to hibernate at this time of year
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 22, 2009
Words:441
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