It’s nearly Bonfire Night again, an exciting time for some people but one that can cause problems for our pets and wildlife. Not only can fireworks cause enormous stress to domestic and wild animals, but bonfires can pose a risk to the creatures living in our gardens. So, what are the best ways to help wildlife and pets on Bonfire Night?
At this time of year, when there are lots of leaves and plant trimmings in the garden, having a bonfire on November 5th seems like a clever way of combining celebrating and clearing up. However, why not consider leaving the garden waste this year? Wildlife prefers messy gardens to neat ones. By leaving dead logs and piles of leaves about, you will be providing a refuge for all sorts of creatures, whether active or hibernating through the winter. Log piles offer shelter for a range of invertebrates including woodlice, worms and spiders, as well as larger animals like newts and toads. Many of the above species, as well as hibernating butterflies and hedgehogs, use leaf piles too. You can even hold off deadheading some of your plants as ladybirds, beetles and small spiders often hibernate in them.
If you do decide to have a bonfire this Guy Fawkes Night, it is vital that you do a number of things before lighting it. Bonfires are a significant risk to hedgehogs as the piles of debris making them up are attractive hiding places. Only build your bonfire on the day you intend to light it. This means there is less time for a hedgehog to enter it. If you do build one beforehand, move it section by section to a new, open space before lighting. Check the whole bonfire by lifting sections with a spade or broom and shining a torch in before igniting to make sure nothing has crawled in. And light it at one corner rather than the centre to give anything inside a chance to escape. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has more detailed advice.
Fireworks and our Furry Friends
Fireworks are an increasingly divisive topic. There is a growing awareness that they cause huge distress not only to our pets but also wildlife. Many are calling for a ban on sales and over the last few years some retailers have stopped selling them, including Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op. A number of local councils across the UK have cancelled public displays this year as a result of financial concerns. This means the demand for home fireworks is likely to be high. Unfortunately, with fewer official events, festivities are more likely to be spread across a longer period as people will pick a night best suited to them rather than focusing solely on November 5th. Fireworks are also being increasingly used to mark Hallowe’en, stretching the period out even longer.
There are some ways to help reduce the risk of stressing both wild and domestic animals, though. Some larger events are going low noise this year in recognition of concerns for animal welfare. A quick internet search should find any near you. If you decide you must have your own display, a number of retailers sell low noise or even silent fireworks. These will have less impact both on wildlife and pets in the neighbourhood. Alternatively, some have packs with a noise rating on to help you choose quieter products.
Whether you are having your own fireworks or not, always keep pets inside around fireworks night. Make sure you take them out early for bedtime wees! The RSPCA has some brilliant advice on their website if you have a pet that finds fireworks stressful. Our dog hates fireworks but we find that playing classical music really helps calm her down. Classic FM even runs dedicated Pet Classics shows in conjunction with the RSPCA. This year, shows are on the 4th and 5th of November.
Remember, Remember Keep Animals Safe This November
However you spend this Guy Fawkes Night, don’t forget that many of the ways we celebrate it have a big impact on the animals around us. Choosing not to have bonfires or fireworks is a fantastic way of limiting the risks and stresses on your local pets and wildlife. If you are having your own events, following a few simple tips means you can help wildlife and pets this Bonfire Night.