Bonfire Night: how to keep pets and wildlife safe

A little boy in a wooly hat holding a sparkler with a woman and little girl behind him.
Remember wildlife this Bonfire Night. (Photo: SolStock/iStock)

It’s nearly Bonfire Night and the excitement is building! But, while it’s spectacular fun for us, it can be scary and dangerous for wildlife and pets. So if you’re planning your own bonfire or firework display, follow our simple rules to keep wildlife safe on Bonfire Night.

How to build a safe bonfire

Build your bonfire in an open space well away from trees and hedges. Make sure you have water on hand and build a nice sturdy base for the fire to keep it contained. As well as being a fire risk, the flames can scare away nesting birds and other wildlife that’s made its home there.

Don’t forget where you’re celebrating. Fires aren’t safe in wooded areas or public spaces so stick to a garden. If you don’t have a garden or don’t want to have your own bonfire, look out for Bonfire Night events in your community!

Do hedgehogs hide in bonfire piles?

Bonfire night happens at a time when many creatures are looking for a place to hibernate for the winter, and your pile of wood and leaves looks very inviting to hedgehogs, frogs, toads and newts. Ideally, build your bonfire shortly before you are going to light it so they don’t have time to move in. Just before setting fire to it, check through it using a torch to be doubly sure. If you do find a hedgehog, pick it up using gloves and move it to a sheltered place under a tree or hedge far from the bonfire.

Sleepy hedgehog curled up among autumn leaves
Look after critters like this hedgehog on Bonfire Night! (Photo: iStock.com/DieterMeyrl)

How to pick materials for a bonfire

Dry fallen wood is great for a bonfire, and leaf litter makes excellent kindling, but remember you’re not the only one who needs them! Wildlife rely on leaves and decaying wood to survive so make sure to leave some behind for nature. Keep animals extra safe by making some inviting little woodpiles well away from the bonfire site.

How to put out a bonfire

When your fire has gone out, the ashes can smoulder and stay hot for a day or so, especially if you’ve had a big fire and the weather is dry. Animals can wander into the hot ashes and get injured, so you’ll need to thoroughly damp down the embers with water.

Firework safety

Keep any fireworks well away from trees and hedges, and make sure you clear up any bits of used fireworks that are left behind after your display. Small animals may decide to investigate them and get their heads stuck inside.

How to keep pets safe on bonfire night

Pets can get injured or upset by fireworks too, so keep them inside after dark with the windows shut and curtains drawn to cut down the noise and keep out the flashes of light. Some dogs might be more comfortable in cosier spaces like under desks, or even in a blanket lined bath tub. Remember that people let off fireworks in the few days before and after Bonfire Night too so you’ll need to take care with pets for about a week.

Make dazzling leaf fireworks

With all the fiery coloured leaves around at the moment, why not have a go at making our fantastic leaf fireworks? It's fantastic fun for all ages, and it's wildlife friendly too.

What do you have planned for fireworks night? We’d love to hear what you’re getting up to in the comments below!

What are your plans for Bonfire Night?

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