AN ANIMAL charity is highlighting the importance of wildlife safety throughout the bonfire season.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) says various animal species begin looking for and developing hibernation homes to sleep in throughout the winter at this time of year.

The animal charity, which takes in more than 600 hedgehogs a year, says bonfires make perfect places for the prickly creatures to hide and sleep, but not necessarily in safety.

The Argus: Keep wildlife safe during bonfire season, says animal charityKeep wildlife safe during bonfire season, says animal charity

WRAS founder Trevor Weeks MBE said: “Hedgehog numbers are on the decline, and we need to help them out as much as possible.

“Not all wildlife gets out alive, and many are thought to die unseen. The smell is normally the first thing people notice. If people follow our top ten tips it will reduce the risk to wildlife and help keep bonfire events safe.”

The charity has put together these ten simple steps to help with wildlife safety:

1 - Smaller bonfires: Re-site the entire bonfire pile before being lit where possible or use broom handles to lift the bonfire up to check for wildlife sleeping inside before lighting the fire. Use torches to check underneath and listen carefully for any signs of life.

2 - Larger bonfires: Erect a mesh fence with an overhang round the bonfire to avoid small wild mammals getting inside.

3 - Light the bonfire at one side rather than all round so that any animals or birds inside have a chance to escape.

4 - Move bird feeders and other food left out on the ground for wildlife away from the bonfire site for at least a week before building a bonfire.

5 - Light bonfires away from over hanging trees and bushes.

6 - Avoid using fireworks or use no-noise fireworks to help keep the impact on wildlife as low as possible.

7 - Avoid firing fireworks or bangers around trees, bushes, ponds and lakes.

8 - Place a hedgehog house or simple small hutch with clean and fresh straw, hay and hand shredded paper and dried leaves to provide an alternative home for any animals which might be visiting your garden.

9 - Have a bucket of water available in case you need to put out the fire or an animal on fire.

10 - Know who to call if you find an injured wildlife casualty.