WITH Bonfire Night approaching, wildlife lovers are urging event organisers to remember hedgehogs.

Bridport has a healthy population of the spiny creatures, but across the UK they are in serious decline.

Bridport was the first hedgehog friendly town in Dorset and Piddletrenthide, East Stour, Halstock, Blandford, Dorchester and Bere Regis soon followed suit in declaring their support for the mammals.

Beaminster, Milborne St Andrew, Portland and Hazelbury Bryan have also recently started the process.

The Dorset Mammal Group (DMG) hopes having hedgehog-friendly towns will reverse the decline of the creatures.

Colin Varndell, hedgehog leader for DMG, said: “At this time of year, hedgehogs are searching for somewhere to hibernate, like piles of brushwood or under dense vegetation. Bonfires are ideal places for them to settle down and enter into a deep torpor.

“Unfortunately, a hedgehog cannot wake up from hibernation quickly, so bonfires, although attractive to them are also lethal places. If you have a bonfire, build it and light it on the same day; or if it is built over time, move it entirely before igniting to make sure no hedgehogs are burnt alive.”

Becoming a hedgehog friendly town starts with a public meeting and people are encouraged to sign up to the scheme. Then there is a second meeting where details of what needs to happen to make the town or village hedgehog friendly are shared. Each town and village has its own hedgehog co-ordinator. Further meetings or activities are arranged when wanted.

The DMG also works with four of Dorset’s hedgehog rescuers, providing funding for poorly hedgehogs as well as helping with the overwintering of hedgehogs.

Mr Varndell added: “As hedgehogs travel around one mile every night in their quest to find enough food, and a mate, the Dorset Mammal Group is trying to make their life easier. We are encouraging residents to develop hedgehog friendly streets by making holes in, or under, their garden fences and walls for hedgehogs to pass through. We are also encouraging residents to adopt hedgehog friendly activities in their garden by providing food and shelter in gardens and where slug pellets are not used. If you have a hedgehog you also have a very efficient slug consumer.”