This Week In Zoology: Check Your Bonfires

In Ireland as in many countries, there is one day a year which is known as “bonfire night”, when people light big piles of leaves, wood, and often other random trash. The ecological impact of such celebrations notwithstanding, there is a critter out there which needs your help in taking a bit more care when lighting your bonfires.

The Irish Wildlife Trust shared this plea this year in the form of this cartoon.


For those of you unfamiliar with hedgehog biology, this has to do with the difference between torpor and true hibernation.


I’ve posted before about what it means to truly hibernate, and in fact bears do not actually hibernate despite what we have been told in elementary school. Briefly, the difference between hibernation and torpor is that you can wake up an animal in torpor, if you bug it for long enough, even if the weather conditions are not what they actually need to wake up.

I also mentioned the hedgehog in my previous post on the subject but, with bonfire season upon us, I’ll repeat it here: hedgehogs are true hibernators, so they will not wake up, even if you set them on fire. Since they like to hibernate in piles of leaves, every year people burn countless hedgehogs alive on bonfire night, without realizing they are doing so.

So, if you decide to celebrate bonfire night, please do the hedgehog a solid and make sure your leaves are hedgehog-free before you set it ablaze. When they eventually wake up, they will be grateful.

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