Autumn can be a tough time for amphibians and reptiles. 

What can we do to make it better?

As the weather gets cooler, amphibians and reptiles are looking for a place to hide over the winter. Sometimes, we can forget this when we get caught up in seasonal festivities. What might look like a brilliant pre-made bonfire to us can look like the perfect hibernation spot to a toad or a newt. Here, we’ve compiled a few guides on how to best help your garden wildlife to get ready for the more difficult part of the year.

How to build a wildlife-friendly bonfire:

  1. Make sure to build your bonfire in an open area, making sure to rake any leaves on the ground into a quiet corner or compost heap. This gives any insects hibernating amongst them a better chance of survival, which in turn gives insect-eating reptiles and amphibians a better chance of survival.
  2. Build the bonfire away from any trees. As well as this being a general safety point to avoid setting trees on fire in an uncontrollable blaze, it’s important to try to avoid the smoke choking any wildlife roosting in the trees.
  3. Check your bonfire before it is lit. The best way to protect any stray toads or hedgehogs is to give your bonfire a look-over before you start. If you do find any wildlife, make sure to transport it to an unused spot that’s sheltered from predators. Even better still, don’t build the bonfire until the day you plan on lighting it. 
  4. When you do light the bonfire, make sure to only light it from one side so that any wildlife that was missed has an escape route. Also make sure to keep a large bucket of water or a garden hose to hand, just in case of an emergency.

What else can be done for reptiles and amphibians?

  1. Create habitat features with the right characteristics. Compost heaps, rockeries, or simply build by creating a pile from materials (e.g. leaves, rocks, logs, wood chip, rubble, soil). Ensure there are some spaces where animals can enter and take refuge, so don’t compact the structure too much. You can also buy toad hotels and homes.
  2. Leave your grass piles, compost heaps, rocks and logs unturned in order to not disturb any hibernating grass snakes, frogs, toads or newts. You could also add some material in order to maintain the height for grass snakes.  
  3. Now is a great time to build a garden pond! If you need any guidance or creative inspiration, take a look at our “Creating garden ponds for wildlife” leaflet, crated with our friends at Freshwater Habitats Trust. If you’ve already got a pond, now is a great time to do maintenance on it rather than in the spring when amphibians are looking to spawn in it.


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