Wildlife Trust warns about the 'scary danger' to animals posed by dumping pumpkins during Halloween season
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The UK’s largest woodland conservation charity has spotted a worrying trend in recent years for Halloween pumpkins to be taken to the nearest wood and left, in a well-meaning but misguided attempt to provide food for birds and woodland creatures.
Paul Bunton, engagement and communication officer at the Woodland Trust, said: “A myth seems to have built up that leaving pumpkins in woods helps wildlife.
"People think they’re doing a good thing by not binning them in landfill and instead leaving them for nature.
“But pumpkin flesh can be dangerous for hedgehogs, attracts colonies of rats and also has a really detrimental effect on woodland soils, plants and fungi.
“We can’t leave dumped pumpkins to rot, so we end up with an orange mushy mess to deal with at many of our sites.”
The Woodland Trust has tips on its website on how spooky leftovers can be best used, including making a pumpkin bird feeder for the garden, which should be kept high off the ground well away from hedgehogs.
Trevor Weeks, from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service, echoed the trust’s concern over the risk to hedgehogs.
He said: “Hedgehogs, like other wildlife, are opportunistic eaters and they spend autumn and early winter building up their fat reserves for hibernation.
“As a result. they can gorge themselves on easily available food like dumped pumpkins.
"Although not toxic to them, the fleshy fibrous fruit can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea as they are not designed to eat large quantities of fruit.
“This can lead to them becoming bloated and dangerously dehydrated, which in turn can be fatal. At this time of year, they can’t afford to become ill, or they may not survive the winter hibernation.”
According to the trust, the pumpkin problem seems to be starting earlier and earlier, with supermarkets flooded with cheap pumpkins and pumpkin-picking growing in popularity as a family activity during October.
The Woodland Trust’s Love Your Woods campaign encourages people to enjoy their visit while helping protect woods and nature for the future.
Visitors can play their part by following some simple advice, including staying fire-free and taking litter home.