It may be tempting to leave your Halloween pumpkins in the woods to feed wildlife after October 31, but it could actually do more harm than good, wildlife experts warn.
Thousands of discarded pumpkins are left in woods across Britain, according to The Telegraph. While well-meaning pumpkin carvers might think they are doing the local fauna a kindness, leaving your leftover jack-o'-lantern in the woodland is actually harmful to wildlife.
“A myth seems to have built up that leaving pumpkins in woods helps wildlife,” said Paul Bunton, engagement and communication officer at The Woodland Trust, according to The Telegraph.
One of the main issues is that the discarded gourds are often eaten by already struggling hedgehogs. In early November, hedgehogs are looking to gain as much weight as possible to survive their winter hibernation. However, eating pumpkin is detrimental to their little hedgehog tummies, leading to diarrhea and dehydration. This means they may struggle to put on weight, and in some cases can even be fatal.
Moreover, leftover Halloween pumpkins can contain candles and plastic decorations, which can also be fatal to wildlife if ingested. The rotting gourds can also attract less popular wildlife, such as rats, to an area. According to The Woodland Trust, the additional nutrients in the pumpkins can negatively affect the soil balance as well.
“Pumpkin flesh can be dangerous for hedgehogs, attracts colonies of rats, and also has a really detrimental effect on woodland soils, plants, and fungi,'' said Bunton.
So what should you do with your beautifully carved pumpkin creation? Most experts recommend composting it yourself at home if you can, or asking if a local garden or farm will accept it as a donation. You could even try some scientific experiments. Either way, the hedgehogs will thank you.
An earlier version of this article was published in November 2022.