Woodland Trust and Forestry England urge people not to dump pumpkins in the woods after Halloween
Dumped pumpkins are a dangerous threat to wildlife, say experts, who are urging people not to leave their Halloween leftovers outside assuming they're helping to feed birds and other wildlife.
The Woodland Trust says it has noticed a 'worrying trend' in the last couple of years for pumpkins to be taken to the nearest wood or parkland, after October 31, and left by people who think they're doing a good thing by not binning them and instead leaving them among nature.
Described as a 'well meaning but misguided attempt' to provide winter food for wildlife - the squashes are instead poisonous to some animals, can have a harmful effect on the growth of other plants and may attract vermin in large numbers if such a food source becomes so instantly readily available.
"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" says Paul Bunton, Engagement and Communication Officer at Woodland Trust.
"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."
Thousands of tonnes of pumpkin is thrown away each year in the UK, which the Trust says has been made worse by the vast availability of cheap pumpkins in supermarkets and the growing popularity of pumpkin picking and pumpkin patches in the run up to Halloween.
Paul addded: "Thousands of tonnes of pumpkin gets thrown away in the UK after Halloween each year, so it would be great if we could all put that to better use.
"Jack-o-lanterns can be good for wildlife in small quantities in gardens, but not the woodland or other countryside."
His fears are echoed by Forestry England, which estimates that around eight million pumpkins are used by families every year in the run up to Halloween.
Kate Wollen, Assistant Ecologist, Forestry England added: "We see many posts on social media encouraging people to leave pumpkins in the woods for wildlife to eat, but please do not do this. Pumpkins are not natural to the woodland and while some wildlife may enjoy a tasty snack it can make others, such as hedgehogs, very poorly.
"Feeding pumpkins, or any other food in the forest, to birds, foxes, badgers, deer, and boar can make them unwell and can spread disease. Pumpkins are also often decorated and have things such as candles in them. Animals eating the pumpkins could then eat a foreign object and this could kill them."
Alongside using the pumpkins for food at home, or disposing of them properly, Forestry England also suggests adding discarded pumpkins to compost bins as it can help create a rich soil for next year's planting.