Scots have been warned not to dump pumpkins in woodland areas as Halloween celebrations get underway.
Wildlife and forestry experts have urged those celebrating the season with pumpkin carving to make sure they dispose of the vegetable safely to avoid endangering native wildlife including hedgehogs.
Pumpkins, which are native to North America, can be toxic for some UK wildlife causing serious illness and a disruption to the eco-system.
Creative solutions such as creating a bird-feeder from the seeds or cooking pumpkin pie or soups have been suggested as alternatives to leaving them outside.
The Scottish SPCA Wildlife rescue centre assistant manager, April Sorley, said: “Although there isn’t a lot of data to suggest that pumpkins can cause gastrointestinal upset in animals, it can’t be ruled out.
“Anyone carving pumpkins for Halloween should find an appropriate way to dispose of them where they can’t cause any harm to local wildlife.”
The Woodland Trust, who care for over 1,000 areas of woodland across the UK, also issued a warning.
They said: “For those of us who want to give our local wildlife a tasty treat, leaving pumpkins in the woods seems like a great sustainable option.
“But pumpkins can cause serious illness in hedgehogs and other woodland animals, and they can disturb the sensitive balance of woodland soils.”
The charity’s website states: “Feeding woodland wildlife with leftover Halloween pumpkins might seem helpful and eco-friendly, but it does more harm than good. Pumpkins take a long time to break down and as they rot, they damage delicate woodland ecosystems, attract rats and can be fatal to animals like hedgehogs.
“Please don’t leave pumpkins in our woods. Search online for other great ways to use them instead, from creative recipes, autumnal bird feeders and planters to composting or donating to zoos or farms for animal feed.”
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