How do Fireworks Affect Wildlife and the Environment?

The bangs, flashes and fizzes of fireworks provide entertainment on Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve and special occasions. But how do they affect surrounding wildlife and the wider environment?

Fireworks in the sky
Image Credit: Unsplash

Loud Noises

Watching pretty pyrotechnics and indulging in toffee apples and sticky treacle on November 5th is a long-held tradition. Although these dazzling displays are delightful for humans, those of us with pets will know how stressful and scary they are for animals.

These bangs and bursts of light don’t just take their toll on our companion animals, but on wildlife as well. Birds are known to panic when hearing these loud noises, fleeing the scene so quickly that they can crash into buildings or trees. Some animals are so terrified that they even leave their young and may struggle to find their way back to them.

Animals can also end up in unfamiliar or unsafe areas when trying to escape the thunderous sounds, including running across busy roads. Many animal charities and shelters tend to report increases in lost and injured animals when large firework displays are held.

On top of this, hedgehogs can snuggle inside bonfires before they’re lit, thinking they’re the perfect place to retreat. Other small animals like toads, frogs and newts may be hidden near garden bonfires.

Dangerous Debris

We’re all well-informed about the detrimental impact plastic has on animals, especially marine life. But plastic bottles, straws and fishing nets aren’t the only human-caused hazards animals have to navigate. The burnt-out remains of fireworks, used-up sparklers and empty packaging can also harm animals when not disposed of properly.

Air and Water Pollution

Fireworks are essentially chemical cocktails, comprising gunpowder, metal salts and oxidisers. Some of these substances can linger in the environment long after the show is over and even find their way into water supplies. Not only does this have implications for humans, but it can cause problems for wildlife and their habitats too.

Should We Ban Fireworks?

Is banning fireworks altogether the answer? One British Chief Constable (and many other people, too) think that banning the sale of fireworks to individuals would be a good idea.

And as for large public displays, some are already opting for kinder celebrations. A Canada Day celebration in 2018 decided not to use fireworks to prevent frightening nearby wildlife, while the town of Collecchio in Italy, embraced a quieter, noise-suppressing fireworks to minimise animals’ psychological distress.

What can we do to reduce adverse effects on animals and the environment? We can avoid backyard bonfires and firework displays, and urge the organisers of public celebrations to choosing friendlier, quieter alternatives.


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