Ideas for wildlife-themed pumpkin carvings | BBC Wildlife Magazine

Ideas for wildlife-themed pumpkin carvings | BBC Wildlife Magazine

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Pumpkin carving is a great activity to for both adults and (supervised) children, and as wildlife lovers, we particularly are always thrilled to see animal or plant carvings. We’ve gathered together this range of wildlife-themed carvings by BBC Wildlife staff and readers, plus some additional stock images, to provide you with inspiration this Halloween.

If you want to try something different, check out BBC Good Food magazine’s guide to nine things you can carve that aren’t pumpkins, such as peppers, pineapples or melons!

Share your images with us and you might see your pumpkin carving featured in this article!

The origins of Halloween and pumpkin carving

Halloween celebrations are thought to have pagan roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain (which translates to ‘summer’s end’). It falls on 31 October every year, and is followed by All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day on 1 November which commemorates saints of the Christian church. Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve.

Traditionally, it’s thought the winter period would begin on 1 November, and during the festival of Samhain, the souls of the dead would return to their homes. Bonfires were lit and costumes were worn to frighten away evil spirits, and to hide from the ghosts.

Pumpkin carving is one of the main traditions associated with Halloween. It began in Ireland and comes from a folktale about a man carrying a turnip, which was carved out and contained a glowing coal, into the afterlife.

A hand holding a turnip against a blurred background. The turnip has a face carved into it.

A face carved into a turnip. © Christopher Murray/EyeEm/Getty

When Irish immigrants travelled to America, they brought this Halloween custom with them and it changed slightly to carving out a pumpkin, which is much bigger and easier to carve out, and became known as the ‘Jack-o’lantern’. This was then brought back across the pond to the UK.

The increasing popularity for celebrating Halloween and carving pumpkins has provided a chance for diversification for British farmers, as presenter Adam Henson discusses in his article for BBC Countryfile magazine.

Other modern Halloween celebrations include trick-or-treating, costume parties, and watching scary movies.

The History Extra website (the home of BBC History Magazine and History Revealed) has a fascinating article exploring the history of Samhain and Halloween plus some fun quizzes on Halloween history and which historical figure you should choose for your Halloween costume.

Can pumpkins be left out for wildlife?

If you don’t want to eat your pumpkin, or it’s gone a little stale after carving, you can reuse it as a bird feeder or you can leave it out to be eaten.

However, there are some reports that pumpkins can cause stomach issues and diarrhoea in hedgehogs, to it’s best to put them out of reach of hedgehogs, such as hanging them from a tree or putting them on a birdtable.

A grey squirrel perched on top of a pumpkin (which is without its lid), feeding on the pumpkin.

A grey squirrel eating pumpkin in the UK. © Neil Bayles/Getty

What can I do with the pumpkin innards after carving?

Both the pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seeds can be used in a variety ways, and are great ways to minimise food waste this Halloween. However not all shop-bought pumpkins are suitable for consumption, so it’s worth checking the labelling.

Our colleagues on BBC Countryfile and BBC Good Food magazines have got a wide range of recipes on their websites that use pumpkin, we’ve shared some of our favourites below:

Recipes using pumpkin from BBC Countryfile magazine:

Creamy pumpkin soup in a bowl, with a silver spoon in it and a herbs on top.

Creamed pumpkin soup. © Roman Maerzinger/Getty

Recipes using pumpkin from BBC Good Food magazine:


Piping plover pumpkin carving, by Monica Fromberger (c/o the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program)

A piping plover carved into a pumpkin, with a nest containing four pumpkin seeds that look like eggs when lit up.

Emperor moth, by Ayla Webb

A pumpkin in darkness, light up from within to show the carving of an emperor moth.

An emperor moth carved into a pumpkin, by Ayla Webb

Anglerfish, by Laura Harbard

A pumpkin in darkness, lit up from within to show the sharp teeth of an anglerfish carved into the pumpkin, with an additional very bright light hanging in front of the pumpkin.

Spider, by Lewis Jones

A pumpkin in darkness, lit up from within to show the spider carving.

Death’s-head hawk-moth, by Apithanny Bourne

A pumpkin in the dark, lit up from inside to show the carving of a death's head hawk-moth.

Anglerfish, by Leoma Williams

A pumpkin in darkness, lit up from within to show an anglerfish carving

Plains zebra, by BBC Wildlife team member Megan Shersby (during her university dissertation research on plains zebra behaviour)

A pumpkin in the dark, lit up from within, showing a zebra's head pattern carved into the pumpkin

Fly agaric, by BBC Wildlife team member Megan Shersby

A pumpkin in the dark, lit up from within, showing a fly agaric carving in the pumpkin

Plus, additional stock images for even more inspiration:

A pumpkin in darkness, lit from within to show an eagle carving. An apple in the beak of the eagle can just be made out.

An illuminated pumpkin with a carved eagle. © Dallas Stribley/Getty

Four pumpkins of slightly different shapes and sizes lit up in a ray of sunlight. They are each carved with insects: bees, grasshopper, butterfly and moth.

Insects carved into pumpkins. © Beth A. Riley/Getty

A pumpkin in darkness, lit up from within to show three holes which have been carved with a wolf, a bat and a ghost.

A pumpkin carved with an owl, bat and a ghost. © belizar/Getty

Two pumpkins in semi-darkness, lit up from within to show an owl carving on one pumpkin and a smiling spooky face on the other.

Pumpkins carved with an owl and a face. © Steve Allen Photo/Getty

A carved and painted pumpkin featuring painted birds and a tree, and carved hearts, surrounded by votive candles and autumnal leaves.

A carved and painted pumpkin featuring birds and a tree. © Michelle Garrett/Getty

Three pumpkins in daylight on a table next to a bowl with stones in. The pumpkins are carved with leaves and flowers.

Pumpkins carved with flowers and leaves. © Alexandra Grablewski/Getty

A pumpkin in the dark (can just make out a horizon and a night sky behind), lit up from within to show an owl carved into the pumpkin.

An owl carved into a pumpkin. © Csaba Tökölyi/Getty

A pumpkin in daylight with a spider carved into it. Around the pumpkin, there are three small squashes, and fake webbing. The pumpkin and the squashes have large black pipe cleaners for legs.

A spider carved into a pumpkin. © Getty

A pumpkin in partial darkness in front of a wooden background, with some fake webbing and a little witches hat on top of the pumpkin. The pumpkin is illuminated from within, showing a howling wolf carving.

A howling wolf pumpkin carving. © tntemerson/Getty

A bat and a cat face carved into pumpkins. © Csaba Tökölyi/Getty

A bat and a cat face carved into pumpkins. © Csaba Tökölyi/Getty

A pumpkin in daylight and not lit up, with an owl carved partially into the skin.

An owl carved into a pumpkin. © Nebelsee/Getty

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