The poet en­cour­ages us to con­sider hedge­hogs and act now to pro­tect them.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Reviews Books - Pam Ayres

Where did your love of wildlife come from? I grew up in ru­ral Berk­shire and was fas­ci­nated by wildlife from day one. My mum taught me to iden­tify birds; my dad would take me to watch rab­bits. It seemed such a priv­i­lege to see wildlife in its nat­u­ral set­ting. Sadly, even then, the only hedge­hogs I ever saw were dead ones on the road.

Why are hedge­hogs spe­cial to you?

They are end­lessly ap­peal­ing with their black but­ton eyes and lit­tle damp noses. And they do no harm – they just pot­ter around our gar­dens eat­ing in­sects and worms.

How do you blend hu­mour with your mes­sage?

As pa­tron of my lo­cal wildlife hos­pi­tal, I see hedge­hogs that have been burnt, drowned, run over and in­jured by strim­mers. The hedge­hog in my poem is say­ing: “This is what you did to us, and now there aren’t any of us left. Thanks for noth­ing.” Cer­tainly, the first few lines are funny about a sad sub­ject, but the mes­sage is strong and sin­cere. It’s fine that peo­ple laugh, be­cause hu­mour can re­in­force a point.

How do you help hedge­hogs in your own gar­den?

I have put a hole through the wall so they can come and go into the sur­round­ing fields and avoid the road. I have two hedge­hog boxes, one of which is was oc­cu­pied last win­ter. I don’t use slug pel­lets; my pond has a shal­low end; I avoid putting chem­i­cals on my lawn to en­cour­age earth­worms. I put out food and wa­ter, and I re­home in­di­vid­u­als from the res­cue cen­tre – I feed them un­til they are well enough to wan­der off.

How can peo­ple be­come more aware of hedge­hogs?

We need to think hedge­hog. Years back, when my chil­dren were young, a loop of string hung off the bot­tom of our gar­den gate. One day I found a dead hedge­hog trapped in the noose. Its lit­tle feet had worn bare patches in the grass as it tried to es­cape. It was heart­break­ing. If only I had thought about hedge­hogs and cut the string away. We need to be mind­ful of th­ese threat­ened mam­mals. It mat­ters if we let them go ex­tinct, be­cause we can do such sim­ple things to help them.


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