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The poet encourages us to consider hedgehogs and act now to protect them.
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.
I FEED THEM UNTIL THEY ARE WELL ENOUGH TO WANDER OFF.”