Rescuing a thirsty Hedgehog from the road and having a heartmelting few minutes as we give it a much needed drink.
Filmed on Westray in Orkney with thanks to The Puffin Whisperer.
We’re driving along the narrow road on Westray in Orkney when The Puffin Whisperer shouts, “Oh no!” There’s a tiny hedgehog in the middle of the road. If my brakes could screech, they would. We get out and there it is:
It’s very small and very cute.
The road is so big and this Hedgehog is so small.
Hedgehogs were introduced onto Westray in the 1950s by a resident wanting biological pest control of the slugs in his garden. They can become a serious pest of ground-nesting birds.
The Puffin Whisperer picks it up and moves it well out of the way. We drive off feeling pleased that we’ve kept it safe, at least for now.
“How was it?” I ask as we are driving. I’m a bit worried about how slow it was. I stop the car again. I’m concerned it must be dehydrated in this exceptionally not and dry weather. I’ve seen recent campaigns about thirsty hedgehogs on social media and I don’t want it to suffer. We run back to try to find it. It’s exactly where she left it. I unscrew my water bottle and our hearts melt as it laps up water for several minutes.
After I post news of the very thirsty Hedgehog on social media I receive criticism from a most unlikely source: from a Hedgehog rescue centre. They are the very people who have been running campaigns for people to leave water out for thirsty Hedgehogs on social media. I’ve just done exactly what they’ve been urging people to do. They tell me it shouldn’t be out in the day, so there must be something else wrong with it. I tell them there’s not enough night in Orkney for them to be nocturnal. They tell me if it seemed confused we should have sent it to a rescue centre. Where, exactly, I wonder? I’m on an Orkney island with a population of 580 people. I realise that I am the wildlife rescue centre.
I’m not a big fan of interfering with nature; we do a lot of that already. I don’t want to take it home in a cardboard box. It’s a wild animal, not a pet. I don’t like the idea of kidnapping wild animals, holding them captive and feeding them food from other domestic animals kept captive and killed to feed them, just because it makes me feel good. I know that looking after this Hedgehog would release lots of pleasurable brain chemicals by stimulating my ape paternal instincts. That would be deeply selfish of me.
I’m then told that it might need treatment for Lungworm. My view is that Lungworm has just as much right to life as Hedgehogs do. It shouldn’t be up to us to draw up a list of species which we label as ‘pest’ or ‘disease’ species and set about eradicating them. We’ve done enough of that already.
I am a big fan of alleviating suffering though, especially since humans have removed so many ponds, bogs, puddles and other water sources on which animals rely. I’m happy with having given it water. As for the rest, it’s important to let nature take its course.
Wildlife is wild. Unless it’s rare because of our actions, or unless it’s suffering because of our actions, we should leave it that way.