It’s often sudden, and completely unexpected. You turn a corner, or look up from whatever you’re doing, and there in front of you is a wild animal. For a few seconds, you stare at it, and it stares at you.

Perhaps it was a fox or a hedgehog in your garden? Did you come face-to-face with a badger on the way home from the pub? Or have you tried to out stare a lairy herring gull? If you’re lucky enough to have travelled, maybe you glimpsed a tiger in the jungle, a wallowing hippopotamus, or found a giant cockroach exploring the folded clothes in your suitcase?

These brief, powerful moments of connection remind us that humans share the world with amazing, mysterious, wild animals. And moments like this might also remind us that we’re not always very good at sharing the world. Global biodiversity is in crisis, and increasing numbers of species are being driven towards extinction, pushed beyond their limits by human activity.

With that in mind, seeing a wild animal can be reassuring – there’s still some animals left! – and the memories of magical encounters like this are worth treasuring, but also sharing. The more connected and aware we are of the wildlife and habitats around us, the more likely we are to treasure and protect them, too.

Dens & Signals have teamed up with Hastings Independent Press (HIP) to celebrate these moments of connection with wild animals:

“We want to hear about the magical real-life encounters which people have had with wild animals. It doesn’t matter if you saw a lion, a rabbit or a woodlouse, if it was an amazing moment, we want to hear about it”.

Entries don’t even have to be stories, exactly.

“We want to hear about the animal you saw; where you were, and what else was going on; how the encounter made you feel; and perhaps how you imagine the animal might have felt in that moment”.

Competition details:

There are two categories: one for adults, and one for under 18s.

The winner of each category will receive a £20 book token, and their stories will be published in a future edition of HIP. Stories should be between 50–500 words, and will be judged by HIP and Dens & Signals.

Update (4th May 2020):

Thanks for everyone who shared a story with us.

The competition has now closed, but we’d still love to hear about your wildlife encounter. Please email your story to

The winners and runners-up will be published in Hastings Independent Press, all being well appearing in issues 151 (8th May), 152 (22nd May), 153 (5th June).

Photo: “Seaside Fox” by SunWalker, licensed under CC BY 2.0