2010 has been one of the biggest years for East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) seeing many exciting projects, meeting interesting people, developing new skills, rescuing some odd casualties with some sad outcomes but luckily many good ones too.
It’s hard to believe that in January 2010 I was having to sleep over at WRAS’s old single room Casualty Centre during the heavy snow in order to ensure casualties were being fed, watered and medicated.
With buses not running and volunteers not being able to get out of icy roads I ended up spending four nights sleeping at the centre. WRAS volunteers Brian and Monica also helped by spending a night at the centre too.
Who would have thought that at the end of 2010 I would be doing this all over again, but at least this time it was in a different and better centre.
A CALL to a badger in a garden in Peacehaven in January 2010 was rather unusual as the badger was curled up out in the open. It was caught and taken into care but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. We kept it in for observations and after a week it was released back in Peacehaven.
This was one of the first major rescues which David Breden attended. David was employed to work for WRAS for nine months as part of a back to work programme run and funded by the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory.
Another badger call was dealt with by rescuer Michael Lamb at Hastings after it fell into an empty swimming pool. The badger stayed in care for a few days before being released.
Punk came into care in February suffering from severe mange. The poor creature was unable to curl up and had scabs all over his body and belly, but with some great nursing and treatment by volunteers he lost the scabs and regrew all his fur and spines and was releasable by the beginning of March.
WRAS’s ambulance was called out to rescue a white pigeon which we named Barnum. He was on a window ledge in Lewes back in February - the lady couldn’t open her bathroom window as the pigeon wouldn’t move.
Ladders were needed to reach the pigeon which was found to be badly emaciated and dehydrated. He was a great looking pigeon with pristine white feathers. He was a real character and all our volunteers grew to love him.
Less than a month later he was taken back to Lewes to be released where the rest of the white pigeons can be found up near County Hall.
2010 has been a big year for abandoned fox cubs. Where possible WRAS always tries to reunite cubs back with mums. Unfortunately one group of three cubs less than two-days-old were disturbed in Eastbourne when a patio was dug up.
WRAS volunteers spent two nights watching and trying to reunite the cubs with mum, but unfortunately the mum was inexperienced and too nervous to pick them up, the rough weather really didn’t help. The cubs had to be brought into care and WRAS carer Monica Russell hand fed them and nursed them till they were ready for outdoor pens.
In total we had more than 30 fox cubs call-outs last spring including one very nasty case of a fox cub having been badly kicked and suffering from brain damage. This little chap had to be put to sleep.
A BADGER caught in electric fencing at Sedlescombe posed a problem for rescuers. The badger was not easy to restrain and was next to a muck heap at a stables. However it was eventually caught and came in for care to ligature wounds to its rear leg. Luckily this was treated successfully and he was released six weeks later.
ON April 1 WRAS took on the keys to the New Casualty Care Centre at Whitesmith. The building was a mess and required a lot of money and effort to get up and running and fully equipped. Being able to move to this new centre made a big difference with five times more space, and separate rooms so prey and predator could be kept in different rooms.
EASTER saw WRAS called to the unusual incident of two boar running loose round Kingston village near Lewes. With the help of Sussex Horse Rescue they were caught, given veterinary treatment and found a great new home in Kent where the female went on to have babies in the summer.
THIS wasn’t the only non-wildlife call we received. WRAS had 14 calls from people spotting turkeys roaming loose around Alfriston, Glynde, Kingston and Lewes!
LATE April saw a rather unusual rescue of a swan trapped in a fence at Hydneye Pond, Hampden Park. It was luckily not seriously injured despite a being attacked by a dog.
ANOTHER unusual call out in April was from a gentleman at Maresfield who accidentally shot a partridge mistaking it for a rabbit. After several weeks of treatment the partridge was released back into the wild.
WRAS has done a lot of work with the Sussex Bat Group this year and worked closely with Jenny Clark from the Sussex Bat Hospital. Apart from the usual Pipistrelle Bats, we have also been called to deal with Nathusius Pipistrelle Bat found in Langney which gave birth to twins - very unusual.
There was also a Brown Long Eared Bat rescued at Wannock Road, Jevington and also one trapped in a house just outside Ringmer too.
A more unusual species of bat was a Leisler’s Bat found grounded at Newhaven after flying through a large cobweb. Luckily not injured but the poor bat seems to have lost its nerve and won’t fly! There was also a Natterers Bat, Brandt’s, Whiskered and Bechstein’s Bats rescued.
MAY saw two horrendous incidents of hedgehogs being kicked near Lewes station and Uckfield Community College. WRAS printed off hundreds of leaflets and spent a couple of days handing them out to schoolchildren, students, teachers and other pedestrians passing the locations where the hedgehogs were found, sadly both hedgehogs had to be put to sleep.
JUNE saw me rushed to hospital after being bitten by an adder. The two male adders were rescued from pea netting in Lewes and I was assessing them for ligature wounds and unfortunately got bitten in the process.
It was my own fault and I should have taken more care. I drove to Lewes Hospital and about 20 minutes later collapsed and was rushed to Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital where I was admitted to resus.
I was unconscious and had no idea of what was going on but doctors were that worried they even warned my partner Kathy I may not survive!
I did make a fully recovery and was back on the road within three weeks and luckily the snakes were released unharmed.
I was very grateful to Kathy, David, Monica, Brian, Murrae and Tony plus all the other volunteers for rallying round in support whilst I was off ill.
CARAMEL the baby deer was rescued in July. She was found wandering around the A26 at Five Ash Down. She was picked up and taken to WRAS carers Chris and Sylvia who nursed her back to health. She was given emergency first aid and luckily picked up quite quickly. She has done amazingly well and is now outside and plays with last year’s young fallow deer Button and Billie.
TONY Neads and I were called to Sovereign Harbour in July after a small fox cub was seen wandering around the base of the harbour wall. We had to climb down the wall to catch the fox which was successfully returned to his mum. We also had a call in the summer about a fox found floating in the sea off Sovereign Harbour. A boat entering Sovereign Harbour pulled the fox out of the water and the harbour office called WRAS.
The fox was rushed to WRAS’s casualty centre where it was medicated and warmed up and amazingly by the morning looked a completely different fox - collapsed and unable to stand when rescued and standing up and aggressive, wanting to be released, by the morning.
AUGUST saw us rescue a duck entangled in fishing line at Moat Pond in East Grinstead. It was a difficult rescue which involved having to wear a dry suit to get the duck and cut him loose, but he needed to come in for treatment due to a possible ligature wound so was taken to WRAS’s old Casualty Centre.
August also saw Cbeebies star Sarah Jane Honeywell visit WRAS. She was introduced to last year’s young deer Button and Billie as well as Caramel. She also met some of our rescued hedgehogs and even helped Trevor release the duck back at Moat Pond.
It also saw the release of Plop a Tawny owl who was abandoned near Bexhill back in the summer.
Plop was hand reared by WRAS carer Hannah and eventually released from our aviaries near Hailsham into a colony of Tawny Owls. It was great to see him fly off late evening and fly so strongly as well. So much hard work by our volunteers had paid off yet again.
SEPTEMBER saw our fox cubs being released. We kept two groups this year and released one group at Bexhill and a second outside Hailsham.
They were all very wild when released. Unlike some organisations we soft release ours and keep human contact down to an minimum so they do not become reliant on humans and become tame.
The reason we keep them for so long is so they can be released during the dispersal period when foxes are moving around a lot and are less likely to have problems with territorial fighting. Monica, Hannah, Jean, Kathy, David and our other volunteers worked very hard in rearing and looking after the cubs and it was pleasing to be able to release them back as wild animals.
WRAS’s volunteers had worked very hard throughout the summer to get our new Casualty Care Centre off the ground and we were delighted when Cbeebies star Sarah Jane Honeywell was able to open the new Centre. The original costing for the centre worked out at over £40,000 but with the help of our volunteers and David Breden blagging many items, the centre was opened on September 4 at a much lower cost. The centre is still not complete and we still need funds to finish the work but it is open and helping more casualties than ever.
SEPTEMBER was a month for deer casualties too.We had a late-night call to a Roe deer curled up next to a house in Crowborough. I could smell the infection before I even got close. I was so pleased we had been called to this deer otherwise it would have died a horrible death. It was given emergency treatment and rushed up to St Tiggywinkles in Buckinghamshire but septicaemia has already set in and the deer eventually died. A few weeks later we also had to rush a fallow deer up to St Tiggywinkles after being found caught in a fence at Dallington.
DURING October we had various calls about herons which could not fly, however on attending the scene most of the herons flew off!
One was caught in a wind chime over a pond and had to be rescued. A couple were badly emaciated and one was taken on by RSPCA Mallydams and another by the Swan Sanctuary.
TALKING of swans you may remember the major sewage spill which affected miles of streams and dykes between Polegate, Hampden Park and Langney. WRAS worked alongside the Environment Agency and had to rescue six swans as a result.
They were all moved to Princes Park lake in Eastbourne to cleaner water to prevent them from becoming ill. WRAS thanks the Environment Agency for its quick actions in prevent much of the sewage from getting into Shinewater Lake.
LATE October I was very amazed to be invited up to the House of Lords to receive a prestigious Animal Rescue Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd attended along with Alan Knight OBE from International Animal Rescue and Kathy, Monica and Brian from WRAS.
I also received a Lifetime achievement award from Sovereign Radio in November. Which was also the last time I met WRAS rescuer Michael Lamb who passed away on December 21. We had no idea how seriously ill he was and were very surprised to hear of his death as a result of cancer.
Michael was an inspiration to us all and for a man of his age he was always willing to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty.
The last rescue he undertook for WRAS was a badger stuck in a metal gate at Hastings. He had to call East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to help cut the badger free.
You will be missed by us all Michael and our thoughts are with your family at this sad time.
THE END of 2010 has been a sad one losing Michael, but our spirits are kept strong by the 65 hedgehogs WRAS has in care. Many are being over wintered by WRAS as they were born too late in the year and are too small to survive hibernation.
This has been a major problem this year right across the country and all rescue centres are experiencing the same situation.
Sarah Jane Honeywell helped WRAS highlight the plight of the hedgehogs by inviting a couple of them up to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford just before Christmas.
The harsh winter weather has seen me sleeping on the floor of the casualty centre again, although much more comfortably compared to last January! During this snow we have been looking after a Tawny owl from Halland as well as a road casualty badger from Willingdon.
Both casualties had to be kept in longer than normal so they could be released once the snow had cleared over Christmas.
To finish the year off WRAS has had a little Dunlin come in for care as well as a very small - and difficult to handle - Wren from Hampden Park with a chest infection. Hopefully both of these birds will be released in the new year.
I would like to thank WRAS’s committee as well as all the volunteer rescuers, carers, fundraisers, donors, supporters and helpers at the Casualty Centre without whom we would not be able to help save so many casualties throughout the past year and without whom we would not have opened our new centre. Best wishes to all the Gazette readers for 2011.