Trevor’s Week - May 2, 2012: Orphan owlet discovered far away from nest

The young tawny owl
The young tawny owl

WE HAVE had a young tawny owl come into care this week. The little creature was found on the ground by a barn.

The poor little thing was away from any trees and way too young to be out of the nest, so an ambulance was dispatched to have a look. Tony and Claire arrived fairly quickly on site and checked the area for a possible nest but could not find anything. The owlet is thought to be about three-four weeks old.

He is now being reared in our new orphan rearing room, much to the delight of our new orphan rearing team volunteers who have been doing a great job helping to feed the orphan birds doing shifts between 6.30am till 10pm at night.

Kate has worked really hard on getting the team set up as well as doing much of the initial rearing herself, on top of rearing our baby pigeons and doves alongside Carrie. Volunteer Nikki has joined us this year and has done a fabulous job of rearing some of our baby rabbits this year. It is great having her on board especially as these are so tricky to rear.

We are hoping to get some of the first ones out for soft release as soon as the weather improves. Debbie is now rearing five of our fox cubs and is doing an amazing job. It is wonderful to see how quickly they are growing and developing. Monica has also been helping out with the fox cubs and other orphans, as well as looking after the baby birds this weekend while Kate and Carrie are on a Hedgehog Course at Vale Wildlife Rescue in Gloucestershire. Monica is also gearing up for the baby hedgehog season. We are laying bets on whether we will get our first hoglets of the season in on May 6 as we have done for the last two years.

We are still looking for people to join the orphan rearing team, which involves people doing three-hour shifts during the spring/summer season. In particular we still need people for the early 6.30am starts on a number of mornings, including Mondays, and we still need people for weekend shifts in particular, including people for shifts during the daytime on Sundays.

If you are interested please call Kate on 01825 873003 or email her at Please be aware this is a commitment and after training you will be responsible for the feeding of these youngsters so you must be prepared to come in for your shift each week barring emergencies.

It is an extremely fulfilling role though, seeing these babies grow and develop as a result of the time and care you put in to them.

There have been numerous calls this week. Some days have been very busy but other days have been very quiet. Overall casualty numbers are down on last year but as we now care for the majority of casualties we rescue at our own Casualty Centre rather than passing them over to neighbouring centres our costs are significantly higher as a result.

We have various calls, like a blackbird fledgling in Willingdon and a collared dove fledgling in Lewes (both callers were advised to leave alone and monitor); a hedgehog road casualty in Uckfield, which I rushed out to in the early hours but the hedgehog sadly died at the scene; two calls about the same road casualty gull in Brighton, which we passed to Roger’s Wildlife Rescue at Woodingdean; a call about an adult fallow deer road casualty at Cross In Hand, which was passed to the Deer Wardens to deal with; a road casualty dove at Firle, very concussed but now in care; four ducklings fallen off the roof of Eastbourne Crematorium (mum couldn’t be found so they are now in care); a hedgehog with an injury to his head in Pevensey Bay, which is now in care, and a badger road casualty between Ringmer and Lewes, which Tony rushed out to early in the morning but the badger, sadly, died at the scene. These are just a few of the calls received in just one day!

I was woken up at 4.30am by a call on our rescue line. The caller was phoning to say they had a fox in their duck house. I asked if the fox had injured it any way, which it hadn’t. They just wanted it taken away at 4.30am, and even threatened to call in pest control if we didn’t do anything! Hardly a wildlife rescue emergency. WRAS is not a pest control company. We are here for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

As mentioned a few weeks ago there are various humane pest control companies out there who can advise on deterring foxes and protecting pets. It is irrational and completely unrealistic to expect wildlife not to visit our gardens. This includes foxes, hedgehogs, birds of prey and more. It is perfectly natural to expect these animals to prey on other creatures. That is nature and something we need to learn to tolerate and accept.

People really should not keep chickens, ducks, rabbits or other animals if they are not willing to provide and maintain a fox proof enclosure. We rehabilitate a lot of wildlife, which could be food for foxes, but not once have we ever had a fox get into one of our enclosures because they are maintained and built to be fox proof.

We are certainly getting an increased number of hedgehogs coming into care over the past week as they are waking from hibernation. A number of them have some quite nasty infections to their eyes and head area from old injuries that they have probably hibernated with. We have also had two injured by strimmers, so please check your long grass for any of our sleeping prickly friends before strimming as they will be curled up asleep and unable to escape from the strimmer in time to avoid injury.

Kathy has been busy getting our overwintered hedgehogs out for release freeing up space for the new arrivals. We overwintered more than 85 hedgehogs and more than two thirds have now been released back to the gardens they have come from. Many thanks to all the householders who have welcomed them back with open arms and have even given us updates as to how they are getting on, and thanks to our volunteers who have rallied round with such enthusiasm releasing these guys. It is wonderful to see these hedgehogs go back to the wild big and healthy, after coming into care at during autumn as tiny juveniles. We get to know them very well after having them in care for so long and it is a real thrill to see them go.


East Sussex WRAS is a voluntary organisation which relies on donations, receiving no funding from government or the RSPCA. Anyone wishing to make a donation should contact the treasurer at PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE.

• 24-hour rescue line 07815 078234