TREVOR WEEKS: How you can help with our wildlife casualties this winter

Hedgehog from Tillingham Way Stone Cross SUS-171115-132838001
Hedgehog from Tillingham Way Stone Cross SUS-171115-132838001

WRAS is launching its Winter Warmer Appeal this week. Every autumn and winter thousands of wild animals and birds up and down the country struggle as the temperature drops and winter sets in.

Hedgehogs abandon their last litter of young to go off and hibernate. Parent birds start concentrating on building up fat reserves to survive the winter and stop helping their young. Some young animals and birds out in the wide world for the first time struggle to cope. The low sun causes birds to crash into windows. As the nights draw in birds of prey, foxes, heron and badgers hunting and foraging on grass verges come into conflict with our busy roads users too. Hedgehogs snuffling through back gardens are more at risk of being caught by dogs with darkness falling earlier.

Wildlife animals and birds won’t know its Christmas, they will see it as just another day of the year. They still get sick from drinking anti-freeze polluted water, or injured after being caught by a cat, dog or other predator and even caught in fishing line or entangled in a disused football goal. As we clear away and tidy up our gardens nests of hibernating hedgehogs are disturbed or dug up.

Right across the autumn, winter and festive period East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service will be on duty responding to as many emergency calls as possible 24 hour a day seven days a week. Our staff and volunteers will be working hard every single day come rain, shine, wind or snow looking after our wildlife casualties. By October 1, 2017 WRAS had already dealt with at least 323 more casualties than the same time 2016 which is 14 per cent raise, with the total number of casualties for 2017 already over 2,650 (by October 20).

Support from the public is what keeps our ambulances on the road and our casualty centre operational. Those who make a one off donation or take out a standing order donation with us are life savers and make a huge impact on what we do. There are too few organisations and individuals undertake wildlife rescue work across the country so it is vital that people support charities like ours or our wildlife will be left to a very grim fate.

For details on how you can help or to make a donation go to http://wildlifeambulance.org/donate/winter-warmer-appeal/ or post a donation to East Sussex WRAS, PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE.

On Tuesday rescuers were called to a deer with its antlers caught in an electric rope fence at Buxted. The deer was clearly been struggling for some time. Rescuers had to negotiate a stream and barbed wire fence in order to get to the deer. Daryl and Chris joined me after an early morning start vaccinating badger. Using a walk-to-wards net we were able to restrict the movements of the deer, allowing me to grab the rear legs and pull the deer to the floor. Chris was then able to cover the deer’s head and pin it’s shoulders to the floor. Daryl then set about cutting the electric rope and there was a lot of it. One everything was removed we had the tricky task of releasing the deer requiring Chris and I to jump off at the same time without getting kicked or injured. Luckily it went well and the deer ran off to recover.

Huge thank you to Uckfield FM, CJ Thorne, those who nominated WRAS and to all WRAS’s volunteers and staff for working so hard that everyone’s efforts were recognised and won the Emergency Service Award at the Uckfield FM awards last weekend. As I’ve had a nasty cough and cold WRAS volunteer Christine Skinner stepped in and collected the award on behalf of everyone at WRAS.

We are still getting hedgehogs too small to hibernate coming into care this week. We have had four from Tillingham Way, Stone Cross. Despite being too small they all had mites or mange too. There have been a few night time calls including to hedgehog caught by a dog in Cinque Ports Way Seaford on Saturday night and on my way home I was called to a road casualty badger on the Alfriston Road which was sadly already dead.

Rescues have also included an emergency call to a cat with its tail stuck in a fence at Hailsham Cemetery. Luckily this was just a bramble which was prevent the cat from getting free. Not something we would normally attend but we were close by at the time. There was also a swan rescued after ESCC highways engineers working on the new cycle path behind St Anthonys Avenue, Eastbourne, had to split up a fight between three swans, leaving one grounded next to the cycle path. We have also had several more calls to hedgehogs too small to hibernate in Burgess Hill, Heathfield, Polegate, Eastbourne and Hailsham. We were also called out to a stunned owl on the A22 outside Blackberry Farm, but it had disappeared before we arrived. A pigeon at Ote Hall Business Park Burgess Hill, a small bird inside Chailey School which had escaped and disappeared on arrival and a grounded pigeon sat in Seaford town centre and much more.