Trevor’s Year 2015
2015 has been a special year for me seeing me complete my 30th year helping wildlife, WRAS’s 20th Year as a voluntary group, 10th year as a registered charity and the 5th year of our Casualty Centre bring opened. Year on year we expand and help save more and more casualties. It does make me wonder what 2016 will bring.
January 2015 started with some unusual incidents to deal with. The first was a call to a swan covered in blood on the Pevensey Levels, thought to have crash landed and injured its jaw. After swimming across the freezing water of a drainage dyke in order to rescue the swan, life saving first aid was provided to stop the bleeding. After ten days of treatment and help from the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton the swan was returned to the Pevensey Levels and released.
Other incidents that month included being called out to a road casualty owl at Ringmer only to find a motorist had repeatedly ran over an owl to end its suffering, thinking no one would be interested in saving or treating it. There was also a very dramatic rescue of a fallow buck at Hellingly. The deer had bailer twine entangled round its antlers which had become caught on a barbed wire fence. The rescue was not easy at all, but eventually led to rescuers Kathy, Chris and I releasing the deer to sprint over across the field.
February saw us working with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to deal with a trapped rook caught high up in the branches of a tree near Lewes Railway Station. The bird was then handed over to WRAS rescuers and taken back to our Casualty Centre for treatment. Luckily after a couple of weeks of care the bird was returned and released.
We also rushed to the aid of a cat attacked Brown Long Eared Bat at Piltdown to give emergency first aid after it had been left hanging on a bird feeder for 3 days. This is where WRAS comes into its own as we start first out on site. The bat was gently warmed up using a snugglesafe heat pad, and given life saving fluids before being taken up to Jenny Clark at the Sussex Bat Hospital at Forest Row.
Rescuer Tony was called out to Brighton Marina in March to break up a fight between two swans. The Harbour security phoned after receiving several calls from local residents and visitors. As a result of fighting one of the swans had to come into care after becoming trapped down the side of the pontoon and injuring its foot. Tony got rather wet in the process of helping the swans but it all had a happy ending.
April saw Kathy and I do a bizarre rescue in the dark using a child’s night vision scope toy! A resident in Rottingdean had a hedgehog which had fallen into her basement patio and couldn’t get out again. The hedgehog decided to take up residence in a drainage pipe in the retaining wall so everytime they opened their door to try and catch the hedgehog he just hid in the hole. After a couple of weeks of trying they called WRAS for help. Kathy and I sat on top of the 7ft high wall. I held a net and waited for Kathy’s instructions to drop the net as she watched for the hedgehog using the night vision scope. After two hours the rescue was over and the hedgehog successfully caught.
May saw two amazing rescues again working with my colleagues Kathy and Chris who I owe so much too. The first was a deer trapped behind a fence in Sand Ridge Uckfield. The deer had jumped over into the wooded area, but there just wasn’t enough space and clearance for the deer to jump back over. The only other way out was down a 60 ft drop down a sand stone ridge. A walk-to-wards net was strung across between a couple of trees and Kath hid in wait. Chris and I managed to get behind the deer and encourage it towards Kathy and the net. Like clockwork it ran into the net where Kathy sprung into action swiftly followed by Chris and I. The Deer was then carried back to WRAS’s ambulance, driven less than 60 seconds away to a field where it could be released safely back to the wild.
The other rescue was of a fox with its head stuck in a plastic tub. WRAS sent two ambulance and 6 rescuers on site to search for the cub on some waste land between some housing. After a few hours of searching the fox was found separated from its family and caught. Back at WRAS’s ambulance the cub had the plastic tub removed. Due to a skin infection the cub was driven back to WRAS’s Casualty Centre for treatment but was suitable for release less than a week later.
June also saw WRAS experience it busiest evening of rescues ever with over 35 calls outs in just 6 hours. This included an emaciated Red Legged Partridge, an injured sparrow from New Priory Veterinary Hospital in Brighton; a window Strike jackdaw in Eastbourne; a grounded Jackdaw in Hamsey Crescent Lewes; a road Casualty Blackbird from Micklefield Way Seaford; an injured sparrow from South Street Lewes; a Wren with an injured leg from Bodle Street Green; a collapsed wood pigeon from Hurst Road Eastbourne possible road casualty; a young crow with vitamin deficiencies from Old Orchard Road, Eastbourne; a hedgehog out during day light in South Chailey; a hedgehog out during day light with a head tilt in Motcombe Road, Eastbourne; a hedgehog out during day light in Barcombe; a very chesty hedgehog from Upper Sherwood Road, Seaford and a road casualty Fox cub on the A259 at Newhaven.
July saw our director Monica Russell receive a national honour as she was awarded the British Citizen Award for more than 20 years service to help WRAS an other animal charities. Monica became ill in 2012, and was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, in 2014 – of those diagnosed with this rare form of cancer, only five per cent survive for more than 12 months. Monica was forced to give up the practical care side of her voluntary work at the end of 2014 due to her deteriorating health, and continues to have chemotherapy to date to improve her quality of life, but continues in her role as a voluntary trustee of WRAS.
We were regular visitors to Sovereign Harbour in July, where we rescued an injured gull entangled in fishing link and hooks as well as an injured seal. The gull was found drowning in the water badly entangled, thankfully a guy jumped into the water and swan out to the gull and helped bring it to the side where rescuers could then take over. The seal was not so easy, and during very stormy weather the seal could be seen being bashed against the beach. After a couple of attempts to catch it the seal disappeared but even was found further along the beach where it was calmer and easier to catch. It was then taken to RSPCA Mallydams Wood at Hastings for specialist treatment.
August saw WRAS being called to Decoy Pond in Hampden Park, Eastbourne, after one of the cygnets died and the reports came in of the others being very lethargic. WRAS had to launch a rescue mission to catch and bring in all the cygnets which were rushed up to the Swan Sanctuary for care. Their condition was caused by a naturally occurring parasite which lives in the shallow water of the lake.
August saw WRAS rescuers Daryl, Chris, Kathy and I dealing with a stag thrashing around on the edge of the Ridgewood Stream near Uckfield. The deer had either previously managed to break loose from being entangled in camouflage netting, or someone had cut it free but left some netting attached to the deer’s antlers. Unfortunately, as with the stag earlier in the year, the netting became entangled in a barbed wire fence. As we were working on a steep embankment of the stream, the only way to gain control of the deer was to jump into the stream and grab the deer’s legs and pin it to the floor as it fell down. Another successful release.
October always brings in a high number of road casualties as the nights draw in and wild animals start moving about at the same time as rush hour traffic. This year was no exception and was WRAS dealt with numerous calls to foxes, badgers and birds of prey. The autumn saw a number of cygnets getting into trouble trying to fly for the first time. We were called to one which crashed onto a cycle path near Lewes Priory. We were able to locate the parents thanks to local residents and their knowledge of the local swan populations. We found ourselves being called to Soveriegn Harbour to an injured seal by both the local RNLI and British Divers Marine Life Rescue. An injured seal was resting on the metal slipway and steps used by the RNLI to gain access to the water. Kathy and I had to used nets on the end of long poles and keep low to the rocks to hide our approach so we could block the seals escape route. The seal was soon secured carried up to the ambulance and then driven over to RSPCA Mallydams. Within minutes of finishing this rescue we were called to a stag caught in an electric rope fence on Ashdown Forest, but luckily this broke free as we approached.
November saw WRAS get a special delivery from UPS after their delivery driver found an injured hedgehog in Polegate. Rescuer Chris rushed to the aid of a fox entangled in a football goal in Eastbourne. The fox had to be cut free but during the struggle stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. Amazing the pressure and ligature wounds made a fully recovery and the fox was released a couple of weeks later. This was not the only entanglement as we also had a hedgehog which had its head and one leg through the hole of a plastic ring of beer can holder in Hampden Park. A dog walker kindly stayed on site waiting for us to arrive where it was then treated and taken into care.
December saw WRAS dealing with over 80 hedgehogs in care in the run up to Winter. This number is expected to rise even higher as it is normally over 120 which need over wintering and releasing in the Spring once warmer weather arrives. We had a high number of fox casualties to deal with in December including one with several fractured ribs found sheltering in the warehouse at Sainsbury’s Hampden Park. Concerned staff called out WRAS for help. The fox made a full recovery with the help our WRAS’s vets and was released just in time to be back with his family at Christmas. 2015 started with a swan covered in blood and also ended with another. Just before Christmas rescuer Tony had to rush to a road casualty swan near Battle. The poor swan had a very nasty wing injury and after treatment at WRAS’s Casualty Centre was rushed up to the Swan Sanctuary at Sheppeton.
WRAS has dealt with just over 3000 calls for help 2015, the highest number of calls ever. Amazingly many people don’t realise we are a charity funded by public donations, and don’t receive any Government funding. We are not a council service and are primarily run by volunteers with a small number of paid staff who work on minimum wage to keep costs down. If you can help support WRAS for 2016, would like to organise a coffee morning, open garden, sponsored walk, or anything else for WRAS please get in touch or just simply make a donation online at www.wildlifeambulance.org. Thank you to all our supporters, staff and volunteers for all their hard work – long may it continue – so we can help even more wildlife animals and birds, who unlike their domestic cousins don’t have owners to look after or care for them.
The wildlife rescue industry in the UK is one of the most underfunded, underappreciated and under resourced industries in the country. This time of year there will be a relatively small number of very dedicated people who will be juggling their family lives around their commitment and dedication to helping sick and injured wildlife. Wildlife don’t know its Christmas, they will still suffer from being hit by cars, shot by people, poisoned or worse – but if very lucky they may just be spotted by a kind hearted member of the public (like you) and be taken to one of the few places in the country where wildlife is respected and taken care of. I would estimate that there are probably less than 10% of the required resources nationally to help every single wildlife casualties that is either directly or indirectly as a result of human activity, which results in millions of casualties being put to sleep every year. Many grant funds, lotteries and council’s don’t see this work as benefiting the community so it gets ignored, despite millions of people calling such organisations/individuals for help every year. There are some amazing people across the country who need your help and support, like Samantha Bedford at Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue, Caroline Gould and Vale Wildlife Rescue, Gill Lucraft at Hedgehog Bottom in Berkshire, Dot Mel and Steve at the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton, the many volunteer rescuers and local groups of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Sue Schwar and South Essex Wildlife Hospital, John Anderson and Blyth WIldlife Rescue, Annette Risley and Folly Wildlife Rescue – to name some of the guys we work very closely with – all who have given up much of their personnal time, money and lives out of frustration and care of our amazing wildlife. PLEASE find out who your local wildlife rescue is, and make them a donation this Christmas, just setting up a standing order to donate just £1 a month will make a massive difference to them and help them plan for the future. Please help make your local wildlife safe this Christmas by supporting YOUR local wildlife rescue.