TREVOR WEEKS MBE - Quiet Christmas season compared to previous years

An underweight cormorant - one of the few Christmas casualties
An underweight cormorant - one of the few Christmas casualties

This has been my first opportunity to write up our goings on over the festive season.

This has been my first opportunity to write up our goings on over the festive season.

Numerous calls have been received about seals in the Cuckmere and Ouse rivers

Numerous calls have been received about seals in the Cuckmere and Ouse rivers

Overall, like the majority of rescue centres up and down the country, the number of casualties this Christmas has been down on previous years – which is good for the animals.

Our only casualty on Christmas day was a cormorant. It was quite underweight, waterlogged, hypothermic, and initially very lethargic. Its feathers were rather tacky as if there were some form of oil on the feathers. Cormorant will often stand on piers, overhead power cables, groynes and rocks hanging out their wings to dry as they have very little natural waterproofing which helps them when diving for food out at sea, but this poor bird clearly had a problem. Once he had been given some rest, gently warmed up and force fed he became much more lively, so we took him up to the Swan Sanctuary for more expert help and attention.

One of the smallest casualties in has been a tiny new hedgehog from Lewes, weighing just 205g. He is much too small to hibernate and is now at our casualty care centre slowing putting on weight. We have also had a hedgehog in which we have named “Bishop” (aka Stinking Bishop) come in via another rescue organisation. He had several very nasty and infected wounds on his back which smelt horrendous. As we cleaned up his wounds we noticed the infection had tracked quite deep and under the skin. We decided to send him into the vets where he had to be anaesthetised in order for them to clean him up properly. It never fails to amaze me how they cope with such procedures and how quickly after he was eating away on his dinner! We are now daily cleaning and treating his wounds and hopefully he will make a full recovery. He has eaten well overnight and the wound on his back starting to heal nicely. This is one of two male hedgehogs passed to us from a neighbouring rescue organisation, the second one is just too small to hibernate, but when we tested him we discovered he had high levels of roundworm and lungworm, which he is now being treated for.

Other calls over the festive season have included ambulances attending to a cat attacked pigeon in Beech Road Eastbourne, a cat attacked pigeon in Peacehaven, a road casualty crow in Eastbourne, a pigeon unable to fly in Burgess Hill, a poorly fox in St Leonards, a poorly Gannet at Seaford, an injured badger at Little Common, an injured hedgehog in Pevensey Bay, an oiled Guillemot on Seaford Beach which was sent to the RSPCA Mallydams, a poorly hedgehog in Lewes, a crashed swan on Lottbridge Drive Eastbourne, plus a road casualty fox in Maresfield, and an owl flown into the side of a truck near Hailsham just to name a few.

We have also had numerous calls about seals in the river Cuckmere and Ouse near Lewes and Alfriston. Over the past ten years this has become more and more common especially during the winter months. If you see a seal on the river or beach the key thing to check is whether the animal is underweight. If you can see the ridges of the rib cage or a visible pelvis then the seal is in poor condition and has a problem. Otherwise it is not uncommon for them to be on their own in the rivers. In previous years we have had them up as far as Barcombe Mills and in the river near the A27 Sherman Bridge.

We are in need of a new volunteer for our Saturday evening shift 5pm to finish around 7.30pm at our centre at Whitesmith. Also we are still recruiting for Tues, Weds and Friday am shifts which are 9am to 12.30-1pm and Thurs pm. If you are interested please contact Kathy our Volunteer Co-ordinator at kathy@eastsussexwras.org.uk. Please bear in mind you have to be able to commit to the same shift each week, giving two weeks notice for time off and it is a physically demanding role with lots of bending to floor level, kneeling, lifting and stairs.

I hope you haven’t had too many problems with the weather over Christmas. Due to the amber severe weather warning just before Christmas I ended up having to sleep over, in case fallen trees prevented volunteers getting to the centre the following morning. There were a few occasions I wasn’t able to get back to my flat in Uckfield due to the river at Uckfield flooding, but I was able to stay with my partner Kathy instead. A number of people have asked me how rabbits and other burrowing animals cope during such wet weather. These animals are quite sensible and as a general rule don’t like digging in areas which regularly flood. However in areas which infrequently flood, as the ground water rises the warrens or dens get more and more water logged and whichever creatures use those holes will normally leave for higher and drier land before they get completely washed out. Animals are individuals like people so there are always going to be animals which are sadly caught out, but my thoughts are with hibernating animals which may not wake up out of hibernation and could drown. I am also hoping that we have some dry weather before any snow and ice comes or any hedgehogs who have found themselves in damp nest could end up freezing.

Next week I will be telling you about a rather big Christmas present we have been given by Animal Friends Insurance, so don’t forget to read next weeks column.