Well, maybe we shouldn't have mentioned the "Q" word, as now the babies have started coming in! The first fox cubs arrived on March 17th, which is the same day for 3 years in a row (must be something about St Patrick's Day!) The 5 siblings were only a couple of days old and were rescued from under a shed near Bagshot. The vixen was nowhere to be seen, and the finder was altered to their presence by her dogs. They have all been given Irish names (Paddy, Flynn, Seamus, Sinead and Sian) and are feeding well. They were joined the next day by another cub, slightly older, who has been named Finley.
While we are talking about spring perhaps a timely reminder to all – please do not kidnap baby birds or mammals!
Every year we have an influx of baby birds – blackbirds especially as they leave the nest very early, before they can fly – because well-meaning people may have mistakenly thought they needed help. Our advice is always to watch for a few minutes from far enough away so the parents can resume feeding their adventurous baby. It's a joy to see! Unless the little bundle of feathers or fluff is in imminent danger of being squashed by a car, or eaten by the neighbour's cat, nature is often best left to its own devices.
A call to the hospital before picking up youngsters is always recommended so our limited space is only occupied by those truly in need. Please do what you can to spread the word!
We have also had a more unusual admission, a long eared bat who with us for a week, having been found cold, exposed on an outside wall. Unfortunately he never wanted to feed himself, and despite taking handfeeding well, he didnt make it.
It's been a relatively quiet couple of months here at HART while we have been full of small and sickly hedgehogs, but we have a had a few other species in.
First was a young swan found by the side of the road. It had no obvious injuries, but a severe cough. It was found to have a chest infection, and so was transferred to Swan Lifeline, Eton.
Then came a kestrel, which was found in a garden sitting on the ground, and clearly very weak despite having just caught a blue tit from the bird table! As ever, if a wild animal can easily be caught, there must be something wrong with it, though luckily in this case it just neeed some TLC and feeding up. After a couple of weeks, it was able to be released back in the same garden by the owner, who has now joined us as a volunteer!
october, november and december 2012
During the last 3 months of 2012 the hospital at Soldridge was full to capacity with hedgehogs. An unusual increase in admissions during September of very small and sickly hedgehogs meant the hospital was forced to close to new admissions for part of November and most of December. The majority of hedgehogs admitted during September were juvenile hogs that were under weight and suffering from lungworm and in many cases fluke. Fluke is a very unpleasant intestinal flat worm that can cause inflammation, bleeding and severe damage to the hedgehogs digestive tract; in many cases this will lead to death if untreated. The treatment for fluke takes a minimum of 3 weeks and if the patient is also in need of treatment for lung worm then the length of time the animal needs to be hospitalised can stretch into months rather than weeks. Despite being officially closed for much of the time HART took in 197 hedgehogs between October and the end of December. Sixty five of these hedgehogs are now being fostered for the rest of the winter by kind volunteers and will return to HART in the spring prior to release. We still have 30 on site and have released 35 since the beginning of October when the weather has permitted.
The last 3 months of the year also saw an increase in the number of birds of prey admitted. In 2012 we took in a total of 15 including 3 Buzzards, 5 Kestrels and 2 Barn Owls; in 2011 we admitted 10.
We currently have 3 birds of prey on site – a Barn Owl, a Kestrel and a Sparrow-hawk.
The Barn Owl was brought to us by the RSPCA on the 30th November. It was a young bird that had obviously had trouble establishing a territory and problems hunting in the awful wet weather. It was emaciated, cold and very weak; however there were no signs of any injury so we were hopeful for its recovery. Directly after being examined it was left to relax in the warmth whilst a feed was prepared for it. Initially the bird was unwilling to feed itself and had to be force fed small pieces of chopped chick moistened with critical care fluid several times during the day. Food was left in overnight but it hadn’t eaten anything by the morning and was hand fed again. That night food was left in again and the owl had eaten everything by the next morning. After a period of several weeks the bird had put on weight and was looking much brighter. It is now building up muscle mass in one of our flight aviaries and we hope to arrange for its release in the near future.
The Kestrel has been at HART since 21st December, another casualty brought in by the RSPCA. Again this was a juvenile bird that arrived very thin, weak and cold. It had a small amount of blood on the side of its face but no injury was found. It had to be force fed in the same way as the barn owl but very quickly started to feed by itself and put on weight. It is also in a flight aviary building up strength before being released back into the wild.
When a Kingfisher came to us from Cedar Vets in Alresford we all hoped for a positive outcome for this beautiful bird. It had a strapped wing as the vet thought it had either broken or dislocated its carpal joint. He asked us to keep it on cage rest for a week. It was given anti-inflammatories, Critical Care fluid and small pieces of trout whcih it took well. Sadly, the wing still dropped when the strap was removed, and so a return trip to the vet was arranged for a review, where the sad decisionwas made to euthanaise the bird as the injury would prevent it ever being returned to the wild.
Well the busy year continues! So far this year we have taken in 605 animals, with the busiest month being May with 233 admissions, and currently over 150 at HART, which means many hungry mouths to feed from sun up to sun down.
So far we have taken in:
63 hedgehogs (including two day old babies last week)
16 tawny owls
7 greater spotted woodpeckers
6 young shrews last week
.....and every day the list gets longer, finding funding to expand our facilities just can't come soon enough!
We have already admitted 252 animals this year, compared to 153 in the same period last year, a increase of a huge 64%! And the busy time is just about to start! We currently have 84 animals on site, and hedgehogs still coming back from fostering for their pre-release checks, meaning it's all hands to the deck, and every inch of the hospital is being utilised where practical. I think we can safely say it will be another record year!
Coincidentally this young orphaned fox cub came into HART on the 17th March this year, which also happens to be the same date that Clover (our first cub from last year) arrived at the hospital. She is currently doing well and appears to be fit and healthy, and has now opened her eyes. Since her admissions we have taken in another 4 fox cubs, so she will have plenty of playmates!
These two pigeon squabs arrived at HART having been adandoned by their parents, pretty much the only babies we got in during the winter.They quickly got the hang of feeding themselves, and it wasn't long before they grew up and were released.
This beautiful bird came into HART as he was unable to fly. On arrival we discovered him to have a broken ulna, but after two months of restricted exercise and physiotherapy he was able to be successfully released back to his territory. Here he is just after being released.
The admissions figures for 2011 have now been totalled up, and we took in a huge 1586 animals, which is a 50% increase on last year (total was 1090). The busiest months were May ( a whopping 289 in one month) through to July, when many orphaned / abandoned young animals were brought in, and also October and November when a lot of hedgehogs are brought in. Of these admissions 25.7% were put to sleep on arrival as their injuries were too severe to survive and all we could do was to end their suffering, which is a very sad part of what we do, but was 5% less than the previous year. The overall survival rate for animals not euthanased on arrival was 61.2%, which is higher than last year, and also higher than the average for wildlife rescues which is around 40%.
Of the 1586 admissions, there were 952 birds, 632 mammals, 1 reptile and 1 amphibian. 65% of the birds were brought in May-August, and 42% of mammals during this time. The most common mammals were hedgehogs at 443 last year, and most common birds were wood pigeons (245) and blackbirds (115), and we took in a surprising 41 bluetits just in May (mostly nestlings), 33 Tawny Owls over the year, as well as 15 woodpeckers of various species, 2 manx shearwaters, and not to forget the puffin! It was an especially busy year for bats, with 21 Pipistrelle and 3 Long-Eared bats brought in, and 3 weasel and stoats.
It's been busy (that might be an understatement!) from the first day of the year, and the increase in admissions has continued through January 2012 so far, and so we are expecting another busy year. With every additional admission, our costs increase, whether for food or medical expenses, as well as volunteers needed to clean and monitor the animals and so any support you can give us either to raise funds or give us a hand would be greatly appreciated.
For more info about the cheeky dormice that were admitted, please see our news page.
HART is in the national press again, this time with an albino squirrel. To find out more, please follow this link, or look on our news page.
This squirrel also made a guest appearance on the BBC show Autumnwatch - to see the show, click here and watch Episode 1.
Admissions have just topped 1000 for the year so far - a record for HART. An enormous 289 came through the doors in May alone, a huge increase from the 14 admissions in January!
Of these, over 400 have been successfully released, with over 100 animals at the hospital currently. Of those who didn't make it, over 200 had to be put to sleep on arrival as their illness or injury was so severe it was unrecoverable, and sadly all HART could do was stop the animal from suffering any further, which is always sad but a useful service in its own right. This means that the success rate of the treatable animals is around 70%, which is a good success rate for a wildlife rescue. all 3 fox cubs have now left the hospital for heir pre-release site, and all 10 of the Tawny Owl chicks have also gone for soft release, two brilliant success stories. At the hospital at the moment we have a young stoat (or is it a weasel?), around 40 hedgehogs, a Sparrowhawk, an RTA Tawny Owl, numerous small birds and wood pigeons, and more than a handful of baby mammals, from squirrels to voles.
From despair to deep joy – June’s story
On 23rd May, I took a call at home from Caragh. The RSPCA had asked if we could attend an injured swan here in Overton as they were busy.
When we saw the female swan, Bob and I were very distressed to find that someone had rammed a heavy iron pole deep into her back, apparently while she was guarding her eggs. It was obvious from the size and depth of the wound that she would need more help than we would be able to give and so we drove her all the way to the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton, where they are always willing to help.
We watched while Mel, the veterinary assistant flushed out the wound, removing all the feathers that had been dragged in and were amazed that she was able to insert three fingers into the cavity, it was that large.
Once the swan was settled in, Bob and I returned home and phoned the following day for a progress report. An examination by the Sanctuary’s vet had shown that no internal organs had been damaged but muscles to her legs had and she was unable to stand. A few days later we were told that she was improving but that it would take a long time and a lot of veterinary treatment. Eventually after one month of dedicated treatment from the staff, we were told that she had passed her final veterinary examination and could be returned to her site.
We checked with the staff at the site where she was found and were assured that security had been stepped up by them and the local police and even better still her mate was still there, so we arranged for someone to meet us on site and Bob and I collected her.
At the lake, the male could be seen on the far side, so we let the female go and watched with some trepidation as they saw each other from afar. They started to move warily towards each other with wings held high on their backs as a threat, but at the last moment there was recognition and it was truly magical. They first touched beaks, then heads and then entwined their necks. This went on for while before they swam off together and I stood on the bank with a few tears in my eyes.
I have since spoken to the manager of the site who was a very happy man when he returned from holiday to find the swan back home and looking in great shape. He is making plans with his employers to make a safer nesting site, hopefully an island in the middle of the lake.
Early Summer 2011
HART has taken in an unbelievable total of 574 animals over the past 3 months and have so far successfully released 184 with 43 still remaining at the hospital. We have had the usual intake of baby birds including 9 bullfinches, 42 blue tits, 6 greenfinches, 5 goldfinches and 26 sparrows. Baby mammals have also been arriving in numbers ranging in size from the smallest pipistrelle bat to a roe deer fawn. We are hand rearing 11 baby hedgehogs at the moment and 2 baby field voles.
Two of the more unusual admissions are a grass snake caught in netting and a baby stoat. Luckily the grass snake was unharmed and after being cut free was released straight away. The stoat will be with us for a little while yet but is doing well and getting harder to handle everyday.
We have had a variety of water birds including a couple of nestling coots, 29 ducklings, 6 swans, a heron and a gosling. Every year we get calls about juvenile swans which have been chased off by their parents and are left hungry and forlorn. Fortunately we now have a couple of really beautiful release sites that offer the perfect environment for relocating displaced and orphaned water birds.
We have 3 fox cubs on site – 2 of which we are having as little contact with as possible prior to moving them to a pre-release site. The third is still very unwell and undergoing veterinary care for what appears to be a viral infection. He is quite weak and needs a bit more TLC before he can be introduced to the girls outside.
It has been a very busy 3 months which is reflected in our admission stats. Last year for the same period of time we took in 359 casualties so overall for the year so far we have experienced a 60% increased in admissions. Our predictions about getting busier have come true and the trend looks set to continue.
Luckily we had a fairly quiet start to the spring, giving us chance to catch our breath, train a lot of volunteers and take on another member of staff for the hospital, Kristy Willis. However, we have had a few interesting species come through our door, and a very good success with those we have seen in time. January brought a long long tailed tit who was released in early march, against all expectation, and a tawny owl and sparrowhawk. February was much the same, this time with a swan, another twany, a great crested grebe, a woodcock and 4 tiny newborn mice, who were all successfully releaaed back into the wild.
2010 admissions - January 2011
The final figures are in!
In 2010 we took in 441 mammals in total, including 354 hedgehogs, 8 pipistrelle bats, 1 stoat, 34 rabbits, 4 fox cubs and 1 dormouse.
The number of birds is no less impressive, at 645, meaning our total patients smashed through the 1000 mark, at a whopping 1086, the vast majority of which were seen in the last 6 months since the move to Medstead. The most numerous bords were wood pigeons at 178, many of whihc were the result of cat injuries, but also 76 blackbirds, 18 goldfinches, 10 pheasants, 16 owls (tawny, little and barn owls), 5 sparrowhawks, 7 buzzards and 2 swans to name but a few. A full breakdown of admissions can be seen here.
What a year - and 2011 is set to be even busier so we are busy designing, planning and fundraising for further facilities to be built in our field adjacent to the hospital.
Henrietta - December 2010
One of the deluge of hedgehogs we've seen in the last few weeks has been given a bright blue cast to help mend a broken leg. Henrietta, a one-year-old female, was hit by a car on October 20. After a general anaesthetic she was fitted with her plaster-cast.
Caragh Hunter, 20, HART's Senior Clinical Assistant said: "Henrietta should make a full recovery – she's started moving her leg again so she must be on the mend. Her cast will come off in four weeks and then we'll look after her over the winter before releasing her back into the wild next spring.
"It's very unusual for vets to use a cast on a hedgehog, but this morning another poor little hog came in with a broken leg. He's been sent off to the vets and will probably also need a cast.
"I've never seen so many hedgehogs here. Adults will often have two or three litters per year. I think the warm summer and global warming has increased the numbers of young ones we're seeing at the moment.”
Autumn Juvenile Hedgehogs - November 2010
The last few weeks have seen several lateborn hedgehogs arrive, requiring constant care and attention.
In October we were presented with a very large female hedgehog, weighing in at a hefty 1.5kg. She had been spotted on a lawn in a distressed state and so brought to HART.
Our initial reaction was that she might be pregnant, but an examination of her underparts gave no clues as her teats and vulva didn’t seem unduly enlarged, so she was put into a large cage and observed. For the whole of the next day she was restless and not eating and we were at a loss as what to do. We were reluctant to give any medication in case she was pregnant and decided to get her checked by a vet the following day.
That morning, a rather startled volunteer called me to say there was a baby hog in the box, so we immediately covered the mum and left her to carry on. Later, I carefully looked under the bedding to find two more healthy hoglets and a deformed stillborn one still in it’s sac, which I removed. It was probably the presence of this dead one that prevented her from delivering the others easily.
She has been left alone for another day as hedgehogs will often kill their young if disturbed, but a careful inspection has shown all three little ones suckling, so we are very hopeful of their survival.
Ferdinand's story by Brian Cheek
Considering it was a good start to the summer my story begins on a wet windy cold morning. Not yet having my eyes open I was very small with yellow down, up until now I had a brother or sister to cuddle up to for a little bit of warmth. My mummy brought us food every now and then.
Due to being wet and cold it proved to be too much of a struggle for my sibling and they became a casualty of the elements. I was now all alone in a very scary big world, my mummy was now giving me enough food for two and it was not long before my crop was full of the wrong food and I could no longer swallow.
Cuddling up to my dead sibling for warmth, and now feeling very poorly, I could only think I would go the same way. Shivering and wet I laid there waiting for the inevitable thinking of what I may have become. Not yet able to see I did not know what my mummy looked like.
Cold, wet and very tired I put my head down to rest, was this it. Then I heard footsteps approaching, they stopped next to where I was laying, what now, I thought trying to raise my head; I was too weak to know. Then all of a sudden I heard this comforting voice saying don`t worry your safe now. Putting his warm hands around me he then wrapped me up in a warm towel. I knew then I was in safe hands. I don`t think my mummy minded because she knew I was now going to be taken care of and her little baby was going to a place of care and kindness. On arrival I was given all the help and kindness that I know saved my life.
It was not easy in the following days but I was warm and the big lump of food in my throat that stopped me eating was painstakingly but gently removed. Bit by bit the care and love shown to me at HART by their staff has shown me that there is caring people and they put their all into the care and recovery of wildlife.
They say I am a feral pigeon, a beautiful one, and my name is Ferdinand. I hope to be released soon so if you see a beautiful feral pigeon flying over or eating in town or garden, stop and say hello because you never know.