2017 was a year of many milestones

The early days of January are usually a time for reflecting on the milestones of the previous year, and looking forward to what the coming 12 months could bring.

Saturday, 6th January 2018, 2:45 pm

At the Trust, 2017 was the 25th anniversary of the wildlife rescue centre’s foundation, and to mark the occasion, a fundraising campaign collected money to carry out a series of improvements to ‘The Big Room’.

The old stone sink was replaced by a larger stainless steel double sink for washing out food buckets and bowls, and a larger capacity, energy efficient washing machine and tumble dryer were installed so that volunteers could keep up with the vast volume of clean towels required for indoor hedgehog bedding.

But the change that has perhaps had the greatest impact for the wildlife has been the building of the ‘Claw and Talon’ room for larger animals such as buzzards and owls that need seclusion from the daily noise and business of the main area. Many birds have already benefited from this calmer environment and their reduced stress levels seem to speed up the recovery process.

For 2018, Jim is constructing a large indoor aviary at the far end of the big room, completing the alterations and refurbishments to make this space fit for purpose.

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For we volunteers, helping out at the trust enables us to experience wild animals at close quarters, and inevitably particular ‘residents’ stand out, either because they are an unusual species or for sheer character alone.

In 2017, if there was to be a trust ‘Animal Personality of The Year’, for me it would be Harry the swan, who is currently on his second stay with us after his concerned human friends at Riverside Park, Wooler, reported that he was losing weight and condition. Swans aren’t best known for their gentleness and approachability, but Harry just loves being close to people, especially when they’re putting out the food buckets.

A strong contender for the 2018 ‘Personality’ accolade is a female hedgehog in the recovery room. The poor thing has already achieved the record for being the hog carrying the most parasites that Kay has ever seen. She has to wait until last in the cleaning and feeding regime as hog mites can be easily spread. She also distinguishes herself by having just three legs, although Kay thinks she has been born like that and hasn’t lost the leg in an accident.

Kay can also tell that, despite her difficulties, this little hog has successfully brought a litter of hoglets into the world.

So what of 2018 and further into the future? There’s no doubt about it, there are massive challenges ahead for wildlife, from global climate change, the loss of habitats and food sources, to the more local issues of thoughtless littering and deliberate cruelty. Animals are finding it increasingly difficult to survive through all of this; it’s up to us humans to do what we can to provide the conditions in which they can thrive.