When I first took over the running of Lower Moss Wood it was purely an educational nature reserve. The thought of setting up a wildlife hospital had never entered my head. I originally started a barn owl breed and release scheme within months of taking on the warden's job. Shortly after I was presented with two fox cubs to rear. These had been found by a local landowner's dog who had taken himself for a walk. He had retrieved one cub and buried it alive and was about to do the same with the other before he was spotted by his owner. Fortunately both fox cubs lived to tell the tale.
Anyone can rear a bird or animal, but the problems mount up when the said creature reaches the stage where its liberty is in question. It may look like its fellow species, it may even smell like its fellow species but it sure doesn't act like its fellow species. Having given your patient the TLC you can offer, sleepless nights, cleaning and feeding, it is no wonder your charge does not want to part company. This is when you realise there is more to wildlife rehab than meets the eye. A love of animals and the urge to help every waif and stray that finds itself in trouble is not reason enough to enter the realms of wildlife rehabilitation. Unless you have a wide knowledge of what actually happens in the real world of the species you are treating i.e. its habitat, nutritional needs, territory and social behaviour, your release may be thwart with problems.
Wildlife rehabilitation is a science not a hobby. It is the responsibility of every wildlife rehabber to assess each case on its merits. Once released the animal or bird has to compete with its wild counterparts to succeed. Timing is also very important, many species have dispersal times and even migration has to be taken into consideration.
Twenty one years on and I am still learning, taking advice from others who have expertise in their own specialised field and liasing with vets. Since the onset things have changed. The workload has increased tremendously and now I rely on volunteers to help run the centre which now takes up to two thousand casualties a year.
There is no substitute for a good vet so it is important you can build up a good working relationship and hope that he does not mind being called out at all hours of the night. This happened just recently when we had to call about an injured badger found on the roadside. After receiving the call we referred it straight to our vet Dave Walker at the Ark Veterinary Surgery in Mobberley. The finder had the animal in the back of his car and it was obviously in need of immediate treatment. After going to bed early having had a hard day, Dave dragged himself out of bed and by the time we arrived on the scene he had assessed the animal and made it comfortable for the night. The next day he carried out some orthopaedic work on what was a very badly broken leg and cleaned up all the other cuts and grazes. A few weeks later the steel pin that was inserted to hold the leg together was removed. The badger then spent the next few weeks recovering from its ordeal at Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital till it was ready for release.
The release took place near to the spot from where it was first discovered. I was assisted by Mike Taylor of the Wirrall and Cheshire Badger Group. Mike often helps on badger releases and relocations. It was obviously in the right area, as the box in which the animal was virtually being ripped apart at the seams. The door was opened and the badger bolted at the speed of light. A perfect ending achieved by teamwork.