The highs and lows of being on call over Christmas with WRAS

Volunteers from a wildlife rescue charity have dealt with mixed emotions this Christmas and seen the happy and sad side of the job covering 24 hours a day over the festive period and into New Year.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) has had volunteers working all over the Christmas and New Year period. Whilst founder Trevor Weeks has taken his first proper week’s holiday in over 15 years, he has left a dedicated team of volunteers behind to cover.

Tim from Bexhil, Tony from Polegate and Maz from Brighton have been covering for Trevor. These volunteers have experienced a mix of emotions of Christmas as they have deal with a variety of incidents and species.

Christmas Eve saw WRAS rescuers called to two road casualty swans in the Hailsham area. The first was at Mill Road Hailsham. The swan was rescued and taken to the vets for treatment. A second call was received shortly afterwards from a lady from Pevensey Bay who had picked up a swan just outside Hailsham and taken it home with her to call WRAS. Both swans were road casualties but luckily after 24 hours rest and veterinary care at WRAS’s Casualty Care Unit at Horsebridge, the two swans were released on Christmas Day back in Eastbourne, much to the delight of WRAS’s rescuers.

"Boxing Day was not as good. Emotions were running low" said Duty Co-ordinator Tim McKenzie from Bexhill. "We had four road casualty deer calls all within the space of one hour."

Tony Neads from Polegate responded, along with Tim, to the first deer near Heathfield which was taken to Horsebridge Vets for a veterinary assessment. Another call came in about a road casualty deer at Forest Row and a third at East Grinstead. These had to be passed on to the RSPCA. A fourth call was received about a deer at Crowborough too.

"Unfortunately a spinal x-ray of the Heathfield deer revealed a broken spine, so the deer had to be put to sleep" said Tony Neads, one of WRAS’s rescuers based at Polegate, "so we decided to attend the deer at Crowborough. However, we were rather devastated to find that this deer had died by the time we arrived. Then we heard from the RSPCA that the two deers at Forest Row and East Grinstead had also been put to sleep."

Christmas week did however see a number of releases, including a pigeon freed from Hastings library.

"One of the fabulous releases over Christmas had to be the romantic release of a pair of foxes which had fallen in love whilst at a rescue centre" said Tim.

Several weeks ago a fox was rescued from a farm just outside Hailsham. The fox was given inital treatment at WRAS’s Casualty Care Unit before being send to the Fox Project for further rehabilitation. Whilst at one of the Fox Project’s carers at Ashford the fox paired up with a female already there. It was decided to release both foxes together back on the farm where our fox was originally found.

"I know these two foxes realistically won’t stay together long but we are now in the mating season so we felt it only fair we should release them together" said Tim, "I didn’t realise that when I started volunteering with WRAS I would experience such a mix of emotions and feelings."

Trevor Weeks founder of WRAS said "The dedication show by our rescuers has been brilliant. 2008 will bring new challenges and problems. We need to ensure we will have the funds to stay running and to pay for our new Casualty Care Unit at Horsebridge as well as replacing one of our old veterinary ambulances and purchase an additional veterinary ambulance need for Bexhill and Hastings. In my 23rd year rescuing animals I have experienced a wide range of emotions too like them, some difficult to handle, others delightful. I am proud of the volunteers we have working for us and their efforts in trying to save and help these casualties who have no one else to look after them. May I wish them and all our support, a Happy New Year and best wishes for 2008."

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Press Contact: Trevor Weeks, East Sussex WRAS, 07931 523958 (private).

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