At Vale Wildlife Hospital, we have been rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned wild animals for more than 32 years, having started in 1984 with a tawny owl needing long-term care. Today we care for over 4,000 casualties every year. Over the years we have seen the pattern of the seasons change with regard to the numbers of animals admitted to Vale in each season. The spring and summer months have always been absolutely manic with up to 50 casualties coming in daily and our staff are on the go from first light until late at night or even through the night caring for hundreds of baby birds and mammals.

Until a few yearotter-duckling-collages ago we used to look forward to ‘catching our breath’ during the quiet winter months with few casualties coming in we could concentrate on all the maintenance and cleaning jobs that we hadn’t had time to do in the preceding months.

Things have changed drastically recently with the winter months being almost as busy as the summer and some unexpected patients being admitted that we wouldn’t normally expect to see at this time of year.

We always have a large number of hedgehogs in throughout the colder months – autumn juveniles born too late in the year to put on enough weight to survive the winter, and at the moment we are caring for more than 291 of them! This alone puts massive pressure on our finances as each hedgehog costs more than £5 per week to look after. We are using more than 1,000 tins of tinned cat and dog food at the moment and we have put out an urgent appeal for funds and food to help us feed all these prickly patients.

Besides the usual hedgehog influx we are looking after a few more unusual (for this time of year) animals. Eight day-old mallard ducklings were rescued recently which certainly wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t come in to us. Ducklings are normally hatched in the spring and summer although we did once have a brood brought in on Christmas day a few years ago.

We also have a leveret with us at the moment, the second one we have reared outside of the normal hare breeding season this year. He/she is doing well and is now in an outside enclosure until he is big enough to be released.

The latest youngster to be admitted was an otter cub, only 4-5 weeks old, found in a garden, freezing cold and massively dehydrated. As there was a river nearby and there had been heavy rain in the preceding 24 hours, we assume that he had been washed out of the holt and had somehow managed to get out of the water into the garden. Several hours were spent searching for any siblings there may have been, but none were found.

The cub is doing well, although he is being treated for a chest infection, he should make a full recovery and we need to start searching the UK for another centre that has otter cubs of a similar age so that he can have company of his own kind to prevent him becoming imprinted on humans which would mean he could never be released.

If you would like to donate towards the care of all these casualties your support would be most appreciated.