Thursday, 31 December 2020

December Update


Deja vu!.. Last months update was the second in a row where we tried to welcome you back to the Centre, and then days later are unable to due to new restrictions put in place. We spent one day in tier 3, before going in to tier 4 and having to close our doors again. Then a few days later on Christmas Eve, despite still being in tier 4, we were told we were able to open again to the public. Crazy times, but we will get through it. Despite this the Centre has decided to remain closed for January, here is our official statement from our website...

Following the Government’s 19th December announcement, the region is now in Tier 4. Sadly, we have had to close the British Wildlife Centre with effect from Sunday 20th December. All those that had pre-booked tickets have been provided with complimentary tickets for a future visit.

Though the Government have recently made an allowance for some outdoor attractions, we feel that the high rise in Covid cases presents too much of a risk. Therefore, we have made the decision to remain closed in order to safeguard our visitors, staff and the wider community.

Of course we are still here looking after the animals and getting jobs done. Over the past month we finally found the time to sex and microchip our wildcat kittens so that they could be added to the studbook and breeding programme for Scottish Wildcats. Would you believe it... all females! 

Normally each Spring we add a new young family of water voles to our display island. Last year they were great, but no one saw them as we were in lockdown. When we eventually came out they turned quite shy very quick. In anticipation of our winter opening we decided to put a new young group out a little earlier, but alas we are now closed again. They have been doing well, and hopefully will be active when we welcome visitors back to the Centre.

Our red squirrels always look great this time of year with their winter coats with thick fur, bushy tails and striking ear tufts. We experimented a little with the way we do our keeper talk over the summer with a feeding log in the middle of the Copse. It allowed far more people to get a good view with out crowding, and they still come close to visitors outside of the talk when running along the hand rails. With this in mind we are making it a permanent change, and so have changed the small log to a more substantial feeding platform. 

The most recent job before Christmas was to repair and reconnect the pine marten run system where it had been taken down to allow the two oldest pens to be re built. Now all back up and running, we will be able to use them next year to hopefully introduce our martens together for the breeding season. 

As mentioned above in our official statement, we will be remaining closed for January, but hope to be able to welcome you back soon after. Until then stay safe.

Monday, 30 November 2020

November Update

Well, my October update was short lived... not long after posting it, and inviting pre booked visits and our new Winter photographic days, we get plunged in to a second lockdown for four weeks! Hey ho, it's all about the red squirrels though, and our red squirrels are doing great :-)

Usually the "quieter" Winter months when we have a few less bookings than usual are when we utilise that extra time to get on top of some of the jobs that would be trickier to do when we are busy, or have more people visiting. These tend to be the jobs such as trimming back the trees, any major repairs and just generally freshening up the enclosures. 

Second lockdown has meant reduced staff for us to keep funds down and ensure we are still here at the end of it, but unlike the first lockdown when it was just myself and one other each day... the shorter days and extra tasks this time around allowed us to keep all keeping staff on board, albeit on reduced hours. Boy have we been busy!

Lots of tidying has been done all around the Centre, but it is the main enclosures that will be noticed the most. Branches and trees cleared from the otters, to carry on with rush removal of earlier in the Autumn. More recently we finished a bit of a change with the pine martens, including new branches and bark chip for them to explore. 

Just today we made a start on our wildcats hopefully to be finished, or at least nearly there, by our weekend opening. Still much more to do before the year end and over the first month or so of next year, but we usually manage it before the days begin to pack out February onward with groups and tours. 

On the animal front, the biggest news is perhaps our Roe buck casting his antlers. Unlike our other native deer, the red deer, who cast theirs in the Spring. Roe deer cast and regrow theirs over the Winter months. We have also had a late litter of water vole pups. All fit and healthy, but not the best time of year for a release. We will keep them over winter until better weather, and more pups are about, for a better chance of a more successful release next year. 

Let's try again shall we!.. Coming out of lockdown this week, we will be open to the public again from the weekend. Pre-booked online only, so take a look on our website to see how to do that. Tours and groups scheduled will still be taking place, and any that had to be cancelled I am sure the office have already... or will be shortly... contacting you about re booking. 

Take care and stay safe everyone. 

Saturday, 31 October 2020

October Update

Our otter cubs born a year a go have now both moved on to new adventures. Last year Dave and Nicole where born here at the end of the October half term to mum Emmy. They have stayed with mum and dad in our main enclosure until about two weeks ago where we caught them up and sent them off to their new homes. 

Dave, now named Maxwell, has gone to the UK Wild Otter Trust based in the South West to a luxurious enclosure to help promote the great work they do there for otter conservation and education. His sister won't be too far away, Nicole has moved to the West Country Wildlife Photographic Centre.

At the beginning of the month our polecat kits born here this year were collected by Ferret Rescue Surrey for release. They had been a lot of fun on display, and after a short period off display to get them used to looking after themselves they have now all gone off to be released. 

This gave us space to move one of our breeding pairs back on to display. We thought we would try our newer young breeding pair out there to see how they settle on view. So far they have been great, so you can now see Paul(cat) and Paula(cat) at the other end of the Centre next to our mink. 

A dormouse check and count confirmed we were as successful as we thought we where this year, with 19 pups born from two pairs... two litters each. These won't be going for release just yet with Winter now creeping up fast, but will be ready for release next year as part of the joint conservation programme with the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. 

Unfortunately, with covid restrictions in place, we haven't been able to open our nocturnal house for you over the summer to see our dormice and bats. But we would of been closing it this time of year anyway. They have now all gone in to hibernation. Hopefully when they wake next year we will be able to open the nocturnal house too for you all to see them. 

Our other hibernating mammal is the hedgehog, and they too have begun to think about sleeping for the winter. Around half of ours are already and I am sure it won't be long till the others are too. With this in mind, as in previous years, our keeper talks change slightly. Hedgehogs will no longer feature as a talk until they wake again next spring. 

The shorter days and darker afternoons means we close a little earlier too. After tomorrow our last talk will be the owl display at 3pm, before closing at 4pm for our winter season.

With all these animal going or hiding away, it's nice to know we have some that are new. Currently off display is a new weasel, Woodrow, who came to us from a rescue centre too tame to be released. Hopefully soon we will have him on display, and you will certainly know about it. He is very vocal!

New for this year, for the quieter months with shorter days, the Centre is offering "Winter Photographic Days" These days will only be an hour shorter than our usual days, but for a much reduced price. Hedgehogs and badgers won't be on the schedule, but all the others will be as per a normal photo day and the same access to enclosures etc will be there.

The day will be an hour shorter due to the daylight hours, and cheaper due to the less reliable weather. But I can say that our animals will be just as reliable, no matter the weather, and with them all being in their winter coats, looking at their best. The softer even light and smaller group size may even appeal to many of you.

Remember, if you want to come and see us, we are currently pre-booking only via our website. You can also find out more about our winter photo days there and private "bubble" tours if you are looking for something a little more exclusive over December and January.