Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wildcat Update

We have had a lot of bad luck with our wildcats so far this year, but have used this to offer our kittens from last year a nicer enclosure on view to the public.

Una and Dougal are still in the first enclosure, Kendra has been joined by her sister Iona in the middle pen and last years kittens Isla and...., Richy Junior (yes I know, don't ask!) have been put into the third wildcat enclosure.

Don't they just look so much better in the snow?... You can't tell me the above looks like a tabby! Anyway, more news to come on our wildcats for all you members on our annual Summer's Members Evening, Saturday the 9th of July. Look forward to seeing you all there.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Pine Martens

This afternoon we introduced two of our pine martens together in preparation for the breeding season. After they were seen mating last year, it was decided to let Clyde and Bonnie have another go in the hope they can go one step further and produce a litter of kitts next year.

Normally introducing pine martens is an aggressive affair, and a nervous one for me... but I have never had a problem with these two individuals. They have always seemed to get on well together with no tension at all. Hopefully they will mate again this year, and we may well be looking forward to a litter next year. It would be the first time we have bred pine martens if they do.

I am contemplating introducing Hamish and Buttons too. It would seem silly not to, as they are another potential breeding pair, but Hamish does show a lot of aggression towards Buttons through the wire. This is more normal behaviour, and maybe it is better in terms of trying to breed, but still it makes the whole process more worrying. It was too late in the day to try today, but depending on how they are tomorrow I may give it a go in the morning to give them all day to settle down, while we are there to intervene if needs be.

Pine martens are extremely difficult to breed because of their solitary and aggressive behaviour towards each other, and are seldom bred in captivity. But hopefully we can follow in the success we have had with all our other mammals and produce young kitts in the near future.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

New Water Voles, and Polecat Kitts

This morning we placed a new family of Water Voles out on to our display island. These are from our breeding stock which we hold off view from the public. There were only two voles left on the island, both old males which were bred out there and extremely used to sitting out in front of dozens of cameras. However, in their old age, they have been seen less, and so it was decided to retire them off view and allow a new family to thrive and make the island their home.

Parents and four kitts were placed into the tunnel system of the island. We hope that the youngsters will grow up to be comfortable out in front of people, and if they don't the first litter they breed on the island certainly will be.

Yesterday we decided to change around our polecats in preparation for the Summer opening. Early in the year one of our females, Velvet, gave birth to 7 kitts. We separated the father from her when she started to get very aggressive towards him, and paired him up with another one of our females in an off-view breeding pen.

Now that the kitts are about 8 weeks old, we have moved them with their mother on display in one of our smaller mustelid pens. Here they will prove to be a great exhibit with the youngsters beginning to get really active and keeping their mother on her toes.

Eventually these young polecats will be relocated by the Polecat studbook holder, some of them may even make a return to the wild!

Over the next couple of days I will let you know about some changes with our Pine Martens and Wildcats.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Other baby news...

Along with other news, I will be providing you with updates on our badger cub, fox cubs and red squirrel kittens over the coming weeks. But first I thought I would mention some of our "lesser" known animals. It is quite easy to forget sometimes some of the smaller animals we have here at the Centre, but we have had a lot of other baby activity this year already!

Of course our deer have had fawns/calves again. Quite early this year too, the photo above is of a few days old fallow fawn.

Once again we have bred polecat kits, but this year it is to our new breeding pair "Storm" and "Velvet". Storm was a road casualty brought to us by the studbook holder, Lesley Palmer, to pair up with the very aggressive Velvet. After a lack of mating last year we questioned whether Storm was up to the job, but since he was such a handsome chap Lesley and I decided to give him one more crack at it. He hasn't disappointed, and Velvet now has 7 young kitts to look after.

Our display pair of hedgehogs have been a little less active than normal, outside the talk time, and this is due to them having a couple of hogletts to look after. "Lemming" and "Erin" sired young last year too so are experienced parents, and these young hedgehogs will be placed on a release scheme later in the Summer when they are of a nice weight.

And once again the BWC is home to baby rabbits. Earlier this year we replaced the three rabbits we had on display with our off-site colony, which had tamed down very nicely. These have proved to be a far better exhibit showing both natural eating, grazing and digging behaviour comfortably in front of the public. Earlier this month they produced there second litter of healthy babies showing that they truly have settled into their new home, and now the youngsters are often seen out in their outside run too, during the day.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Current Research at BWC

The BWC helps out with many research projects every year, another important and vital role of any zooligical collection, and after posting about our work with Conservation Dogs (supplying pine marten scats for training Luna), I was surprised to hear of so many of our visitors interest in this side of our work. Therefore I will let you know of any other interesting work being carried out here, and with that in mind...

Currently we have work being done with our Stoats and Weasels, and a couple of projects with our Harvest Mice.

Hair sample tubes from the Vincent Wildlife Trust have been put into our stoat and weasel enclosures to test if they actually work. The idea is these smaller mustelids will go through the baited tubes and leave hair samples on some sticky tape. Once the design has been made successful, these tubes and then be relocated to the wild  as a surveying technique to see if these animals are present in a given location. So far they have collected hair well, and things look positive for a wild application.

At the same time as this we are trialing a similar device, on a smaller scale, with our harvest mice for the Surrey Wildlife Trust. This is still in its initial stages, and will yet be seen if it is a viable option for wild work.

One project that has been running for a while in our harvest mice is special feeding stations. Some of you may have seen them up in the past few weeks. These devices are hopeful of collecting harvest mice droppings while they feed off the ground, as a way to show a populations exists. Once the design has been tinkered with we will then relocate these feeders to our reserve, where a known population exists, to see if they still work. And finally they can then be used in the wild as a way of establishing if harvest mice are in the area.

Exciting animal news coming up over the next few days and weeks so keep in touch.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Something Special

Another busy week has passed (sorry for lack of updates), and another hectic week is in front of us all here at the BWC. Today started off with two school visits, two researchers asking for our help, and a whole day of filming by the cbeebies crew.

Some of our animals are to be the stars of "Something Special" where Mr Tumble, or at least his alter ego Justin, shows some children some of the different British wildlife.

The 3 featured animals where our Red Squirrels, Fallow Deer and Hedgehogs. Other animals where filmed for linking bits and pieces as well.

All performed excellently, and with a bit of patience from the film crew, they went away happy with what they had achieved,

I will let you all know when it airs, when I know, but it could be a little bit of fun to watch.

Now to finish off a busy day, I am off to "imp" Jack the peregrine's tail feathers. Some of you may have noticed a couple that had broken... well to aid his flight, and make him look a little more presentable, I am taking him to see my falconer guru to repair the damage. Check him out at the weekend in his new apparel.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Red Squirrels gone to Kilnsey

Once again we have had a very successful year in breeding our red squirrels. At the end of last week, I took three of them up to Yorkshire to drop them off at Kilnsey Park.

Kilnsey Park is a lovely little place set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and it's stunning scenery. In our early days they helped us in acquiring red squirrels, and ever since we have helped each other out in looking after Britain's native squirrel. If you are ever up that way, do go and pay them a visit and see how our squirrels are getting on.

In other news back at the Centre, Honey our young badger cub is growing fast and has already proven to be a delight with our visitors. After each badger talk we take her out to meet the visitors, and stretch her legs a little in our photographic enclosure. As you can see, she seems to enjoy her self, haring around the pen and investigating anything new... including the camera.

She now lives at the Centre permanently, and has been sharing accommodation with our other tame badger, Titch, during the day. This week we will let them share pens for the night and see how they get on. I am sure they will be fine however, as they are often seen curled up asleep together after they have finished off their breakfasts.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


A few weeks ago we had three young woodpeckers brought into us here at the Centre. We are not a rescue Centre as most of you know, and usually hand any animals brought into us over to a dedicated rescue centre, however Izzy decided she would like to take these unusual birds under her wing to rear and release.

Many of you have seen them grow, and last Monday morning we took them down to the woods to release. The photo above was taken a while ago while they were half way to adulthood.