Sunday, 30 June 2013

Members Evening

Hands up who's coming to the Members Evening next Saturday!..

Next Saturday, the 6th of July, is our annual Members Evening. Anyone who is a British Wildlife Centre member will be able to stay here after we close for a further few hours in to the evening. During this time there will be extra talks and the staff will be out and about for you to ask them any questions, best of all though... you get to see the animals in the evening when they are often a little more active and it is cooler weather.

Could this picture be a clue as to what you will see next Saturday? I don't know... no, seriously... I don't! But be assured that it will be a fun packed evening, showing you things not often seen during normal opening times.

Look forward to seeing many of you then, and meeting many new members for who this will be their first Members event!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Pine Martens Together

It is that time of year again when we have another go at breeding our pine martens. Many of you already know that I have a particular soft spot for the pine marten, and so it is with much frustration that we have yet to successfully breed them here at the Centre.

We have had success with all other British mammals we have kept here in the past, but pine marten kits still elude us. It is well known that they are difficult animals to breed, but other centres have had success in the past, and with us having pairs together for the last three or four breeding seasons (a success in its self, with many not getting on and fighting with each other) I am sure it is only a matter of time.

At the end of last week I once again introduced Clyde in with Bonnie for the next two and a half months in the hope that they will mate.

It was a dilemma for me whether to continue with this pairing, or introduce our other male, Hamish, with Bonnie for something different. Certainly, if we continue to fail every year we will have to try something different... but having spoken to others who have bred these animals in the past, many seemed to suggest that if we have a pair that we can introduce with each other each year with relatively few problems, then we should stick with that and hope that in time we will be successful.

It seems to me that over the last three breeding seasons they were together, they were getting closer to breeding... and I think they mated the last two seasons they were together, so fingers crossed for third time lucky!

The most frustrating thing of all is the wait to see if we have been successful. With a delayed implantation, we won't see if Bonnie becomes pregnant until early next year! I have heard that even other centres who have had success, still often don't breed them every year, so it does seem a little luck is needed too.

My next decision is whether to introduce Hamish with our other female, Buttons, in a weeks time... it seems silly not too if we have that potential pairing, but then Buttons is quite old now, and Hamish is a vicious little thing... often trying to square up with the others through the wire divides of their run system. Of course, I will update you of things if and when it happens.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Youngsters at the BWC

A bumper post for you today to make up for the lack of posts this week. I thought I would bring you a little update on how our wildcat kittens and deer calves are doing. So check out the video below for a short clip of our kittens playing... I will try and get something better for you over the coming weeks as they start to venture out further and get bolder.

Here are a couple of photos of the kittens, you can see from the one below that they have their reputation even from a young age.

 I've said to many of you who have visited in recent weeks, but it never stops to amaze me just how blue their eyes are when they first open... they have started to turn colour already, but you can see from the photo above how strikingly blue they are for a couple of weeks.

OK, so on to our red deer...

A short clip of a new born calf finding her feet, followed by a few photos fo mum carefully looking after her.

There is something rather special about deer... I can't explain it, but it really does feel quite magical when you are out in the paddock with them. Once the calves are born they are on their feet within minutes, quite remarkable really, but as a prey animal this is how they have adapted. Sooner they can run the sooner they can run away!

Our kittens are out and about quite often during the day now, and our first few deer calves to be born have just started to wander over for food with their mums so why not come and see them.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Red Deer Calves

It seems that the BWC is booming with babies at the moment. Over the last few days we have seen our first few red deer calves being born.

It is always lovely to see the deer being born, and remarkable to see the youngsters on their feet and moving around within 15 minutes! A little tentatively at first of course, but it doesn't take them long. When first born the calves are covered in a light, white dappling across their bodies... this would help act as camouflage out in the wild. After a few months they will start to lose this patterning, and will go in to the winter with the plain red coat, much like the adults.

For the first few weeks the calves will be very shy, if you want to try and spot them the best place to be will be on our deer platform. The best place to look will be along the back fence of the paddock, they will most likely be lying down keeping still.

A good clue will be if you see a mother on her own, separate from the pack. Nearby will almost certainly be her calf.

Give it a month or two, and the calves will be coming over with their mums to feed... and if your lucky enough over the next few days, you may well see some more calves being born.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Stoat Kits

We are all very excited here at the centre, as we have stoat babies in the hedgerow!

Last year a young wild stoat came to us which had been caught by a cat... she was in a bad way, and Katie took on the job of looking after her. After much care she survived, but became too friendly to release and so we offered her a home here in our hedgerow.

Last week I was washing windows, and heard a squeaking noise... and rushing over to the stoat pen, saw "Dorris" carrying two of her kits down a hole in a log. From the size of them I am guessing they are about four weeks old. Their eyes are still closed, but they have started to wean and nibble on solid food.

Having not been with a male stoat here, is it still not a great surprise that she was pregnant as they do have delayed implantation. Female stoats reproductive system develops very quickly form birth, and often a male will go into a nest site and mate with the females kits when they are still very young!

I will keep you updated of their progress over the coming months.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Isn't he cute?

I know... it's a rat, and many people may have an aversion to rats... but bare with me...

A couple of weeks a go now, we accidentally disturbed a rat pup whilst cleaning them out. The problem is once they have your scent on them, the likely hood is that the mother will abandon them, and so we enrolled Katie as surrogate rat mum!

The aim is to keep this little chap friendly to show off to school groups when they visit. He has already met a few people, and seems to be taking to his role well... I will of course keep you updated on his progress as he grows.

So yes... It's a rat... but, rats are fantastic creatures. One of my favourites! There is so much misunderstanding about rats so here are a few facts to try and convert some of you.

 - Rats are very intelligent, and have great memories

 - A group of rats is called a "mischief"

 - Rats are social animals, and even care for their sick and injured

 - Rats were a sign of good luck to the Romans

 - Rats are very clean animals, and spend hours a day grooming

 - Rats make a "laughing" call when tickled, at a level not heard by the human ear

 - Rats have been trained to drag wires through walls in some places for electricians

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Wildcat Kittens

The cat is amongst the pigeons... no, hang on... the pigeon is out of the bag?.. no, that's not right either... The cat is out of the bag!.. Or the kittens at least. Yes, we do have wildcat kittens here at the Centre.

Just over a month ago now, one of our females "Iona" gave birth to a litter of three kittens. We kept it quiet as to give her the best chance of rearing them successfully herself, and minimise the stress of several people trying to get a look in to her pen or hear the squeaks from the box.

However, now at the end of our busy half term week, the kittens have started to make an appearance for themselves... under the watchful eye of mum of course.

For a couple of spells through the day, they have been spotted poking their heads out of the box, feeding from mum, playing and climbing, before wearing themselves out and retreating back to bed for a nap.

We are all so pleased to have a litter here, and I of course will keep you updated with their progress as they grow and mature.

If you want to come and try and see them, then we are open every weekend and bank holiday through till the end of October... and everyday throughout the summer holidays for our local schools.

Please do respect the stand off barrier we have around the enclosure, stay the correct side of it, and this will not only give you the better possible view of the kittens (as mum will be more relaxed to let them come out), but also will mean less chance of the cats trying to get you!...