Sunday, 31 January 2021

January Update


And so it continues... Shortly after our decision at the end of last month to remain closed for January, the Government announced a third lockdown with a review to be taken mid February. It now sounds like restrictions may not be lifted until early March, and what that means for us and places like us we don't know, but as soon as we are allowed to and as soon as we feel it is safe to, we will open our doors once again!

In the mean time, life goes on here, animals still need to be fed and looked after. It is not as bad as the first lockdown when it was just myself and one other keeper each day. With the new furlough system it allows all keepers to work part time to still feel involved, and gives me an extra help to keep it all going in these dismal and dark winter days. 

So what's been happening over the last month? We are working with minimal staff just to keep the animal welfare to the high standard we expect. So all non essential jobs are on hold and of course we have no visitors, but there are still some things we have had to do to prepare for this coming year and a few extra seasonal jobs that crop up over winter. 

Our deer generally feed themselves naturally for most of the year. We do offer them food, but they prefer the natural grasses and leaves that their paddocks allow. However over the winter they almost exclusively rely on us for food. This means extra work in preparing and providing extra food every day, and more time needed to clean out their large shed and hard standing which they use more frequently during the winter. 

Braveheart, one of our breeding male wildcats, has been introduced to Hilda once again to hopefully mate over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed we will have more wildcat kittens later this year. In the meantime our kittens from last year are now all off display and while we wait to here from the studbook as to where they will go.

Otto, the otter, has also been moved off display. He is now approaching the age where there is a risk that he may mate with his sister if they continue to live together. Both of them have settled quickly and seem to be really enjoying their enclosures to themselves. 

Early each year we usually set up our displays of harvest mice and water voles with new little families from our breeding groups off display. You may remember we decided to try setting up our water voles a little earlier, putting a new group out at the end of last year. They are doing very well, and as with the first lockdown, no one here to see them unfortunately. This month we have prepared the harvest mice enclosures ready for new groups before we can hopefully open our doors once again. 

Some of you may have seen a slightly different nest box in with a couple of our pine martens over the end of last year... These were a new style we were trying out, and it seems are preferred by our pine martens. Therefore, with the little extra time we have had, we have been able to build and provide all of our pine martens with this newer style. 

So lots going on here still as you can see. All this and the extra winter jobs such as clearing the otter sleuces and more regular checks on nesting  boxes to make sure the animals have warm and dry beds. 

Hopefully next month's update we will be able to provide you with a bit more exciting news such as when we can welcome you back here again.