Pennines Wildlife Rescue

Tony Johnson reports that at least a dozen under-weight hedgehogs are over-wintering in the new purpose-built shed over at Carrshield

I think that Tony has had a passion for wild animals for a long time, but certainly after his various tours of duty with the armed forces, this devotion to care for suffering animals has become an obsession. Together with partner Ute, he set up a facility to take care of damaged wildlife, and for the past three years the couple have been cheerfully maintaining an increasing menagerie, in the remote small-holding up a long track in Carrshield.

The under-weight hedgehogs are a particular concern; I’ve read that the over-long summer elicited an additional brood of offspring which aren’t really fat enough yet to hibernate successfully. So unless they’re carefully cosseted, fed, fattened and kept warm, they’ll die. I guess hedgehogs are the ‘poster children’ of the wildlife rescue ethos, though evolutionary biologists would perhaps have a more jaundiced view.

There are lots of other wild animals too, of course, that are ranked in value somehow. We don’t value rats, or moles, or even baby rabbits, I should say, as these pests are such successful breeders that they seem to repopulate willy-nilly, regardless of the prevailing climate conditions, or any individual’s incapacity. In my experience, pheasants and grouses escaped from the shooting moors aren’t of particular value either, though they do seem to love the wild bird seed we put out for the smaller birds.

But birds of prey are of particular, and inestimable value, and damaged ones are especially and carefully taken care of at Pennines Wildlife Rescue. Tony’s facebook accounts of tending to kestrels and tawny owls (9 at last count at the end of November) make intriguing reading. Apparently a one-winged jackdaw was coming in imminently too in the past day or so as well. We took a badly damaged oystercatcher over to their place a couple of months ago, but with a completely incapacitated wing, it had to be put out of its suffering. Incidentally, local veterinaries like Old Stone Vets have a kind of ‘Hippocratic’ duty to deal with wild animals that might be brought in to them, and Tony works closely with a few practices.

Pennines Wildlife Rescue depends on donations for the work (I know two local groups who have made contributions: the Allendale Lions Club and the Catton Knitters & Crocheters have donated some capital for building a dedicated shed and kitting it out with nest boxes) and many individuals from throughout the local area make PayPal contributions (the PayPal button doesn’t actually work on the group’s facebook page now though), or purchase food for the animals directly. Tony hosts an annual fund-raising Golf Event (this year it was at Tynedale Golf Course) which is a significant source of funding, and he also makes up wildlife nest-boxes for sale. But requests for continued support are pretty regular on Allendale area notices, especially as damaged wildlife continue to populate the available space.

Good-hearted folks love to support this effort, trusting that their contributions are being put to good use. Just to be clear, for the purposes of transparency in this diary: I couldn’t find any listing for the Pennines Wildlife Rescue group as a formally registered charity with the Charities Commission (to be fair, I imagine that the group’s financial resources are under the CC’s threshold for reporting), but they note that they’re registered for tax purposes with HMRC. Tony seems to put everything he has into the effort on behalf of damaged wildlife, and his enthusiasm for the care of the animals he and Ute take in is infectious.

So many folks throughout this patch are impressed with their dedication and persistence, and especially in this season of goodwill to all living creatures, it feels good to help out.

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