Acorn Wildlife Rescue is a small, home-based and self-funded wildlife rescue centre, located in the North Somerset village of Winscombe, between Weston-super-mare, Cheddar and Bristol.
We take in animals from across the South West, covering Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
We specialise in orphan rearing and the care and rehabiliation of small mammals that find themselves in a time of need.
We are particularly well equipped to meet the needs of the young and those who are orphaned, but also offer respite and assistance to those who are older.
We strive to provide a high level of care to every guest we receive, until they they are able to look after themselves, at which point our aim will be for them to be returned to the wild.
Giving our wildlife a helping hand
A group of hedgehogs is called a Prickle.
The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), Western hedgehog or common hedgehog is generally a common and widely distributed species across Europe and Scandinavia, although is a species struggling in the UK. Hedgehog numbers have declined in Britain, a recent survey suggests this has been by as much as 50% in the last 20 years.
British hedgehogs are nocturnal and hibernate in the winter, so would be an unusual sight during the day. A hedgehog ‘sunbathing’ during the day is not typical behaviour and if you see one doing this, contact either us, or a hedgehog rescue centre for advice. Most wildlife rescue centres will take in hedgehogs. During the autumn when hedgehogs are looking for a safe place to hibernate a bonfire might look quite temping to them, so please check your bonfires before lighting.
If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs visiting your garden then a little food would be welcomed by them. They like dry cat biscuits and meaty cat food in jelly, but not fish, don’t forget to leave a shallow bowl of water but not milk.
A group of Squirrels is called a Scurry.
There are technically wild populations from 3 species of the squirrel family living in the UK. The ‘native’ Red Squirrel (Sciurus Vulgaris), The Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis), and the more recent arrival,the Siberian Chipmunk (Eutamias Sibiricus) which is thought to have arrived through the channel tunnel and now has a wild population of approximately 1,000 in the east of the country.
The Red Squirrel is no longer a common sight in the West country, due to loss of habitat, they prefer coniferous forest, of which we have very few now, their numbers also never fully recovered from extensive hunting by humans in past centuries. Their numbers fell so low that red squirrels where re-introduced from other parts of Europe, where they are still common, meaning that our ‘native’ reds are not as native as most people think! Luckily they do still have strong populations in the north, where suitable habitats still exist.
In our part of the world, you are more likely to spot one of the reds cousins, introduced from north America over 100 years ago, our naturalised grey squirrel.
It is unfortunate that grey squirrels have been given a bad reputation in the UK and that they have been wrongly blamed for the demise of the red squirrel. People are killing off the red squirrel, by cutting down their trees and, in the past, hunting red squirrels to near extinction. I find it thought provoking how in North America, where there is still an abundance of forest, grey squirrels live along side 4 other species of squirrel, including the American Red squirrel, that although is not related to the European red, is incredibly similar, in size, diet, and their preference to live in mixed or coniferous woodland. The American red is doing well living alongside the Eastern grey squirrel.
Grey Squirrels are also blamed for costing forestry £10 million per year (this is actually a small figure compared to the reported £590 million GVA by UK forestry in 2016 and the £1.52 billion reported by the primary wood processings industries in the same year) Its worth noting that all tree squirrels, Red or grey, will occasionally strip bark, also that all tree squirrels have a symbiotic relationship with trees, as many of the nuts and seeds that they bury will germinate. Problems only occur when trees are seen as a 'crop', and in the UK any animals that touch crops are often seen as pests and eradicated. It is interesting how the £10m cost to forestry also includes all the money spent on trapping and killing grey squirrels, so technicality they are being blamed for the cost of their own destruction.
The grey squirrel is a lovely sight in our countryside and gardens, loved by most, especially children and are amongst the smartest animals on the planet, showing a high level of intelligence and problem solving, ranking them in the top few percent for animal intelligence, along with animals such as crows and primates.
Grey Squirrels haven't so much adapted to our ever changing environment, its more that they already have the tools to survive in a changed world. Their preference to live in deciduous woods, of which we still have a few, or the ability to survive in a small patch of trees, the fact that they are less arboreal than some of their cousins, ie spend more time on the ground, so will walk between trees and an adaptable diet make them one of the few species living in the UK with the potential to do well living along side us. They are still, however, fragile animals, with juvenile mortality being very high, often due to starvation so if you’re lucky enough to have them visit your garden, don’t hate them for raiding your bird feeders, they are just trying to survive, consider feeding them too, especially during the winter and spring months, when they need it the most. Ark Wildlife carry a good range of nuts and ready mixed squirrel food.
Typically, an adult squirrel will not let you near to it, let alone pick it up, so identifying signs of an injured adult squirrel are quite easy. Young Squirrels known as Kits occasionally fall from dreys especially in high winds, or when trees and branches are cut down, and to find them ‘cuddling’ on the ground isn’t cute, they are actually in real danger. If you come across a baby squirrel/s on the ground, step back first to see of the mother returns to pick them up. If not then pick them up and warm them up, and contact a squirrel friendly wildlife centre. Do not attempt to feed a cold baby squirrel.
*Unfortunately, due to misguided policy, not all wildlife centres are squirrel friendly and if you take a squirrel to one that is not, and that includes the UKs best known wildlife charity, they are very likely to euthanize the animal, healthy or not, so please check that anyone you contact is squirrel friendly. Acorn Wildlife Rescue will give squirrel friendly advice, across the country.*
A group of rats is called a Mischief.
There are 2 species of rat in the UK, the black rat (Rattus Rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus Norvegius). The black rat is the smaller of the 2, weighing between 150-280g, and is far less common, possibly now extinct across many parts, if not all of the UK. The black rat is typically grey/brown on top with a grey and or white underside, totally black, or black with a grey or white underside. The brown rat is larger, sometimes weighing 500g, and is more common sight in the UK. Although are shy of people, so most likely to keep out of view.
Firstly, on rats in general, they are another of our misunderstood wild animals, that have gained a very bad reputation. They are highly intelligent animals, that feel complicated emotions like remorse and empathy, and joy too! There are a few videos online of rats being ‘tickled’ and them laughing, albeit, very high pitched. They are also friendly and sociable.
*Along with grey squirrels, if you do find orphaned or injured rats in the UK, check that a wildlife centre is rat friendly before taking one in, as many will euthanize a healthy animal.*
Often a nest of rats will be disturbed in sheds, or near chicken coups, and someone will find babies, in our mind, this does not necessarily warrant them needing ‘rescuing’. A better course of action may be to leave them alone, the mother may well relocate young that have been disturbed, and if you remove sources of food, ie rubbish, bird food, chicken food, dog or cat food etc. They will probably relocate on their own. Baby rats are only in the nest for a few weeks. Acorn Wildlife Rescue are happy to give rat friendly advice, and will take in orphaned or injured rats.
Have you found an Animal in need?
If you have found orphaned or injured wildlife or even just have concerns regarding wildlife you have seen please call us and we can try to advise and help.
How you can help Acorn Wildlife Rescue
We are a self-funding centre so any donations are gratefully received. Donations through Paypal and gifts from our Amazon Wishlist would really help the animals in our care.