THE hard work is on for a new season at a busy animal rescue centre, but the latest residents are always bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Two young fox cubs have joined the throng at The Sanctuary Wildlife Care Centre in Ulgham.
The pair, which are believed to be two and three weeks old, were rescued along with another cub from two separate locations.
The first came in with a sibling after they were found under an allotment shed in Annitsford. The tenant left them for four days in case their mother returned, but she didn’t and the cubs were taken in by The Sanctuary. Sadly, one died a short time later.
In the second case, a slightly older cub was found trapped under paving slabs in Shilbottle with an injury to its hind leg.
The two surviving cubs are now being treated in the Sanctuary’s intensive care room.
Owner Kim Olson said: “Normally there are four or five cubs in a litter, but the vixen moves them after a couple of weeks from the place they were born to somewhere safer.
“We think the vixens in these cases might have been in the middle of moving their cubs when something has happened to them. It is really common.
“There is a question mark about whether we can release the cub with the injured leg, but it is early days and the most important thing now is to make sure it survives.”
On Friday, the centre also took in an adult fox, which seems quite tame, that had been taken to Westway Vets in Newcastle.
Last year the Sanctuary released six cubs back into the wild.
However, Ms Olson says people should be wary of acting too quickly to ‘rescue’ animals.
“It is spring and a lot of animals are being born so the public need to be aware as to when they should rush in and rescue them and when they should leave well alone,” she said.
“The man who left the fox cubs for four days did the right thing because the mother could have come back.
“Even if the mother was killed and the cubs were living in the same den, an aunt could take care of them because foxes have a very strong family network.
“Not every fox cub needs to be rescued. People should wait at least 24 hours to give the mother a chance to come back, but if a cub is injured then obviously it will need to be rescued immediately.
“It isn’t just fox cubs. A lot of people will be getting fledgling birds in their gardens, but if they see one on their lawn it doesn’t need to be picked up straight away.
“People should stay in the house and watch from the window for at least an hour. Chances are the parents will come down to feed it.
“Also, if people are approaching a young bird and they hear a lot of noise in the trees that could be the parents giving warning signals to leave it alone.
“As a sanctuary we do the best we can to recover animals and release them, but a high proportion can die in care just because of the stress alone so we don’t want people to intervene unnecessarily.”
The centre, which takes in animals throughout the year, is preparing to open to the general public again on Friday.
Visitors will not be able to see the new cubs, but they can look in on the three resident foxes, Sam, Sasha and Spike, and also bring their favourite treats — doughnuts.
There are about 150 animals altogether, and in the summer the number can rise to 250, making it one of, if not the biggest such facilities in the region.
Other popular residents are the ponies and donkeys, who like ginger snaps and polos, and a pig who has a taste for apples.
The Sanctuary is still up for sale and continues to suffer financial pressures so any pet food or donations would be welcome.
New this year are membership packs, which allow unlimited visits during general opening times. The facility is also offering guided tours for groups.
The Sanctuary will be open from 11am to 4pm throughout bank holidays and then on the first and third weekends of the month.
For more information visit www.wildlife-sanctuary.co.uk