The animals come in two by two at the rescue Ark...

IF your cat gets in a tangle or your dog feels a bit ‘paw,’ as a responsible owner, you scoop up your furry friends and head straight to your local veterinary practice to get Rover or Kitty checked over.

Monday, 1st August 2011, 9:00 am

But what do you do with a hurt hedgehog, a sick swan or a damaged deer?

Call in the experts from Ark Wildlife Hospital, of course, writes Sammy Jones.

The Milton Keynes based hospital was launched in 1997 with two hedgehogs and four pigeons as patients.

But things have progressed since then, and Ark’s services are constantly called upon.

“We only deal with wildlife,” says Margaret Burke, in charge of the operation.

“There are enough groups out there catering for other animals and it would be to the detriment of the wildlife if we did that too.”

“We are contacted more than once every day, and are always at the end of the phone.

“In fact, we even get calls from abroad – I recently had a call at 1.30am from France concerning a bat!”

But though Ark concerns itself with the welfare of our new city wildlife, it receives no funding.

Margaret estimates annual running costs in the region of £6,000 and every penny is brought in by fundraising, with a circle of fosterers taking on the challenge of raising the coffers in these cash strapped times.

Animals visit Ark to recuperate, but it is not a sanctuary. Instead the creatures are treated, nursed back to health and then released.

If veterinary treatment is necessary they have a local practice they call on, Aston Lee, run by Paul Manning.

“Margaret has a heart of gold in the right place,” he says.

“She actively promotes care and welfare of the animals through education and by supporting people who ask for advice,” he said.

If the recuperation is more intensive, then the creatures are packed off to the five-star hospital Tiggywinkles.

“Badgers, hedgehogs, foxes, buzzards, muntjac deer...we see all sorts.

“We had a muntjac rescued in Little Linford Lane of Newport Pagnell last year.

Margaret recalled: “We named him Linford and raised him to a juvenile, then he went to Tiggywinkles.”

Our wildlife pals face numerous perils every day.

Take the humble wood pigeon for example.

They are at risk from tree felling, falling from nests, feline attacks, road accidents and disease.

And hedgehogs are spiky little cuties facing horror after another…

“We see a lot of hedgehogs that have had their mothers killed on the roads, or that have been involved in accidents themselves.”

Others are brought to the centre following strimmer accidents and some have been purposely attacked – kicked around like footballs by society’s sick, repulsive element.

But that’s why Ark’s work is invaluable – the tales of animals that have battled their way back to health, and been released are heartwarming.

“Luckily, a lot of birds and animals are resilient,” Margaret says. And what keeps Margaret so passionate about the cause?

“It is extremely rewarding work,” she answers, quick as a flash.

“We deal with a massive range of wildlife – from woodcocks to hedge-warblers and all types of woodpeckers.

“It really is amazing, wonderfully rewarding work...all our fosterers say the same thing.

“It’s for the people of Milton Keynes too, “ she says.

“I believe that if you help wildlife, it makes you a better person.

“It shows that you have compassion.

“And the world needs compassion, doesnt’ it?”

Ark Wildlife Hospital are available to give talks to schools and groups.

To arrange an appointment, make a donation or volunteer your services as a fosterer, call 07702 342 415 or drop an email to [email protected]