A lifetime wish to help rescue wild animals

Jim Ward retires .pic richard ponter 143216

Jim Ward retires .pic richard ponter 143216

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Scarborough wildlife rescuer Jim Ward is set to retire after 30 years helping the town’s sick and injured animals and birds.

Jim has taken the decision to step down after suffering a heart attack on his 80th birthday in April, having previously suffered a stroke.

He said the decision had been an incredibly difficult one, as he loves what he does, but added: “I’ve got the message now - I need to pack it in.”

Jim also joked: “If anybody asks my age I’m 79 - I didn’t have a very good 80th birthday!”

Originally from Newlay, West Yorkshire, Jim has been interested in nature all his life. He explained: “My mother loved her wildlife and taught me all I know.

“There was some lovely countryside around where we lived and that’s where it all started.”

He was inspired to care for birds after rescuing a jackdaw from the tower of Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds, which he kept as a pet.

However, it also spurred him on to learn more after he washed oil from a guillemot’s feathers and released it at Flamborough, but it didn’t survive as its natural waterproofing had been washed off.

Jim was in his early 20s at the time, but the incident left a lasting impression on him and served to strengthen his desire to help seabirds in particular.

Over the years he has looked after countless guillemots, razorbills and puffins, which used to come in to him covered in oil in the late 1990s as oil tankers would pump out old oil off the East coast.

The problem prompted Jim to invent a “birdigan” - basically a jumper sleeve that could be slid on to the bird so that - until it was cleaned - it wouldn’t preen and poison itself.

He has also been a staunch campaigner to stop people from feeding gulls - an issue which has risen its head again in recent weeks and months.

Jim explained: “I’ve always said ‘no food, no gulls’ - it’s as simple as that. It’s people that are causing the problem, not the gulls.

“People have always asked my advice on the issue and I’ve always told them the same thing - but it needs to be policed properly.

“Some people even throw food into the road and the gulls end up getting hit by cars. Some people seem to think its funny.

“We been taking in so many young gulls, week after week.”

He became involved when Scarborough Council started carrying out a project a number of years ago where a narcotic was used to try and control the gull population.

Jim explained: “It involved baiting pieces of bread on the rooftops and it would dope them.

“But if the weather got warm, they would fall off the rooftops and get mauled by dogs. I campaigned against it and they stopped.”

Jim has received strong support from RSPB Bempton, which he says has made a huge difference and for which he is incredibly grateful.

Over the years, Jim has made himself available 24/7 to rescue creatures in need, such as badgers, roe deer, gulls and peregrine falcons.

He bought a two-and-a-half acre field near Robin Hood’s Bay, building facilities such as aviaries where recuperating animals and birds could be housed.

The rescue service has been made possible through donations and fundraising campaigns, by members of the public and regular supporters.

The most unusual animal Jim has cared for was a coatimundi - a type of South American racoon - which needed somewhere to go when Zoo and Marineland in North Bay closed down.

As well as spending his days - and nights - responding to wildlife calls, plus working at Chapman’s auctioneers before his retirement, Jim has also found time to write books about his wildlife experiences.

His book, “A Wild Understanding”, was published around five years ago and Jim is now looking forward to getting back into writing in his free time.

He said: “I’m going to concentrate on my writing - I particularly enjoy poetry. I also like writing adventure stories which are involved with nature.

“I’ve been told I have a way with words - and I enjoy doing it.”

Plans are now being put in place to continue the service and Jim wishes to thank everyone who has supported him over the years, including RSPB Bempton, the emergency services, the people of Scarborough and district for their donations towards the rescue service and Scarborough Coronary Care Unit, for giving Jim some valuable time to enjoy his retirement.

He said: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of my 30 years. When it’s come to stopping it, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve shed a few tears.

“I’ve had such a lot of support and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved for that.”