AHoughton Regis woman is to be recognised with a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords today, honouring her dedication to rescuing British wildlife.
Samantha (Sam) Bedford, aged 42, started her career as a legal executive but always had a love of animals and coupled her professional work with volunteering for a local branch of the RSPCA. After becoming more involved in animal welfare, she left the legal profession altogether to study for a BSc in wildlife biology and gain more hands on voluntary experience working with sick and injured foxes.
During this time Sam realised there was a lack of resources for wildlife rehabilitation in the Bedfordshire area which often resulted in injured wildlife taken to veterinary practices by members of the public being euthanased. After discussions with vets who said they would welcome a local rehabilitation service, Sam spent 18 months researching all aspects of wildlife care, including being trained in administering drugs and non-surgical treatments.
After appealing to the local community for cages and materials, Sam opened her centre, Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue, in 2004 with the charity soon gaining a reputation as a specialist centre for the treatment and care of wild birds. In the group’s 10th anniversary year last year, Sam and her team of around a dozen volunteers took in more than 700 patients, 391 of which were orphaned wild birds. The 2014 release rate was 79.9%. Its intake for 2015 is likely to reach around 800.
Sam said: “When I started out I never realised what an impact birds would have on my life. I always thought that mammals would be my passion and while I still love and care for sick and injured mammals, it is birds that have taken over and that the charity now specialises in. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than rearing a baby bird.”
“It is so humbling to receive recognition for what I do with an IFAW award. All I ever really set out to do was to help and do something nice for wildlife. When I started I couldn’t have foreseen the endless need for care that existed and had no idea it would turn into something that occupied me from 7am to 11pm seven days a week. It is so rewarding though. We tag lots of the birds that we release at various sites and one of the best feelings is spotting a bird with one of our tags returning year after year, knowing that it survived and is flourishing.”
After putting so much effort into self-teaching herself all she could to become skilled at wildlife rehabilitation, particularly the specialism of bird rearing, Sam was keen to pass her knowledge and experience on to others. She has now written a book on how to care for birds in the hope that other people can learn her skills and also give rescued birds in other areas a second chance at a life in the wild.
Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue is the only wildlife care charity in the county and due to a lack of facilities elsewhere, Sam also takes in animals from neighbouring counties.
Sam will receive her award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie.