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Birds trapped in elevated netting

Netting is commonly used to prevent birds roosting or nesting on buildings and under bridges. Unfortunately it is very common for birds to become tangled in the netting. They can suffer severe injuries and even die without help. Frustratingly, the netting is often too high up for members of the public or even rescues to reach and specialist equipment is often required.

The first thing to know is that the building/bridge owner is legally responsible for the netting and any birds who become trapped in it. Once trapped, wild birds receive protection under the Animal Welfare Act which protects them from unnecessary suffering. Start by contacting the RSPCA (0300 1234 999) to ‘log’ the incident and get an incident number.

Then, where possible, alert the owner of the building/bridge to the issue so that they can arrange for the company which put the netting in place to remove it. Be sure to let them know that you have reported it to the RSPCA and tell them the incident number. This should help them to take the issue seriously.

If you cannot contact the owner, they refuse to take action, or they don’t or cannot take prompt action, then get back in contact with the RSPCA and your local police force’s wildlife crime officer (contact them via 101). They should be able to arrange for the fire brigade to attend and release the bird.

The bird should ALWAYS be checked by a wildlife rescue. They may be injured but even if they appear unharmed they’re likely to be shocked, exhausted and dehydrated. They should be allowed to rest and recuperate before having to face life in the wild again. You can find rescues in your area by putting your location into the search facility at helpwildlife.co.uk/map and you’ll find detailed advice on getting help from a wildlife rescue at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/practical-advice-for-finders/.

If you have trouble getting the owner, police or RSPCA to intervene, there are some groups who can help to apply pressure.

Nesting Not Netting Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/788233511559514

Foundation for Feathered Friends – https://www.facebook.com/FoundationForFeatheredFriends or email them here

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Baby rabbits and hares

Although rabbits and hares look similar, their breeding habits are quite different so the advice on when to help them varies somewhat too.  Firstly, let’s help you identify which is which.

Baby rabbits are born furless and with their eyes closed. When they’re a bit older, their fur is quite short and smooth and their ears are smaller than those of leverets. Once their eyes are open, they are all dark brown.

 

Leverets are born fully furred and with their eyes open. Their fur looks thicker and more textured than that of rabbits, their ears are larger, and their eyes have a lighter coloured outer ring.

 

When to Rescue

Either species caught by a cat or dog

Any animal caught by a predator will need to be checked for injuries and given antibiotics. Bacteria on the cat’s teeth can cause fatal septicaemia if they get into the bloodstream.

Either species with a visible wound or injury

The baby won’t survive without treatment.

Baby rabbits with their eyes closed found above ground

Rabbits should not leave the nest until their eyes are open so any young babies outside the nest are in trouble.

A rabbit nest is disturbed or destroyed

Unlike other species, rabbit Mums will often abandon babies if the nest is disturbed. Cover the babies over to keep them warm and safe and seek advice from a rescue.

A baby of either species found with dead litter mates or a dead adult

This suggests something has gone wrong and help is needed.

The animal has swollen eyes with discharge or crusting

This could well be myxomatosis and the animal needs urgent help.

 

When to Leave Alone

Leverets on their own without Mum

Mother hares leave their babies alone during the day while they feed. The baby’s instinct is to sit still and wait for Mum. This is normal and no intervention is needed.

Babies of either species above ground if their eyes are open and they are uninjured

If the eyes are open they’re either a leveret, in which case it’s normal for them to be on their own, or they’re a baby rabbit old enough to be out of the nest. As long as the baby is uninjured, all is well and no intervention is needed.

 

Next Steps #

Once you’ve established that an animal needs help you’ll ideally get them contained and get them to a wildlife rescue. You’ll find detailed advice on catching them, keeping them safe, and getting help from a wildlife rescue at https://helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/practical-advice-for-finders/

If you are unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, you can contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will give you advice and support.

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Birds flying into windows

It is very common for birds to fly into windows, especially during the Spring when there are many inexperienced birds around. Very often, birds who fly into windows simply need a short period of rest and are then ok. However, if any of the following are true, the bird should be taken to a wildlife rescue as there may be a significant injury

– the bird lost consciousness
– the wings are sitting asymmetrically
– the bird is unable to hold their head up/the neck is twisting
– you can see any blood

We also recommend that any woodcock who fly into windows are taken to rescue as these are especially fragile and complex birds.

Migrating woodcock, who fly at night, frequently hit windows

If the bird does not meet the above criteria for immediate rescue, We recommend picking them up (advice at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/capturing) and putting them into a cardboard box lined with a towel. Closed the lid (add air holes if needed) and place the box somewhere warm and quiet – a bathroom works since pets can be shut out of it. At this point, it is best not to give anything to eat or drink.

After a couple of hours, or overnight if it’s getting dark, take the box back out to the garden and open the lid. Hopefully the bird should immediately fly away. If not, they will need to go to a rescue for further help.

Finding Help

You’ll find detailed advice on next steps at https://helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/practical-advice-for-finders/

If you are unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, you can contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will give you advice and support.

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What to do if you find dead wildlife

Finding deceased wildlife can be very upsetting and there is usually a desire for the body to be removed as soon as possible to save further distress, especially to children. Wildlife Rescue organisations do not generally have the resources to act on reports of dead animals though one exception may be where there’s reason to believe that babies have been left orphaned.

There are two basic stages to consider. The first is reporting – some organisations monitor wildlife deaths in order to track incidences of disease, for example. The second is disposal – who to contact to get the body removed. In a few cases, where there is suspicion of certain diseases, the monitoring organisations may also help with removal.

Please always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after handling any deceased wildlife.

 

Reporting

Waterfowl, Gulls or Birds of Prey

DEFRA may have an interest here, due to their work in monitoring avian flu. The first step should be to call them on 03459 33 55 77. They may also like to hear about groups of other dead birds for disease monitoring purposes.

Garden Wildlife

The Garden Wildlife Health Project appreciates reports of deceased garden birds, hedgehogs etc, though they may not be able to collect the bodies for you.

Badgers

Your local Badger Group is likely to appreciate reports of dead badgers as these help them to get a picture of where badgers live in their area. During breeding season they may also wish to check the animal for signs of nursing.

Bats

The Bat Conservation Trust are involved in a programme to monitor disease in UK bat populations and may send you a kit for submitting the body to a laboratory.

Marine Wildlife

Report deceased Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises, Turtles and Basking Sharks to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme.

Suspected Poisonings

Please report to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (0800 321 600)

 

Disposal

If the animal is on public land such as roadways and parks then your local council is responsible for removing the body.

If the animal is on your land then the responsibility is yours to arrange disposal.

  • for small prey animals such as garden birds, pigeons, amphibians and rabbits, as long as there is no suspicion of poisoning, you could choose to leave the body somewhere for predators to find. This might sound unpleasant, but we think it’s much better that the passing of an animal can be of some benefit to the ecosystem and help support other wildlife. We suggest placing the body under a bush in a secluded spot away from roads and anywhere others might see and be upset. Alternatively, you can ‘double-bag’ the body in sturdy plastic bags and put it into your household waste.
  • for larger animals or where there is any suspicion of poisoning, professional disposal through an environmental services company is required.
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Birds in Shops or Warehouses

This is a common and tricky issue. All the while birds can fly, extracting them from an unsuitable environment, especially if that’s a big building with high ceilings can be very tricky. As a rule, encouraging them to find their own way out if preferable but this depends on the specific scenario.

 

 

Birds in a Garden Centre

This is most likely to be a robin. They are a cheeky species, very used to people and well aware that humans often mean food. It’s probably actually a rare garden centre which doesn’t have one (or even more) robins who sneak in and loiter in the bird food section hoping for snacks. This author has even been to one where the visiting robin had his own dishes of food and water provided! This is very rarely a situation which needs any intervention – little birds can easily come and go through the usually fairly open structure of these buildings. If you’re concerned, have a chat with a staff member who can likely reassure you.

 

Birds in a Warehouse

Birds quite often sneak into the wide open doors of a warehouse, some may even make their nest in the high ceiling. If it’s a small bird they usually have a way in and out, especially if they’ve made a nest. But sometimes larger birds, especially birds or prey and corvids, fly in and appear stuck. Catching them to remove them is all but impossible given the vast area and height, and the ability of these birds to change direction mid flight.

The best approach here is to open up the doors of the warehouse early in the morning before staff members are in. Leave the building and just observe from a distance outside. The bird will usually fly out once they feel safe. You’ll need to leave the doors open and the area undisturbed by people for at least an hour.

 

Birds in a Supermarket

This is a more dangerous situation as, due to food safety concerns, most food shops will call in pest control to shoot birds if they cannot be removed quickly. Leaving the doors open for the bird to find their way out may work but it’s less likely to be effective in these sort of shops where the doors are relatively small to the space involved. A local wildlife rescue may be able to help in this situation by sending multiple volunteers with nets to either try and catch the bird or herd them towards the doors.

 

Birds in an Empty Residence or Shop

Intervention is usually needed here. Often the birds find their way in through a slightly open or broken window but then cannot find the small gap to get back out. They may be seen frantically flying against windows trying to escape. The most common bird to be in this situation is the pigeon, given their curious nature and tendency to hang out in high streets and residential areas. You might find some apathy in seeking help since it’s ‘just a pigeon’ but pigeons have the same legal right to help here as any other bird.

The first step is to try and locate the owner of the building. There may be an estate agent sign outside which will help with this or, if the shop is part of a chain, you can try their head office. The owner of the shop has a legal duty to take action to prevent the bird’s suffering under the Animal Welfare Act so should promptly arrange for someone to attend and free the bird. If this doesn’t happen then the next point of contact should be the RSPCA, local police Wildlife Crime Officer and potentially the Fire Brigade. The first two should be able to put pressure on the property owner to do the right thing. The third will usually attend, though sometimes only at the request of the RSPCA, to perform any rescue such as removing a window that might be needed if access cannot be made any other way.

 

Finding Help

You can find rescues in your area by putting your location into the search facility at helpwildlife.co.uk/map and you’ll find detailed advice on getting help from a wildlife rescue at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/practical-advice-for-finders/. If you are unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, you can contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will give you advice and support.

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Solving Problems with Squirrels

We’re going to focus on Grey Squirrels here as not many people complain about the presence of reds. Grey Squirrels are perhaps our most controversial mammal species with people mostly either loving them with passion or hating them with great vitriol. Most of the hatred tends to come from the belief that they are solely responsible for the decline in numbers of the smaller, native Red Squirrel.

In fact, Red Squirrels are delicate creatures who require very specific habitats to thrive. This habitat being large areas of pine forest and little disturbance from man. But there is very little of this sort of environment left in the UK now. Whether there were Grey Squirrels in this country or not, Reds simply would not survive in urban parks and the sort of areas that the Greys are doing so well in. Red Squirrels were also dying from pox viruses long before Greys arrived on our shores. It’s not all that long ago that we hunted Red Squirrels almost to extinction so man has played a huge part in the decline of the reds both directly in culling them and indirectly in destroying their habitat. There’s more info about this debate at http://www.grey-squirrel.org.uk

 

Common Issues

So what issues can Grey Squirrels cause?

Digging up bulbs and plants

Squirrels don’t hibernate but they do stash food ready for the winter. So they will quite often dig holes to bury treats or search for old ones, which can disrupt freshly planted bulbs. You can discourage the squirrels from rummaging in your borders using several deterrents. Dog faeces or used cat litter of course smell of a predator, or there are several products you can buy from DIY stores or garden centres such as Scoot, Keep Off My Garden or Squirrel Away.

Stealing the bird’s food

It can be frustrating when you are trying to support needy birds and squirrels come along and steal the food before they can get to it. First of all the easiest method of feeding birds for the squirrels to intercept is the normal bird table. This isn’t a recommended feeding method anyway largely because it is unhygienic and can cause problems during the baby season. A bird table’s easy accessibility can also attract rats and mice. The best thing you can do for your feathered visitors is offer specially formulated bird foods hung in a good sturdy feeder. Some of these are advertised as ‘squirrel proof’ but use them with caution as hungry squirrels can get trapped in them and become injured. There are also several commercially available products such as “Squirrel Away” which are made from pepper which can be added to the bird food. Squirrels hate the taste but the birds don’t mind it at all.

Getting in the loft

When it comes to baby squirrel time, houses just look like big trees really. Squirrel instinct says climb it and find somewhere snug inside it. So that’s what they do. You might not even know they’re there until one day you hear a gnawing noise and you go to investigate and find little tooth marks in your beams and joists and, even more worryingly, in your wiring. This is a genuine concern and, much as we love squirrels, they’re not ideal lodgers. Thankfully this is a relatively simple thing to solve.

First of all you need to make the loft less attractive to the squirrel. She wants somewhere quiet, dark and safe to raise her babies so make it bright, dark and (seemingly) dangerous. Leave the lights on, put a de-tuned radio up there to make an annoying noise, go up there often and stomp about loudly, and leave something smelling of predators up there e.g. your clothing, a used cat litter tray, or a commercially available chemical deterrent.

Once your loft is no longer a safe, dark, peaceful place you should find Mrs Squirrel takes her babies elsewhere. At this point, it is advisable to have your eaves boarded using UPvC – not with wood as they can simply chew back through. Try to avoid sealing the eaves between March and September when squirrels are breeding. Once the eaves have been boarded you need to do a careful check for any remaining squirrels, particularly babies. Check any piles of material near the edges and in corners for little occupants to make sure no-one gets left behind.

 

The problem with lethal control

Traditional methods of controlling mammalian pests such as poisoning or trapping are often ineffective, environmentally hazardous, socially unacceptable or uneconomic.
– Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Investigation of the use of semiochemicals for vertebrate pest population control, 2001.

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, also have an impact on other species
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here – helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/traditional-methods/

We are sometimes asked if a squirrel can be trapped and moved elsewhere instead. This would be ineffective for the exact same reasons as lethal control. It’s also illegal to release a Grey Squirrel following capture due to their legal status.

The Alternatives

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal – usually this is food, shelter, and nesting sites. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Feed birds in squirrel proof feeders, not on a flat table
  • Trim trees and bushes so they don’t provide an easy route to the feeder
  • Add a squirrel baffle to your feeder pole to stop squirrels climbing it
  • Do your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins

If that proves ineffective, the next step is to actively deter the animals. To do this, you need to offend as many of their senses as possible.

Taste – add peppery products to your bird food. The birds can’t taste it but squirrels don’t like it!
Smell – use commercial deterrent products such as ‘Squirrel Away’, ‘Scoot’ or ‘Keep of My Garden’.
Sight – in your garden, you can use brightly coloured wind spinners or CDs hanging from string to create random movements to spook the squirrels. In your loft, keep the lights turned on so they feel more exposed.
Hearing – in your garden, you can employ sonic deterrent devices or windchimes. In your loft, leave a detuned radio up there, leave the hatch open so household noises drift up, and go up there regularly to shout an stomp about.

The third step is to block access. You don’t be able to block squirrels from entering your garden but, once they’ve moved out of your loft, you can block the eaves with Upvc to prevent them from returning.

There are also growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

As for the wider picture, Grey Squirrels are extremely well established in the UK and a cull can never succeed in eradicating them, it is simply impossible. While the habitat and food are available any culled animals will quickly be replaced by the remaining animals breeding. Any attempted cull can only lead to immense suffering and will do little to help the Red Squirrel whose main enemy is loss of habitat.

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Solving Problems with Rodents

We have one species of rat in the UK – the brown rat or Rattus Norvegicus. It’s worth being aware that this is not the same species associated (incorrectly) with ‘the plague’ (that was Rattus Rattus which is now all but extinct here). There are three species of mice you’re most likely to see in your garden – the wood mouse, house mouse and yellow-necked field mouse.

Rats and mice need do little more than just be seen to have people in a panic. The usual concern is the spread of disease when, in fact, they are no more likely to pass a disease to a human than any other animal. Indeed you are far more likely to contract something from a pet animal than any wildlife.

Rodents play an important ecological role, clearing up spilt food and providing a food supply for foxes, badgers, birds of prey and even hedgehogs! A well-balanced eco-system will ensure that there are enough rodents to provide food but not so many that they become an infestation. Of course, in our world, where we interfere relentlessly, this balance won’t always be easy to achieve. Keeping your patch of the world tidy and not leaving lots of spilt/available food around will help.

But the general message is, if you’re seeing a small number of rats or mice in your garden, there really is no cause for concern.

Common Issues

Most gardens will have a small population of rats and mice visiting without causing any problems. But if their numbers increase or they start to tunnel under patios, decking or sheds, their presence might cause concern.

Rats can pose a threat to small, outdoor pets and will sometimes prey on them. If you keep pets outside, ensure their enclosures are made with strong mesh, not chicken wire, and any runs are sat on paving to prevent burrowing in. Enclosures are best made with metal rather than wood which can be chewed through. Don’t forget to store pet feed in metal storage units too otherwise it will be a major attractant.

Less often, rats and mice might find their way into our homes where they can do damage by nibbling on electrics.

 

The problem with lethal control

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, also have an impact on other species, especially the target species’ predators
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here – helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/traditional-methods/

 

What about trapping them and releasing them elsewhere?

Some well-intentioned people are taking a more compassionate approach by purchasing humane traps and releasing caught individuals. Whilst we admire their attempts to deal with the problem without killing, this method is as ineffective as killing them. The removed individuals will still be replaced by breeding if changes aren’t made to the environment. It is also not really humane as rats and mice are territorial. Resident animals may chase away any new arrivals, causing them to flee to an unsafe area, putting them at greater risk of predation and making it harder for them to find food and a safe nesting area. You should be aware that you become legally responsible for the welfare of any animal in a trap and if your actions lead to it suffering, you could be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

Releasing live animals to a new location …raises potentially serious welfare issues

– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

The Alternatives

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

Removal of the nesting, shelter and roosting places can significantly reduce many types of vertebrate pest problems.
– Biological control of vertebrate pests, Walter E Howard

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal – usually this is food, shelter, and nesting sites. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Feed birds in hanging feeders, not on a flat table
  • Trim trees and bushes so they don’t provide an easy route to the feeder
  • Add a squirrel baffle to your feeder pole to stop rodents climbing it
  • Do your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins
  • Tidy up any overgrown areas which might be providing shelter
  • Store compost, logs, coal etc in sturdy sealable containers

If that proves ineffective, the next step is to actively deter the animals. To do this, you need to offend as many of their senses as possible.

Taste – add peppery products to your bird food. The birds can’t taste it but rodents don’t like it!
Smell – use commercial deterrent products such as ‘Squirrel Away’, ‘Scoot’ or ‘Keep of My Garden’.
Sight – use brightly coloured wind spinners or CDs hanging from string to create random movements to spook the rodents.
Hearing – employ sonic deterrent devices or windchimes to create unpleasant sounds.

The third step is to block access. You’re unlikely to be able to stop rats and mice getting into your garden, but stopping them getting into your house is more straightforward. Just bear in mind that they can squeeze through extremely small holes – rats through half an inch, mice as little as half a centimetre. The most common points of entry are where pipes enter your house or through broken air bricks. Pipe holes can be covered with metal plates or filled with wire wool or expanding foam. Air bricks can be covered with metal mesh such as the purpose made ‘Mouse Mesh’. If rodents are tunnelling in your garden, the most effective way to stop them is to put a paving slab down in the area. Alternatively, shingle is harder for them to burrow into.

There are also growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

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Solving Problems with Pigeons

There are five species of pigeon and dove normally present in the UK – Turtle Doves, Stock Doves, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves and Feral Pigeons/Rock Doves.

There’s a common myth that pigeons are ‘vermin’ so it’s legal to kill them. All UK species of pigeon and dove receive protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act meaning it is usually illegal to harm or kill them or disturb their nests. There are a few exceptions for limited reasons where lethal action is permitted IF non-lethal attempts to resolve the conflict aren’t possible or have failed.

 

Common Issues

On this page, we’ll cover the common complaints an average householder might have about the presence of pigeons. We won’t be covering larger scale/commercial issues. PiCAS are a good source of information for this type of conflict.

‘Stealing’ food meant for other birds

Clearly, no bird understands the concept of ownership. If food is put out, they will happily partake. Contrary to popular belief, small birds like sparrows and tits are not generally ‘scared off’ by the presence of larger birds such as pigeons. Consequently it isn’t really realistic to want to ‘pick and choose’ which birds you do and don’t want to feed. Some feeders claim to prevent larger species of bird from accessing the food but these should be used with caution as they can cause injury.

Nesting on balconies

Rock doves/feral pigeons are naturally cliff nesting birds so balconies are perfect nest spots for them, closely resembling a ledge on a cliff. You should be aware that nesting feral pigeons are protected under law, just as other birds are. This means that it is illegal to disturb or harm their nests or eggs. The only exception is where there is a demonstrable risk to public health or safety and non-lethal methods are not practicable. This is extremely unlikely to apply in this situation – it’s not enough to simply cite the common myth that pigeons are ‘dirty’ or ‘spread disease’. The presence of a nest on a balcony is highly unlikely to pose a health and safety risk especially if you clean up any droppings regularly.

 

The problem with lethal control

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • in all but a few limited circumstances, killing birds is illegal
  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, also have an impact on other species
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here –

https://helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/traditional-methods/

 

The Alternatives

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Feed birds in hanging feeders, not on a flat table. Pigeons do generally have a different feeding style to smaller birds, and are less inclined to feed from suspended feeders. Choose versions with small holes or an outer guard which larger birds can’t access
  • Do your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins
  • Tidy up any overgrown trees which might be providing shelter or nesting sites (outside of nesting season only, otherwise you risk breaking the law)

If that proves ineffective, the next step is to actively deter the animals. To do this, you need to offend as many of their senses as possible. Birds rely more on sight and hearing than taste and smell so that’s where to focus your approach. However, keep in mind, these methods are likely to affect all birds, not just the ones you consider undesirable.

Sight

  • use brightly coloured wind spinners or CDs hanging from string to create random movements
  • drive stakes into the ground and fix plastic bags or sheets of tinfoil to them. As they flap in the wind the birds will find these quite daunting and avoid the area
  • commercially available silhouettes of cats or birds of prey can help to deter them

Sounds

  • sonic deterrent devices or windchimes create unpleasant sounds which may deter them

In the case of nesting pigeons, your only legal option is to wait until the babies have fledged and the nest is no longer in use and then take measures to clear the balcony and prevent the nesting birds returning. Often, just ensuring the balcony is clean and tidy without areas for the birds to hide under will be enough to deter them from nesting there again. It also helps to go out there regularly so the birds see human activity in the area. If the issue persists, the most used solution is to block access to the balcony with netting. However, this must be professionally installed and regularly maintained otherwise it becomes loose and birds can become trapped in it. If this occurs you would be liable for prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act if any suffering is caused.

There are also growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

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Solving Problems with Foxes

In the UK, we have one species of fox – the Red Fox aka Vulpes Vulpes. They are intelligent and versatile animals who have been able to adapt to living in towns and cities. Unfortunately this can sometimes put them in conflict with humans. However, there is a lot of misinformation and myth surrounding them leading some to consider them dangerous to people or pets. Truthfully, foxes are usually scavengers and aren’t aggressive, though they will take unsecured small pets. Most of the conflicts are examples of their curious and cheeky natures and issues can invariably be solved using some understanding of their behaviour. Here we will try to answer some common questions and accusations and suggest some practical ways to reduce the impact unwanted fox visitors have on your life.

First of all, let’s a few things up…

Some Common Misunderstandings

This one is so simple to answer – no. There have been a tiny number of reported incidents of foxes harming humans and none of these have been independently verified. It’s also important not to use the word ‘attack’ too easily – an attack means to take aggressive action against. Foxes are not aggressive animals and they do not see humans as potential food. They are, however, very curious animals and it’s most likely that occasions where they have bitten people are either attempts to defend themselves from a threat (for example, in the case where a child pulled on the tail of a fox which was protruding from under a building) or them curiously exploring something with their teeth. Basic common sense can prevent these incidents – never try to touch a wild animal and ensure that your home is secure so that wild animals cannot get in.

Highly unlikely. Whilst foxes will certainly take and eat a dead cat, perhaps one hit by a car, there is very little evidence of them attacking healthy cats. The average weight of a fox is 5kg, the same as the average cat. Foxes are omnivorous scroungers whose prey tends to be insects, amphibians and rodents. They are not equipped to tackle an animal of equal weight with a formidable set of claws. They’re simply not that brave and there are far, far easier meals to be had! A study of nearly 2000 fox droppings found just 8 of them contained cat fur. Of course, even that doesn’t mean that those foxes actually killed cats. Most often, cats and foxes coexist without issue but there are many reports (and videos on YouTube) of cats chasing foxes out of their gardens. It is sensible to keep your cats in at night both in order to protect them from harm and to protect your local wildlife from them.

In fact, evidence suggests that, overall, fox numbers are stable. There are some areas where their numbers have increased and others where they have fallen and it’s thought that the overall effect leaves population numbers about the same as they were 15 years ago. Foxes are an apex predator – they do not rely on a predator to control their numbers and their population size is dictated by available territory and food. It’s possible that there may be small areas of increased population where there is high availability of food but, as a trade off, high numbers of foxes in a small area increase the chance of them sharing diseases such as mange which then has the effect of reducing the numbers again.

The vast majority of foxes remain very timid creatures. Inevitably, foxes living in an urban environment become more accustomed to the presence of humans and become a little more relaxed in our presence but are still far from tame. There is, however, a dangerous trend of people feeding foxes in a way which is inappropriate. By all means feed foxes in your garden but it is inadvisable to let them associate humans with food, feed them on a plate or attempt to hand feed them. If feeding foxes it is best to scatter food around the garden before dark so they do not see you put it out. Keep amounts small and don’t feed them every night (unless treating them for an illness or injury). Allowing foxes to associate humans with food can cause them to become too comfortable with us and to behave inappropriately e.g. coming into houses. Foxes are wild animals and it is essential that we remember and respect that.

There is also some evidence from wildlife rescuers that foxes affected by toxoplasmosis display altered behaviour. If you do see a fox behaving strangely then contact your local wildlife rescue for advice as there may be a medical reason behind it.

In theory, foxes do suffer from some ailments which humans and dogs can also contract. However, the chances of catching something from an animal are directly relative to the amount of contact you have with them. Unless you are handling a fox or his faeces it is extremely unlikely that you would ever contract an illness from them. There is a slightly higher risk that your dog could pick up sarcoptic mange if a fox affected with this parasite spends a considerable amount of time in your garden, though this is rare. If you are concerned, follow the advice about deterring foxes from your garden below. Healthy dogs do not often get mange (there is a link between general health and mange) and it is simple to treat if they do. Although it can be fatal for a wild fox, this is usually a result of secondary bacterial infections caused by prolonged scratching. There is no reason it should be a serious condition in a well cared for pet.

Common Issues

With the myths dispelled, lets talk about some of the issues foxes can cause.

Foxes are mostly scavengers but will take ‘easy’ prey. Rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens are prey animals of just the right size for a small omnivore like a fox to take and keeping them in enclosures makes them very easy to catch. However, this risk is extremely easy to mitigate. All pets should be housed in secure accommodation using strong mesh – chicken wire is not sufficient – with a roof and floor to prevent access by other animals. They should be shut away safely at night and housing should be closed using padlocks, not just twist latches. It is absolutely the responsibility of any pet owner to ensure that their pet is kept safe from threats including wild predators.

There are often accusations that foxes kill for fun. This is not true. The old story of a fox in a hen house killing more than it can eat is easily explained. A fox is stimulated to kill by the presence, sound, smell and movement of a prey animal. If there is one such animal it will kill one. If there are thirty its instincts tell it to keep killing. Bear in mind that nowhere in nature would a prey species be congregated and confined in such a small area. The fox lacks the foresight to understand how many it can and can’t eat. It is operating on a purely instinctive level.

Foxes digging in your garden is usually for one of three main reasons.
1. Seeking food
This can be caused by using fertilisers such as bone meal which smell like potential food to the fox. Or the fox may be digging to look for worms and beetles.
2. Creating a den
This will usually be a larger hole at the base of a tree or under a shed for example. Clearing the area so it is more ‘exposed’ will make it less attractive to the fox. Blocking the den once it’s in use is illegal.
3. Mischief/Play
Particularly around September when the cubs leave their parents, you might notice increased activity in your garden as the cubs seek out territories and practice the skills they need to survive. This will usually pass in a few weeks when they settle down to start breeding.

Any garden will see wildlife passing through and all wildlife will need to relieve themselves occasionally. But if you have repeated offerings from foxes it may be that your property is on the edge of a territory and the fox is defecating there as a signal to others. Follow the advice about making your garden less attractive to foxes below.

Foxes emit a fairly distinctive and slightly chilling ‘shriek’ as a form of communication. You may find this particularly noticeable around January time when the foxes are mating. This increased noise won’t last for more than a few weeks. If the talkative individuals are visiting your garden, following the advice for deterrence below should help.

Foxes aren’t malicious or nasty but they certainly are cheeky and mischievous. There are plenty of incidents caught on camera of them picking up dog or children’s toys and playing with them. But no-one taught them what is and isn’t a suitable toy the way you did your child or puppy so most things are fair game. They will ‘steal’ plant pots, shoes, gloves, and pretty much anything else which is small and easy to throw about for fun. The solution here is simple, I’m afraid. Don’t leave anything important in reach! 

The problem with lethal control

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, are illegal to use against foxes and also have an impact on other species
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here – helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/traditional-methods/

What about having it trapped and released elsewhere?

This is a common request, often we’re asked if foxes can or should be removed from residential areas and released in the country ‘where they belong’. Trapping foxes is ineffective for exactly the same reasons as killing them – another fox will simply move in and take over. It is a myth to suggest that foxes belong in the country. A fox born in an urban area would not thrive in a rural environment. The fox is a territorial animal and to dump it in the middle of an alien area will be extremely distressing for the animal. It will struggle to find food, will be challenged by resident foxes and be more prone to being killed on unknown roads. Trapping and releasing a fox away from its own territory would likely be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Alternatives

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal – usually this is food, shelter, and nesting sites. Your garden may be attractive to foxes because of the availability of food, because its environment offers good cover, because it contains a good den site or because it is on a territory boundary. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Cease use of blood or bone based fertilisers
  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Do your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins
  • Tidy up any overgrown areas which might be providing shelter
  • Ensure that structures such as sheds, garages, greenhouses and coal bunkers are secure and foxes cannot dig underneath them
  • Block access to your pond with netting or plants to prevent the foxes using it as a water source

If this is insufficient to solve your issue then you can look at actively deterring the fox from your garden. This can be done by upsetting the fox using sight, sound or smell.

  • Sight – Install commercially available devices which flash red LED lights when activated by movement, or a motion activated security light so the fox feels more exposed in your garden
  • Sound – Utilise a sonic deterrent device which emits a noise at a frequency inaudible to humans but which foxes may find irritating
  • Smell – Use chemical deterrents such as Scoot – these are designed to disrupt the foxes’ efforts to scent mark the area making them believe the territory is taken and encouraging them to move on. These products are especially useful where fouling by foxes is your main concern and when applied directly to the fox’s scat. Only use products licensed for this purpose otherwise you will be breaking the law.

There are also growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

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Solving Problems with Corvids

In the UK, Corvids refers to Carrion Crows, Hooded Crows, Magpies, Jays, Jackdaws, Rooks, Ravens and Choughs. The species most likely to come into conflict with households are Carrion Crows and Magpies who are regular, confident garden visitors. They tend to be bird marmite – many love and appreciate them for their intelligence and willingness to develop relationships with humans who are kind to them. But some find them noisy, messy or are upset by their predation on other species.

Common Issues

Corvids sometimes attract criticism for “stealing” eggs and chicks from the nests of other birds. Of course this is very distressing to witness but it is simply part of nature in the same way as when a osprey takes a fish, a kestrel takes a mouse or a hedgehog eats a slug! Predation is a natural part of regulating species numbers. Yes, they will sometimes take birds who are threatened such as song birds but these birds aren’t threatened because of natural predation. They are threatened because of habitat destruction and the introduction of unnatural predators such as domestic cats.

Larger birds may sometimes “hog” food left out for other garden visitors and, since what goes in must come out, can be a little messy.

Corvids can also be quite vocal and some may object to their noise, especially during the baby season. At this time of year, parents birds can also defend their nests and babies with considerable passion, including ‘bombing’ people and pets.

 

The problem with lethal control

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, also have an impact on other species
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here – helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/traditional-methods/

 

The Alternatives

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Feed birds in hanging feeders, not on a flat table. Choose versions with small holes which larger birds can’t access
  • Place your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins
  • Tidy up any overgrown trees which might be providing shelter or nesting sites (outside of nesting season only, otherwise you risk breaking the law)

If that proves ineffective, the next step is to actively deter the animals. To do this, you need to offend as many of their senses as possible. Birds rely more on sight and hearing than taste and smell so that’s where to focus your approach.

  • use brightly coloured wind spinners or CDs hanging from string to create random movements
  • drive stakes into the ground and fix plastic bags or sheets of tinfoil to them. As they flap in the wind the birds will find these quite daunting and avoid the area
  • commercially available silhouettes of cats or birds of prey can help to deter them
  • sonic deterrent devices or wind chimes create unpleasant sounds which may deter them, though these may also affect other bird species

If the advice above isn’t effective then you may benefit from bespoke assessment and advice from one of the growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

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Why Traditional ‘Pest-Control’ Doesn’t Work

We live on a small island which is getting rather overcrowded. As we fight for space with other residents, it is inevitable there will be some clashes.

Traditionally the answer has been to shoot, gas, poison, hunt, snare or trap. But scientific studies are increasingly showing that methods which focus on removing individual animals, whether through killing them or through removing them by using a cage trap, are inferior.

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to defeat, for it is momentary.

– Ghandi

 

Why lethal methods fail

Quite simply, other animals remaining in the area will move in and breed to replace any killed or removed.

Removing rodents usually only leaves a temporary void, soon re-filled by immigrants and the rapidly proliferating descendants of surviving animals

– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource. Lethal methods may bring about a short term improvement but it won’t last and it would be necessary to keep killing. We suspect this is why most pest control companies use these methods – the repeat business is much more lucrative than actually solving the problem!

 

Other issues with lethal control

Not only are lethal methods ineffective, they’re also dangerous and cruel.

Poison

Poison is often used to kill rats and mice but its use on many other species is illegal. The first issue with using poison is that, in order for there to be a significant pest issue, they must have access to food and water. Trying to entice animals to eat a block of poison rather than whatever other food is available is very difficult. Rodents are intelligent animals and naturally wary of anything new. They quickly make the association between the bait and their friends dying and stop eating it.

The second issue is that rodents are evolving immunity to the poisons used to kill them. Warfarin used to be commonly used but no longer has the desired effect due to overuse.
Poison also kills indiscriminately. When a nursing female is affected, her dependent babies will be left to starve slowly.

Most rodenticides kill by causing the animal to bleed internally. Death can take several days and is excruciating.

anticoagulant poisons, the most common means of controlling rodents, generally take several days to kill, during which time they cause distress, disability and/or pain
– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

Although called ‘rodenticides’, the poisons used to kill rodents do not exclusively harm them. They are just as dangerous to humans, pets, and other wildlife as they are to rodents. Every year there are tragic stories of dogs, hedgehogs etc consuming poison intended for rodents and suffering terribly. Even if deployed in a way to prevent non-target species from accessing it, poisoned animals are often then consumed by predators leading to secondary poisoning of animals such as foxes and birds of prey.

poisoning is a significant mortality factor in red kite populations
– Anticoagulant rodenticides in red kites (Milvus milvus) in Britain 2015

Used inside your home, poison brings the very real risk of animals dying within your house, often in cavities which are not easily accessed. You’re then left with decaying bodies and the resulting smell, flies, maggots and health risks.

Glue traps

Glue traps are boards which are covered in glue. They are placed in areas the rodents commonly pass through and the animals become stuck to them. This either enables the pest controller/householder to kill the stuck animals, or they’re left to die from dehydration, starvation or secondary issues such as blood loss from damage caused by escape attempts. These are truly evil contraptions and organisations such as the RSPCA are actively working to get them banned.

Sticky boards, to which rodents become adhered by the feet and fur until they are killed or simply eventually die, …raise very serious welfare concerns
rodents are likely to experience pain and distress through being trapped, the physical effects of the adhesive on functioning, and trauma resulting from panic and attempts to escape, such as forceful hair removal, torn skin and broken limbs
– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

 

Snap Traps

Snap traps involve a bar deploying on to the target animals head or neck to cause death. Even at their best, these traps commonly take up tp three minutes to kill. Living for three minutes with a catastrophic head or neck injury must involve unimaginable pain and fear. And that’s the best case scenario

7–14% of wild rodents caught by snap traps may be injured without being instantly killed
– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

Snap traps can also commonly harm non-target animals and wildlife rescues often see hedgehogs suffering horrendous injuries from this sort of trap.

What about trapping the animals and releasing them elsewhere?

There is a widespread public belief that live capture and relocation is a humane solution to wildlife conflicts in and around the home and garden. Research to date shows that the technique is not particularly humane. Relocated animals released in an area already containing the species move extensively in an effort to find a new home not already occupied by other individuals. Mortality of such relocated animals is high. In addition, removal of animals may create a vacuum at the problem site which is quickly filled by new animals.
– Maryland Taskforce on Non Lethal Wildlife Management.

It may seem more humane to catch the problem animal in a trap and relocate them elsewhere. But studies have shown that animals relocated in this way have a poor survival rate. Territorial species may be attacked by animals already resident in the area, causing them to travel considerable distances in an attempt to find their own new territory. Without knowledge of sources of shelter and food in the new area, relocated individuals are at greatly increased risk of succumbing to starvation or predation.

So what is the answer?

Changes to the habitat are the key to humane and effective methods of wildlife control. Animals are attracted by food, shelter and by safe areas in which to nest. By identifying and removing those things, the animals can be discouraged from breeding and encouraged to disperse.
Making the habitat unsuitable to the species in question…is a much more…effective procedure for controlling the offending animals than just attempting to…remove individual animals.
– Biological control of vertebrate pests, Walter E Howard

Put simply, the ‘pest’ is a symptom, not the problem itself. Killing the pest is a bit like catching drips from a leak in a bucket. It looks like you’ve solved the problem because your carpet is no longer getting wet, but until you fix the broken pipe, more drips will keep coming.

Preventative methods such as rodent-proofing are …humane, as well as
an essential — and probably under-used — component of effective control.
– THE HUMANENESS OF RODENT PEST CONTROL
G Mason and K E Littin

Our articles at https://helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/problem-wildlife/ detail how to use holistic, humane methods of habitat modification, prevention and deterrence to tackle some of the most common scenarios. We are happy to offer free, general advice regarding humane wildlife deterrence (just drop us an email) or we’ve gathered details of some companies which specialise in no-kill pest control here.

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Wildlife Management Resources

The following resources may be helpful in learning more about, buying resources for, or purchasing services relating to humane wildlife management.

N.B.: We have done our best to check the suitability of these links but a listing here should not be considered an endorsement

foxolutions.co.uk – sells products to assist with fox deterrence

foxproject.org.uk – charity offering advice about humane fox deterrence

nfws.org.uk – charity offering advice about humane fox deterrence

fox-a-gon.co.uk – a humane deterrence service for individuals, companies and organisations, particularly in London and the south east

humanewildlifesolutions.co.uk – award winning company offering a non-lethal alternative to pest control all across Europe

thefoxwebsite.net – science led site produced by Bristol University with a wealth of information about foxes and their behaviour

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Solving Problems with Bats

There are an amazing 18 species of bat in the UK. In general, they have a good relationship with humans, and enjoy considerable legal protection. They play an important role in the ecosystem keeping insect numbers in check with even the smallest of them being able to consume thousands of insects a night! There has been some discussion about bats and rabies in recent years – although bats can be vectors of diseases including rabies, the risk is minimal and usually only associated with interfering with bats and their roosts. Due to their legal protection, all resolution of bat issues needs authorisation by a Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation.

 

Common Issues

Some of the species of bat found in the UK may sometimes roost in loft spaces. They don’t chew or cause any serious damage but their very sticky urine can obviously be messy and large colonies can be noisy. As it’s illegal to disturb bat roosts, their presence can put a block on building work.

 

The Problem with Lethal Control

Bats are amongst the most highly protected of Britain’s wildlife and it is illegal to injure or kill them.

 

The Alternatives

It is actually illegal to handle bats unless to seek treatment for an injury or illness and it’s also illegal to set traps for them or do anything to damage or block access to their roosts so taking any direct action yourself is not legally possible. If you have bats in your loft then The Bat Conservation Trust is a good source of advice. Before taking any action including repair or maintenance work to the area you will need to contact your Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation

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Rescue Criticism and Abuse

Getting hold of a rescue isn’t always easy and we understand that’s frustrating and stressful when you have a wild animal in need of help. You may be tempted to get angry – why aren’t they answering the phone? Why aren’t they calling me back? Why can’t they help?

What is wildlife rescue really like?

The TV perhaps has given the impression that wildlife rescues are all run from big shiny centres with plenty of paid staff and a fleet of liveried vans. In reality, the vast majority of wildlife rescues are run by normal people, usually from their home or a shed in their back garden. The folks caring for the animals are almost always volunteers giving up their free time or, in the biggest rescues, perhaps they’re lucky enough to be paid minimum wage and work well beyond their contracted hours to make sure the animals get the care they need.

Over the busy Spring and Summer period their day likely starts about 6am and finishes around 10pm and includes

  • Feeding baby garden birds as often as every 15 minutes. Often so many of them that by the time you’ve fed them all it’s time to start again.
  • Feeding baby mammals every couple of hours including through the night.
  • Cleaning every single cage out at least once a day, often more. Animals are messy!
  • Fully assessing every new admission for what care they need.
  • Taking sick and injured animals to the vet. Often to a pre-arranged appointment where they have to wait their turn just like you and your cat.
  • Administering medications, fluids, syringe feeds, cleaning wounds, pulling maggots out of orifices, splinting broken bones.
  • Taking upwards of 50 calls a day and trying to triage the ones which actually represent an animal in need of help, which ones need to be admitted, and which need to go direct to a vet for emergency medical care.
  • Making heart-breaking life and death decisions 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, no break, no summer holiday, just relentless blood, suffering, and pain.
  • And somehow finding time to answer emails, update patient records, keep up with the admin required by law, educate and advocate on social media, and find ways to raise money to make all this possible.

We wrote a post on our social media to try and give some insight. This isn’t hyperbole, this is genuinely a typical day for most small rescues.

https://www.facebook.com/HelpWildlife/posts/4222432324484876

 

Why aren’t they answering the phone?

Because they’re busy doing all of the things listed above and more. Very few rescues have reception staff so it’s usually the same person who is looking after the animals trying to take calls. It’s simply not possible to answer every call they receive as well as take proper care of their animals.

 

Why haven’t they called me back?

Perhaps you left a message and waited for a rescue to call you back but they never did. Surely that’s the least they can do? Well, again, returning all those messages takes time, time they often just don’t have. And if they’re full, they’d be returning messages just to say no. In recent years we’ve seen a distressing increase in rescuers being abused. When they say they can’t help they get emotionally blackmailed, shouted at, sworn at, told they don’t care and they’re useless. During a period when they are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up, of course they’re going to prioritise caring for the animals they already have rather than subject themselves to the risk of abuse when they have to say no.

 

The rescue I called ‘wasn’t interested’/couldn’t be bothered to help

Rescues have to say no sometimes. Chances are you’ve seen media reports of rescues which have been raided by the RSPCA who found animals in awful conditions leading to animals being seized and the rescuer being prosecuted. That’s what happens when rescues don’t say no. It’s not that they don’t care or can’t be bothered, but they have limited time, space and funds and they have to stop somewhere. Every animal they can’t help haunts them but they can only do so much without standards of care becoming unacceptable. Their primary responsibility is to the animals in their care already.

 

How you can help

Please, keep all of this in mind before you criticise wildlife rescues. While you’re trying to help one animal, they are helping dozens, even hundreds at once. When you found a wild animal in need it was possibly the first time you’d given much thought to the plight of wildlife in the UK but they have been struggling for years to redress the balance as best they can. Before you criticise them for ‘not doing enough’ ask yourself honestly what you have done until now. How much have you donated to wildlife rescue to ensure they have the funds they need for vet bills? How much of your time have you given to help clean cages or transport animals to rescue? Now you’ve had a glimpse of the reality of wildlife rescue what are you going to do to help? Because caring for our wildlife is ALL of our responsibilities and rescuers can’t do it without support. Rather than getting angry, do something to help ensure they’re able to help the next person in your position.

Often when we suggest that to people we hear ‘Oh no, I’m far too busy, I work full time’ or ‘I can’t volunteer, I have children!’. Rescuers are not a special breed of human who don’t have to work to live and don’t have families. Many work full time, have kids, have caring responsibilities or health issues. But they make time because they care so passionately. Many rescues close each year through exhaustion, lack of funds, compassion fatigue, or just being worn down by constant abuse and criticism on top of the trauma of seeing relentless death, cruelty and suffering every day. You can either help them stay afloat or you can add to their burden. Please choose wisely.

 


Some examples of posts wildlife rescues have felt forced to make in response to the unreasonable pressure people have been placing on them and the abuse they have received

 

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Releasing or rehoming hedgehogs in your garden

We receive many enquiries each year from householders looking to release hedgehogs into their gardens. Often this is associated with a desire for some help with controlling numbers of slugs.

First of all it’s worth noting that hedgehogs don’t actually do a great deal to control slugs. Some estimates suggest that slugs make up as little as 5% of their diet. So if your main motivation for introducing a hedgehog to your garden is slug control, you’re likely to be disappointed unfortunately.

The second important thing to note is that if you do not already have hedgehogs visiting your garden then there is probably a good reason why. Possible explanations include

  • lack of suitable access (do make sure there is a 5 inch gap under your fence so that they can get through)
  • yours or surrounding gardens are just too tidy for hedgehogs (they are called “hedge” hogs for a reason and like areas with plenty of low growing shrubs for cover
  • there is a large badger population in the area which has predated on the hedgehogs
  • you or your neighbours are using slug pellets or other chemicals in the garden which are very harmful to hedgehogs

Hedgehog rescues will not release hedgehogs into gardens which don’t already have an established, thriving population of hedgehogs. To do so would likely result in the death of the released animals.

In order to provide either a release site or permanent home for hedgehogs, your garden will need to meet specific requirements to ensure the animals’ survival and welfare.

 

Release sites

If you already have a population of hedgehogs visiting your garden then you may be able to help with providing a release site. You will likely be asked to

  • care for the hedgehog in a rabbit run for approximately two weeks while it acclimatises to the area
  • provide food and support for the hedgehog while it settles in to its new territory
  • undertake not to use any chemicals in your garden
  • keep any resident dogs under control so they cannot worry or harm the hedgehogs
  • ensure the garden is safe for the hedgehog and doesn’t contain litter, mesh, wire, netting etc and that ponds/swimming pools are covered or escape ramps provided.

In addition, rescues are unlikely to release hedgehogs into gardens with visiting badgers or which are on busy roads.

 

Permanent homes

Rescues sometimes have disabled hedgehogs, for example those who are missing a leg, or are blind. These hedgehogs are vulnerable in the wild so some rescues look for enclosed gardens where they can live semi-wild. To help in this way you will need to

  • have a garden totally enclosed by a wall or fence which is sunken into the ground to prevent the hedgehog digging out
  • provide food for the hedgehog on a daily basis
  • catch the hedgehog regularly to check for health issues and monitor its weight
  • make provision for the care of the hedgehog if you go on holiday
  • undertake not to use any chemicals in your garden
  • keep any resident dogs under control so they cannot worry or harm the hedgehogs
  • ensure the garden is safe for the hedgehog and doesn’t contain litter, mesh, wire, netting etc.

A garden with a pond is unlikely to be a suitable home for a disabled hedgehog.

If you meet the criteria for either type of garden then do please get in touch with your local hedgehog rescuer to offer your help. You can search for your local hedgehog rescue by putting your location into the search facility at helpwildlife.co.uk/map.

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Finding Help for ‘Vermin’

If you’re looking for help with an animal which might generally be considered vermin, the main take away from this article is that there are legal restrictions on helping some species so always check a rescue’s policies when calling about an unpopular species. If you struggle to find help, our volunteers (who all believe that life is life no matter what species it happens to be) will be happy to help if you contact us via our helpdesk.


We hear quite a bit of talk about ‘vermin’. Usually in the context of a bird or animal not being worthy of help, needing to be killed, or struggling to find help because they are ‘classed as vermin’. It’s something which undoubtedly leads to a great deal of unnecessary suffering so we wanted to take the opportunity to dispel some myths.

First and foremost, it is important to clarify that NO birds or animals are classed as vermin. Vermin is a purely subjective term – what one person considers to be vermin will be different to another. Vermin is a term with NO legal meaning. You can see for yourself in this record of a discussion in the House of Lords.

That said, certain species are mentioned in articles of legislation which can mean that they can or must be treated differently. The main legislation here is Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) which states that a person is guilty of an offence if he releases or allows to escape into the wild an animal which is not ordinarily resident in or a regular visitor to Great Britain or which is listed in Part 1 of Schedule 9. It is important to note the term ‘ordinarily resident’ – this is not the same as native. Some species may not have originally been native to the UK but are now well established and considered resident so there is no longer any restriction on their release. We have tried to summarise the position of commonly considered ‘pest’ species below. Disclaimer: we are not legal experts and advise you clarify the legislation for yourself before taking any potentially illegal actions.

Canada Geese

It is illegal to release Canada Geese without a license as they are listed in Schedule 9 of the WCA. In practice, they are commonly treated and released by most wildlife rescues. We recommend you check the policies of any rescue you approach for help with a goose.

Rabbits

The Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 forbids the release of Non-indigenous rabbits. This does not include the European Rabbit which is the species commonly found in the UK. You should generally find it straightforward to find help for a rabbit casualty.

Mink

It is illegal to release mink as they are listed in schedule 9 of the WCA and covered by the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932. They can be kept in captivity with a license. You will likely struggle to find help with an injured mink as they are quite dangerous animals and difficult to keep.

Muntjac deer

It is illegal to release muntjac as they are listed in Schedule 9 of the WCA. It used to be possible to apply for a license to release them but this changed in December 2019. Wildlife rescues are now forced to either permanently house or cull any such animals brought to them. If you need help with a muntjac, please contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk for bespoke advice.

Grey Squirrels

It is illegal to release Grey Squirrels as they are listed in Schedule 9 of the WCA. It used to be possible to apply for a license to release them but this changed in December 2019. Wildlife rescues are now forced to either permanently house or cull any such animals brought to them. If, like us, you think this is abhorrent, please help Urban Squirrels campaign for a change to the law. If you need help with a grey squirrel, please contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk for bespoke advice.

Rats

It is important to note that the species listed in Section 9 of the WCA is Rattus Rattus – the black rat. The species commonly found in the UK is Rattus Norvegicus. Although not native, they have been here since the early 1700s so are considered ordinarily resident. Therefore it is not illegal to treat or release them. However, they have probably the worst reputation of any UK wildlife and there is some concern about rats being infected with potential zoonotic diseases (those which can be passed from animals to humans) such as leptospirosis and hantavirus which means that many rescues won’t care for them.

Mice

Although house mice (mus musculus) are technically non-native, they are well established and not listed under Schedule 9 of the WCA. Long tailed field mice and yellow necked mice are native. There are therefore no legal restrictions on the treatment or release of mice and most rescues will treat them in our experience.

Pigeons

Perhaps the most misunderstood species. We often hear of rescues and vets refusing to treat them because they are a ‘pest’ or ‘vermin’ and to do so would be illegal. There are no legal restrictions on the treatment and release of pigeons. Most rescues will now accept pigeons though not all, sadly, give them the same priority as other birds. It’s worth asking the rescue you contact what their approach is before surrendering.

Gulls

As for pigeons, these birds have a bad reputation but there is no law against caring for and releasing them. In fact, some species are listed as vulnerable and have extra legal protections so are in need of all the help they can get.


We aim, in our directory, to identify which species rescues can help with and this is broken down by many of the species listed above. Just go to directory.helpwildlife.co.uk, enter your location, and click on the ‘cog’ on the right to open up the ability to search rescues by species. However, our list is not definitive so if you do not see a suitable rescue listed in your area, please try others nearby and ask if they can help. If you’re having trouble finding a rescue place, please get in touch via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk

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Sending an Animal to Rescue in an Uber

In our experience, most Uber drivers are quite happy to take a well-contained wildlife casualty to rescue on your behalf. There’s no need to travel with the animal so the cost will only be for a one way journey. Here’s a step by step guide on how to accomplish this.

  • Ensure you have the casualty contained. A well secured, strong cardboard box is suitable in most cases, ideally lined with a towel for grip and comfort. Remove any food and water so it doesn’t get spilled. Seal the box securely with tape and create air holes in the top and side to ensure there is plenty of air flow. The box is then best placed within a larger ‘bag for life’ style shopping bag with handles to provide extra protection and so that the driver can carry and pass to the wildlife rescue/rehabber easily.

  • Make sure you have a rescue place lined up, that the rescue are happy and able to receive the animal via Uber soon, and you have the address details for the rescue.
  • Download the Uber app if you haven’t already done so and check that they are operating in your area by typing in your collection postcode and the destination postcode. At this point you will see a quote for the cost of the journey. If you have tried other options and cannot afford the cost we may be able to help cover this (let us know via our helpdesk). If Uber isn’t available in your area, it’s worth contacting local minicab companies as they may also be willing to help.
  • Check you have everything ready as they will often arrive to you quite quickly and then press ‘accept’ to confirm the journey. You will see the name of the driver, car model and number plate on the screen. There is at this time an option to also send a message labelled ‘any pickup notes?’.

Here you can type in that it is a securely contained animal to be delivered to a wildlife rescue and that they just need to pass the bag to someone at the other end who is waiting ready to receive it. A phone number for the recipient can also be put here in case of any questions the other end.

  • When the driver arrives, they generally prefer to be met outside and may ask you to place the bag on the back seat of the car for them.
  • Once they leave, please follow the journey on the app as the driver will type a message to you if they have any problems. You’ll also be able to see when the animal is delivered successfully. Be sure to leave the driver a 5 star rating for their help.
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Step 5: Getting A Wildlife Casualty to Rescue

If you have a small casualty they can be transported to rescue in the box in which they are contained. Ensure there is a towel in the box with them so they have something to grip, and, if you haven’t already done so, remove any food or water so this doesn’t spill on the journey.

If you have access to a car then the box can then be placed on the seat and secured with the seat belt to prevent the box from moving too much and causing the animal distress. Try to keep the car quiet by keeping conversation to a minimum and the stereo off – remember that to the casualty, human voices are a source of fear.

 

What if I don’t drive?

Your first instinct may be to expect the rescue to pick the animal up from you. TV might have given the impression that animal rescues have a fleet of shiny white vans and uniformed employees on hand to pick animals up but the reality for most wildlife rescues is that they rely on unpaid volunteers who are fully occupied cleaning, feeding and medicating their many patients. If they were to leave the rescue to collect casualties, the welfare of the animals in their care would be compromised.

If you find a casualty and can’t drive it to the rescue yourself, please try your very best to get it there using one of the solutions below before politely asking the rescue whether they may have a volunteer available to help (and being understanding if they don’t).

  1. Take public transport. The casualty won’t find this any more or less stressful than travelling in a car. Just cover their box/carrier with a towel so they can’t see out.
  2. Ask a friend, family member or neighbour to drive you or take the animal to rescue on your behalf.
  3. Contact a local pet ambulance service. Many such businesses do rescue work on the side and may be happy to deliver the wildlife casualty for free or at a reduced rate. You can find them by googling ‘pet ambulance’ and your area.
  4. Post in a local social media group to ask for help. This is very often successful as most groups will contain an animal lover happy to help. Your chances of finding someone are even better if you post in a local vegetarian/vegan group or one dedicated to pets. Just put your town into the site’s search bar and you should see various options come up.
  5. Call an Uber. Many Uber drivers are happy to deliver contained casualties to rescues themselves so you wouldn’t need to travel with the animal. In cases of genuine hardship, where you have exhausted all other options, we may be able to help you with the costs of this. There’s full guidance on how to do this at https://helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/uber/
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