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Stray Racing Pigeons

Although not actually wildlife, lost racing pigeons are the cause of thousands of calls to wildlife rescues each year, so an issue which needs to be covered here. After years of picking up the pieces we are not a fans of the “sport” of racing pigeons. Essentially it involves releasing domesticated animals into the wild and taking a gamble on whether they can survive long enough to make it home.

If you wish to read more on our experiences and thoughts on pigeon racing you can do so here, but otherwise read on for advice on what to do if you find a lost one.

 

When to rescue

If the bird has been caught by a cat or dog
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age or species, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septicaemia. Any bird caught by a dog should be properly assessed for injuries.

If the bird is obviously injured
If you can see a wound, or a wing or leg is obviously damaged then the bird needs help. Survival is unlikely with an injury unless the bird receives treatment.

A bird has been hit by a car
The bird may just be stunned but it should be checked by a vet or rescue for injuries.

A ringed bird is acting ‘tame’ and not avoiding people
If the bird is in danger or behaving tame, it will need immediate rescue. Often the birds are sufficiently exhausted and/or tame to be captured quite easily.

 

When to take other action

If the bird is on its own but still flying
If the bird is on its own but still loose and able to fly, it may be that the best you can do is provide food and water for a few days and hope that the bird recovers sufficient strength to continue its journey. If the bird doesn’t fly away, looks unwell or injured or is in danger, then it will need to be rescued.

 

When to leave alone

A ringed bird which is integrated into a wild flock
If you happen to see a ringed bird as part of a wild flock, and the bird appears fully integrated into the flock, looks in good condition and isn’t injured or unwell, you can leave well enough alone. Some racing pigeons are lucky and sensible enough to join a wild flock and, in this scenario, they learn wild behaviour from the flock and usually go on to have a normal wild life.

 

What next?

Your options are as follows

1) Provide the bird with a few days bed and board and then release it to find its way home

We would advise against this not least because there may be a good reason why the bird has failed to find its way home, such as a health issue or simply a lack of fitness which has not been rectified by a short rest. Releasing an unfit bird could be a breach of the Animal Welfare Act. The bird could have a long journey home and will have to evade predators, power lines, poor weather etc en route. Even under ideal circumstances many racing pigeons don’t make it home and these would be far from ideal circumstances, not least because the bird won’t have its flock of loft mates flying alongside as it would in a race.

2) Contact the birds “owner”

You may find that their details are stamped on the underside of the wing. If not, take note of the numbers on the ring on the bird’s leg and you will then be able to report the bird to the relevant pigeon racing group. They usually say they will contact you back within 48 hours, not including weekends, so you’ll need to be prepared to feed and house the bird in the meantime. However, we strongly advise that, on speaking to the owner, you check what will happen to the bird on its return. Our experience is that the usual response from the owner is that they do not want the bird and it will be culled as it has failed. You may be asked to let the bird go after a few days rest to find its own way home. We would advise against this for the reasons given above. We recommend that you insist the owner either pays for a courier or collects the bird in person, both to ensure the bird arrives safely and because this is a good way to ensure the owner really does want the bird back and won’t simply wring its neck.

3) Seek sanctuary for the bird

You may, like us, feel that pigeon racing is a cruel past time and feel reluctant to return the bird to a place where it will again be released to potentially become lost, exhausted or injured again, or perhaps worse. Our article on the ethics of pigeon racing here explains our objections to the sport. Perhaps after being advised that the bird will be culled, you may decide not to return the bird to its owner or gain permission from them to rehome it. You can then either seek permanent sanctuary for the bird with an animal rescue or seek a wildlife rescue that will rehabilitate the bird so that it can join the wild flocks. This takes time – it is not simply a case of releasing them so please do not just let the bird go. But some racing pigeons can regain their wild instincts with expert intervention. Not all wildlife rescues wish to get involved to this degree or have the facilities to do so, so you may need to ring round a bit. Sometimes domestic animal charities, especially those with facilities for pet birds, are the best bet for somewhere which can offer permanent sanctuary.

 

Finding Help

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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Oiled Birds

We’ve all seen the images of sea birds covered in oil following shipping disasters. But this a potential hazard facing birds further in land as well.

From time to time rivers and lakes can also be affected by pollution. This isn’t always cause for concern. There is a phenomena known as “urban run off” which occurs after heavy rainfall. Essentially, the rain washes the oil from the roads down the drains and into rivers. The water then gets the tell tale light reflecting film on it and looks like it is severely polluted. In fact this level of contamination is unlikely to cause the birds any real harm.

 

When to Intervene

In the following circumstances please notify both a local wildlife rescue and the Environment Agency

  • There’s a strong smell of oil or other chemicals coming from the water
  • You can see oil on the birds’ plumage
  • The bird’s look waterlogged or are sitting low in the water
  • The bird’s look generally unwell

Next Steps

Do not attempt to capture large birds such as swans and geese yourself. Whilst tales of swans breaking your arm are somewhat exaggerated these are big, powerful birds who could certainly cause a few bruises and should only be handled by experts.

You’ll find detailed advice on 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 with Broken Wings

This is a difficult and emotive subject and often the topic of much debate. Some believe a broken wing can never be fixed and that a bird which cannot fly will automatically be miserable. Others that any disabled bird should be given the chance of life in a sanctuary. It’s a tricky situation and we aim to present an objective view of this debate here.

Is the wing actually broken?

First of all, it is worth mentioning that many calls about birds start with the finder expressing their belief that the bird has a broken wing. Often the only ‘evidence’ that this is the case is that the bird cannot (or will not) fly. In fact, birds fail to fly for many reasons and any general illness can make flight difficult, just as having the flu might stop you going for a jog! A broken wing will usually be hanging down in an unusual position and the bird may have little ability to move it at all. If the wings are held in a normal position, there may well be another reason for the lack of flight.

Regardless, any adult bird which cannot or does not fly is usually in need of help from a rescue.

If the wing is broken

Depending on the type of break, the actual bone involved, the species of bird, and the quality of treatment they receive, it is sometimes possible to fix a broken wing well enough for the bird to be released into the wild. We suggest you discuss with any rescues you call the details of their policy on birds with broken wings. Whilst there are certainly times when ending the suffering of a bird with a broken wing is the kindest option, we would suggest caution with any organisation which has a blanket policy that all birds with this injury should be euthanased. The proper standard of care for a bird with a broken wing would be for them to receive an x-ray and assessment by a vet experienced with caring for birds in order to make an informed decision about their future.

Should non-flying birds be kept in a sanctuary?

Whether wild birds which will not fly well enough to be released should be euthanased or given sanctuary is a very contentious topic. There is not one right answer here.

Some believe that wild animals belong entirely in the wild and keeping any wild animal in captivity is cruel. In our experience, this may be the case for the majority of bird species. A territorial bird such as a blackbird or robin, for example, would be unlikely to tolerate others of their species in their aviary, leading to a solitary and unfulfilling existence. It would also be incredibly difficult to meet the feeding and enrichment needs of a specialist and sensitive bird like a Kingfisher, who relies on being able to dive to feed.

However, some species are laid back, comfortable around people, and content to walk rather than fly. Feral pigeons, waterfowl and gulls, for example, many believe adapt well to captivity in the right circumstances. However, all birds should be assessed as an individual in our view as they each have their own personality and preferences.

Another element to consider is that most rescues simply won’t have the space and resources to offer sanctuary to every non-releasable bird, especially when you consider that many species can live 15 years or more. If it is important to you that ‘your’ casualty receives sanctuary, you may need to travel a considerable distance to find an organisation able to offer this. We urge you not to criticise rescues who land on a different side of this debate to you. Whatever their decision, it is inevitably one made with what they feel are the best interests of the animal at heart. No rescuer wants to euthanase.

 

Finding Help

You’ll find detailed advice on catching animals needing help, 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 in Chimneys

Chimneys are a popular nesting spot for some species such as jackdaws. It’s not uncommon for babies or adults to fall from the nest into the base of the chimney. You may then hear them moving around or cheeping. Action is normally needed to extract the bird otherwise they will die and the body will decompose causing a health hazard.

If you have an unwelcome nest in your chimney, there’s advice on this here.

When individual birds fall down a chimney, this is often a situation which can be resolved without assistance from a wildlife rescue. This scenario usually involves little hands on rescuing of the bird itself but may require some DIY or even professional building work. Please bear in mind that wildlife rescues operate entirely on donations so have very limited resources. They may not be able to send a volunteer rescuer out unless specialist wildlife handling skills are required. There is little point them coming out if what is actually needed is someone to move a fitted fire for example.

What action is needed depends really on what is at the bottom of your chimney.

Open fireplace

Start by trying to tempt the bird out under its own steam. Open the windows in the room so that the bird can sense the fresh air. Pull back the curtains, turn on the light, and shine a torch into the fireplace so that the bird can see and hopefully head towards the light. It’s vital that you leave the room and keep the area totally quiet so that the bird feels safe to leave the chimney. Be patient – this may take a few hours.

If you have no luck with this, try to look up the chimney using your torch and get an idea of where in the chimney the bird is. Many chimneys have a ledge a short way up and birds often settle there. They can then usually be reached and removed quite easily by hand. If the bird is further up and cannot be reached or tempted down then the next step is to call a chimney sweep who will have telescopic tools with which they can either push the bird back up or encourage them down the chimney.

Fitted fire

The first step here will be to get the fire removed. You will need to arrange for this to be done by a qualified person. If it is a gas fire then it will need to be moved by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You should then follow the steps above as for an open fireplace.

Sealed chimney

If the chimney is sealed at the bottom then the only way to help the bird will be to make a hole in your chimney breast. You would need to employ a qualified person to do this. A wildlife rescue will not be able to do this for you as they’re unlikely to have the necessary tools, skills, and insurance. This will, of course, be messy and incur a cost but the alternative is a dead bird decomposing in your walls, as well as a breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

Once the bird is out of the chimney

If the bird is not able to just fly out of the window, you will need to capture it and check it for injuries. If in any doubt about whether it is well enough for immediate release, please contact a wildlife rescue.

If the 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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Nesting Birds

Each Spring and Summer we get many enquiries about nesting birds. Mostly these are either concerns that birds are nesting in dangerous places, or enquiries from those who do not want birds nesting in or around their property.

 

Birds nesting in chimneys

Chimneys are a popular nesting spot for some species such as jackdaws. This can cause concerns about health and safety, especially as nesting material can catch light if the fire is lit come winter.

Like all nests, those in chimneys are covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act making it illegal to move or disturb the nest. In extreme cases you may be able to get a license to remove the nest from the government but, in general, you will need to wait until the end of nesting season before taking action.

It’s not uncommon for babies to fall from the nest into the base of the chimney. You may then hear them moving around or cheeping. Action is normally needed to extract the bird otherwise they will die and the body will decompose causing a health hazard. There’s more advice on this scenario here.

Once nesting season is over and the nest is no longer in use, it’s sensible to employ a chimney sweep to remove any nesting material and then have cowls fitted to prevent birds accessing the chimney in future.

Birds nesting in a cavity wall

Birds will sometimes enter the home through gaps such as air bricks and vents in order to find somewhere safe and sheltered to nest. When the babies leave the nest, they may sometimes then fall down into the wall cavity. You may then hear the babies moving around and cheeping in the wall.

This is often a situation which can be resolved without assistance from a wildlife rescue. This scenario usually involves little hands on rescuing of the bird itself and often involves more DIY or even professional building work. Please bear in mind that wildlife rescues operate entirely on donations so have very limited resources. They may not be able to send a volunteer rescuer out unless specialist wildlife handling skills are required. It is likely going to be necessary to make a hole in the wall to extract the bird and this will need to be done by a suitable skilled professional.

Of course, this is messy, inconvenient and involves a cost, but the alternative is that the bird is left to die inside the wall. Not only does this breach the Animal Welfare Act but would also leave you with a dead body in your wall which will attract flies, then maggots, and cause a terrible smell and health hazard. While the contractor is releasing the bird, we would advise talking to them about identifying how the bird fell into the cavity and having them make some repairs so that the issue doesn’t recur. Once the bird has been extracted, put them into a box and contact a rescue for advice about next steps. Depending on the age and condition of the bird it may be possible to put them straight outside but if they’re very young or weakened by their experience, they may require care.

Birds nesting in the loft/eaves

Lofts and eaves areas are very popular nesting places with birds such as starlings and swifts. Most of the contacts we receive about this scenario are from folks worried that the birds are trapped in their loft. This is unlikely – usually if they can get in, they can get back out again. You can confirm this by checking the loft regularly for signs of activity over the next 24 hours and watching the outside to see if birds are flying back and forth. If the bird has been consistently visible in the loft for 24 hours, you don’t see any outside activity and/or the bird is looking unwell, then you’ll need to contact a wildlife rescue for help. If the bird comes and goes then it can and should be left alone.

Sometimes we are contacted by householders unhappy about birds nesting in lofts. The babies may be quite noisy or there may be health concerns. Like all birds’ nests, those in your loft are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act meaning it is illegal to disturb or destroy them. If there is a genuine health and safety issue (rather than just general concerns) then you may be able to get a license to remove the nests from the government, but this is unlikely and not a simple process. In general, the advice is to remember that babies are only in the nest for a few weeks so the issue will resolve itself before long. Once the nest is no longer in use you can employ a suitable skilled professional to remove the nesting material and seal the area up so that birds cannot nest there in future.

Birds nesting on a balcony

Every Spring we receive contacts from households who haven’t used their balcony all winter and are then surprised to find, when they come to use it again, that there are birds nesting there. Most often the culprits are feral pigeons. These were originally cliff nesting birds so your balcony provides an ideal cliff ledge alternative for these birds who can breed all year round.

Although pigeons have a reputation as ‘vermin’, their nests are also protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act meaning it is illegal to destroy or disturb them. The only exception is when there is a genuine health and safety issue in which case action can be taken under the general licenses issued by the government. In these instances, we would urge you to contact a wildlife rescue to ask if they would take in any babies for raising and rehabilitation rather than having them killed by a pest control company. Once the nest is vacant, the nesting material can be removed. You may be tempted to ‘net’ the balcony to prevent birds from accessing it in future. However, this frequently results in birds of all species becoming tangled, injured, and even killed, for which you would then be legally liable. The better solution is to focus on making the balcony less attractive by tidying away anything they can nest under/behind and using the balcony regularly, so they don’t feel safe there.

Ducks nesting in garden

This is covered in a separate article here

Birds nesting in dangerous location

Birds don’t always nest in sensible places. Some common enquiries we receive are, for example, birds nesting in post boxes, birds nesting in wall-mounted ash trays, birds nesting in hanging baskets right by a door, or a bird’s nest being close to the ground and at risk from predation or vandalism.

The first thing to be aware of in these cases is that it is illegal, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to disturb the nest of a wild bird from the time it is being constructed. This is the case even if your intentions are to prevent future harm to the birds or their young.

We’re often asked whether it would be possible to move the nest to somewhere safer. Not only would this be illegal, but it’s also very unlikely that the birds would move with the nest.

So, any efforts to protect the birds need to be focused on preventing harm to that nest in that location. If you’re concerned about cats or dogs disturbing the nest then keep them inside/on a lead and/or try erecting a barrier around the nest to keep them away. Even just extra coverage in the form of some branches cut from trees or bushes can provide protection. Just make sure that the adult birds can still get access.

If you’re concerned about people disturbing the nest then putting a sign up can really help, especially if the nest isn’t immediately visible such as in a wall mounted ash tray. It’s worth including a reminder that disturbing the birds would be illegal on the sign.

Disturbed nests

Bird’s nests are often disturbed by tree or hedge cutting undertaken during nesting season. If the nest has been completely destroyed then it’s likely that the babies will need to be taken into rescue unless they’re at the fledgling stage. If in doubt, contact a rescue for advice.

If the nest is intact but the surrounding foliage has been cut back, you can usually drape the cut branches back over the gap to provide cover. Just keep a watch from a distance for a few hours to make sure that the parents return to care for the babies. If not, they’ll need to go to rescue.

Finding Help

You’ll find detailed advice on catching animals needing help, 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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Animals Tangled in Netting, Fencing or Line

This article covers animals caught up at ground level. For advice about birds in elevated netting please click here.

Becoming tangled in line or netting can cause serious injuries to wildlife. It is very tempting when faced with this scenario to want to save the animal yourself by simply cutting it free. But there are several good reasons why you should not do this. In this scenario you will almost always need to seek help from a wildlife rescue to ensure any resulting injuries and complications are properly treated.

Animals trapped in netting or fencing

A trapped animal will be extremely frightened and will view your approach not as help but as a threat. They will try to defend themselves and if the victim is a fox, badger, deer or swan for example it could cause you serious injury. These animals should only be handled by experienced rescuers with specialist equipment. If the casualty is a smaller, less dangerous type and you’re able to, cover it with a towel to keep it calm and cut it free with a good few inches of the netting left attached. Do not attempt to remove the netting from the animal yourself unless absolutely necessary, for example, if it’s restricting the animal’s breathing.

It is very important that you do not just release the animal. If trapped for some time, the animal may be dehydrated, malnourished, suffering from shock, hypothermia or heat stroke. They may need a chance to rest and recuperate before being made to face the challenges of life in the wild again. Constriction by netting, fencing or line can cause lasting damage due to the loss of blood supply to the affected area. It is therefore vital that every animal trapped in this way is assessed and treated by an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.

Animals tangled in fishing line, hair or string

All of these materials commonly get wrapped round birds’ feet, cutting off the circulation and causing infection, necrosis and amputations.

Left in the water, fishing line is easily mistaken for weed and swallowed by waterfowl. If you see a bird with fishing line hanging from its beak it is important that you seek assistance and do not try to capture the bird yourself. NEVER try to remove fishing line from the mouth. There may be a hook on the other end which could cause serious lasting damage so the bird should be assessed and treated at a wildlife rescue. It’s worth noting though that just as a bird can get weed and line mixed up so can you. Double check before you call that what you’re seeing really is line and not just a harmless bit of pond weed.

The most likely bird to be affected by hair or string around their feet is the pigeon, though other birds who spend time around humans can also be afflicted. Birds whose feet are affected can be difficult to help as their their ability to fly is often unaffected. You can try setting a home-made trap for them as detailed here.

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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Animals Caught by a Cat or Dog

We’re big fans of cats and dogs but it has to be said that, without them, wildlife rescues would have a far quieter life. Cat and dog attacks account for a large percentage of the casualties brought into wildlife rescues but worse are the many thousands of birds and animals who are attacked each year who never get the help they need.

 

What action is needed?

It’s all too easy to take the victim from your cat and simply release them again. But doing so may condemn them to a slow death. Cats have a lot of bacteria on their teeth and these pass into the victim’s bloodstream when they’re bitten. Without antibiotic therapy, ideally within 4 hours, the casualty is likely to die from septicaemia. It only takes one tiny scratch, which may not be immediately visible, to cause this. So any animal which is caught by a cat should be rescued, contained and taken to a wildlife rescue for treatment.

Our cat attack advice poster for sharing on social media

Failing to secure appropriate treatment for a cat attack victim may be a breach of the Animal Welfare Act for which you could face prosecution.

Injuries from dog attacks are generally more obvious although, in the case of hedgehogs, it can be difficult to see them through the spines. Again it is best to assume that there are injuries and seek assistance for any animal which has been attacked by a dog.

 

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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When to Help Hedgehogs

Probably the most loved of all UK mammals, their low stature and tendency to freeze and roll up in the face of danger leaves them incredibly vulnerable to harm from man-made hazards.

Whilst, as the stereotype suggests, cars are a common threat, the most common injuries they experience come from dogs and strimmers. They also commonly suffer from intestinal parasites which can make them very unwell.

 

When to rescue

A hedgehog out during the day
Hedgehogs are generally strictly nocturnal so one out during the day will usually need help, especially if it appears to be ‘sunbathing’ or is inactive. The only exception to this rule is a nesting female who may sometimes come out in daylight to gather nesting materials. If in doubt, contact us or your local hedgehog rescue for advice.

A hedgehog with fly strike on the face

Any hedgehog with an obvious injury
If you can see a wound or injury, the hedgehog will need urgent help.

A hedgehog with maggots or fly eggs on it
Hedgehogs are very prone to fly-strike where flies lay eggs (which look like grains of rice) on them which then hatch into maggots. This is a fatal condition without urgent help.

A hedgehog losing its spines or with crusty skin
Hedgehogs can suffer with mange or ringworm which can make their skin crusty and their spines fall out. This can reduce their defences against predators as well as leave them vulnerable to secondary infections.

Any hedgehog which has been attacked by a dog
It can be really difficult to spot small puncture wounds in between their spines but just one could prove fatal if it gets infected or attracts flies. Always get the hedgehog checked over by a rescue.

A hedgehog caught up in netting or stuck in a drain
The hedgehog will need to be freed and checked for injuries by a rescue.

A hedgehog hit by a car
The hedgehog will need to be checked for injuries by a rescue.

 

When to take other action

A lone baby away from its nest
It’s likely the baby may need help but it could also be that Mum dropped the baby while moving it. Observe from a distance and contact a wildlife rescue for advice.

A small hedgehog out in autumn/winter
Hedgehogs need to be around 450g to survive hibernation. But when they hibernate is variable. There’s more information here.

 

When to leave alone

A nest of babies with no Mum
It’s normal for Mum to spend time away from the nest. Observe from a distance and contact a wildlife rescue for advice if Mum doesn’t return.

 

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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Autumn Juvenile Hedgehogs

It’s not news that our hedgehogs are struggling. Estimated numbers of around 30 million in the 1950s fell to estimates of only 1.5 million in the 1990s. Studies suggest that numbers may have declined further by as much as 40% in the last decade.

Climate change may be contributing to hedgehog litters being born later and urbanisation is reducing the hedgehog’s natural food supply. This is leading to many young hedgehogs not being big enough to survive hibernating in their first winter.

How you can help

  • Put food out for any visiting hedgehogs. Meat flavoured cat food of either the loaf or chunks in jelly types is best, with some crunchy cat biscuits added for dental health. There is no need to add anything else like mealworms, dried fruit or peanuts as is sometimes suggested, as these can cause nutritional and dental problems.
  • Monitor the size, shape and weight of visiting hedgehogs during Autumn and Winter. In order to survive hibernation, hedgehogs must have sufficient fat reserves otherwise they will essentially starve while they sleep. It’s often said that hedgehogs must weigh X amount (usually 450 – 600g) to hibernate but in reality, it’s a little more complicated. A large hedgehog might be underweight at 600g. In this case body shape is also important as shown in the image below (credit Toni Bunnell)

  • Be alert for any hedgehogs which are sick or injured. Weight is a good basic indicator of whether a hedgehog can survive hibernation but also be aware that hedgehogs showing any of the following signs are likely to need help
    • out during the day
    • staggering or wobbling
    • heavy parasite burden (such as ticks or fleas)
    • visible wounds or spine loss
    • looking thin i.e. significantly longer than they are wide or thinner round the back end

If you are concerned about a hedgehog’s well-being, regardless of its weight, please contact a hedgehog carer to discuss your concerns and they will advise whether the hog needs to be brought into care.

Please help spread the word about how to help hedgehogs in Autumn by sharing our advice poster which you can find at – helpwildlife.co.uk/posters/AutumnHogs

 

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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When to Help Foxes

Fox’s successful adaptation to urban life unfortunately provides them with a lot of potential for injury or illness. Thousands of foxes are hurt or killed on the roads each year and living in close quarters in urban areas can lead to fighting and disease. Perhaps the most common issues wildlife rescues are contacted about are limps and fur loss (usually caused by sarcoptic mange).

 

When to rescue

A fox hit by a car
The animal will need to be assessed for concussion, shock and other injuries.

A fox attacked by a dog
The animal will need to be assessed for injuries and shock.

A fox trapped in netting, fencing or wire
Do not attempt to free it yourself – call a rescue for help ASAP

An adult fox which can be approached
Although foxes are used to living close to humans, they should still react to our presence with fear. If the fox cannot or does not attempt to run away, it is in need of help.

 

When to take other action

A fox with some fur loss or crusty skin
The fox likely has sarcoptic mange. Find out how to help here.

A lone cub with no siblings or parents in sight
The baby may be in trouble or it may be that Mum dropped him while moving him and will return soon. Observe from a distance and call a rescue for advice.

A disturbed den of babies with no mother
If a den is disturbed, for example during garden work, cover the babies back over, leave the area and contact a rescue for advice urgently.

A fox with a limp
Read our advice on how to assess whether the fox needs help here

 

When to leave alone

A healthy fox out during the day
Foxes are habitually nocturnal but they are active during the day and do enjoy ‘sunbathing’. As long as the fox looks well and responds normally to your presence, this isn’t a cause for concern.

A den of babies with no mother around
It is normal for mothers to spend time away from their babies. Unless the den has been disturbed, cubs are injured or in danger observe from a distance. If there is no sign of an adult after a few hours call a rescue for advice. Try not to touch the cubs.

 

Next Steps

Never attempt to capture an adult fox yourself – a scared fox can give you a serious bite.

Upon contacting a wildlife rescue for help with an injured adult fox, you will commonly be asked to approach it first. The reason for this is that there is no point a rescue sending a precious team of volunteers out to a fox which simply hops up and runs away when they get there. To save time, if you see an injured adult fox, check whether it is mobile before calling the wildlife rescue. Walk up to the fox and try to get within about six foot of the animal. Don’t worry, it will not attack, if able it will simply run away. If the fox remains still, call a wildlife rescue immediately. If it starts to move away but is clearly slow and impaired, retreat immediately but try to observe where the fox goes before calling for help. If the fox is injured but still mobile then it’s very unlikely that a wildlife rescue team will be able to capture it and trying to do so would cause the fox a great deal of stress. In these situations, the rescue may be able to set a humane cage trap which they will ask you to bait with food.

Although a cub may be less dangerous, we would still advise that you call a wildlife rescue before handling the baby unless they are in immediate danger.

You’ll find detailed advice on 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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Foxes with Mange

With foxes living in closer quarters in urban areas, mange is unfortunately a common issue. Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite which burrows into the skin causing intense itching. The fox then scratches causing fur loss, broken skin and then secondary infections. Left untreated, this can become fatal. We are sometimes contacted by householders concerned that a fox with mange might ‘infect’ their dog. This is unlikely (the fox and dog would need either direct contact or to lay in the same place for some time) but the best solution to this concern is to treat the fox.

Mild mange

Foxes with mild mange will have only lost fur on the tail and hip area, will have little or no ‘crustiness’ of the skin, no open wounds, and the eyes will be bright and clear.

For decades, wildlife rescue organisations have been providing a remedy which can be added to the food of foxes with mange. This has a certain degree of controversy attached as the remedy is homeopathic. Many people doubt the efficacy of homeopathy but, without getting into a wider discussion about homeopathy as a whole, all we can say is that we have seen this remedy work for literally hundreds of foxes. Some might suggest that the remedy itself does nothing but the extra food provided enables the fox to recover – maybe. But as long as the fox recovers, that’s all that really matters.

The remedy has the advantage that it is safe for all animals and cannot be overdosed. Further information and sources of the remedy can be found on the following sites

The Fox Project
Pet Perfection
Wildlife Aid
The National Fox Welfare Society

Some organisations suggest treating the fox on-site with a veterinary medication. The difficulties here are
– the medication is only available from a veterinarian
– the target fox must consume the entire dose on a strict schedule
– if the fox is pregnant or nursing, the babies could be harmed by the treatment
– if the medication is consumed by pets or other wildlife, they could be killed

Moderate or Severe Mange

If the fur loss extends beyond the hindquarters, the skin is crusty or broken, or the eye lids swollen or oozing, the on-site treatment will likely not suffice. In this case, the fox will need to be caught with a cage trap and admitted into a wildlife rescue for treatment. This is obviously a stressful experience and can lead to the death of cubs if it’s a nursing female so should be a last resort.

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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When to Help Deer

There are six species of deer residing in Britain. They vary in size from the Muntjac at up to 18kg to the Red Deer at up to 190kg. But even the smallest deer can be very dangerous and you should never attempt to handle one yourself. ALWAYS call a specialist to assist you.

Sadly it is now illegal to release muntjac deer into the wild after rescue as they are considered an ‘invasive’ species. You may therefore struggle to find help for them. If so, please contact our helpdesk for advice.

 

When to rescue

Deer hit by a car
They may be lucky and escape major injury but will often go into deep shock. They need treatment and rest before being released.

An adult deer can be approached
Deer are naturally extremely shy so if an adult can be approached and doesn’t run away, there’s likely to be an issue.

Deer attacked by a dog
They will need treating for injuries and shock

Deer caught in fencing or netting
Do not attempt to free them yourself

Any obviously injured deer
If you can see wounds or there is a obvious leg injury, contact a rescue for advice. It may not always be necessary or possible to help a mobile deer but they will assess the situation.

 

When to take other action

A deer with a limp

Leg injuries are common in wild animals but are often sprains. Although these injuries can cause the animal to limp for several weeks, there is little treatment available to justify bringing them into captivity. You can assess what may be causing a limp using this article.

 

When to leave alone

A fawn on its own
It is perfectly normal for deer to leave their young alone. Observe from a distance and do not touch the baby. Contact a rescue for advice if the baby is in danger, looks unwell or there’s no sign of Mum after about six hours.

A deer ‘trapped’ in a garden/plot of land/urban area
Rescues often get calls about deer in areas enclosed by fencing. As a rule, if they got in, they can get out. There’s more on this here.

 

Next Steps

Never attempt to handle an adult deer yourself. The potential threat posed by antlers is obvious but even deer without antlers can inflict fatal injuries. They have incredibly powerful rear legs and very sharp hooves and can kick out to defend themselves causing serious harm.

If an adult deer is collapsed and it is safe to do so you can approach the deer carefully and put a coat or blanket over its head. This will help to stop the deer becoming too stressed. Deer in these situations will usually freeze and lay still, making no attempt to get away. This does not mean they’re tame so please never take this as permission to sit and stoke them! They are not calm, they are literally paralysed with fear. Retreat to a safe distance and try to keep other people away from the animal while you wait for help.

If the deer is in the road the police will usually attend to help ensure the safety of the deer and road users.

You’ll find detailed advice on 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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Wildlife in Urban Areas

We often receive enquiries from people concerned about seeing wildlife in what are perceived as unusual or unsuitable locations. Most commonly these enquiries relate to Deer, Rabbits or Hedgehogs seen in built up areas.

Our wildlife is increasingly becoming comfortable with urban areas, perhaps because urbanisation means we are building on their habitats but also because living close to people can bring some benefits. Hedgehogs, for example, may do better in urban areas due to lower numbers of badgers. In the case of Deer, populations are rising since they no longer have any natural predators so they are having to become more ‘open-minded’ about how they live in order to find territories and opportunities for food. Sometimes we have an image of how certain species live which doesn’t fit with the reality. For example, we might think of deer living in large groups and roaming across moorland, and while this may be true for Red Deer, smaller species like Roe and Muntjac tend to live solitarily outside of the breeding season and are small and agile enough to move easily through gardens and allotments which offer a rich buffet of edible delights.

Sometimes those contacting us are concerned that the animals are trapped. As a rule, if an animal could get into an area such as a garden, they can get back out again. Deer can quite easily hop fences and hedgehogs and rabbits can tunnel under them. The exception is if the way out is significantly different to the way in e.g. if they have fallen into a lower area and cannot climb out.

Although living in urban areas does present risks to wildlife – road accidents, dog attacks, litter etc – it is very rarely the right thing to intervene and remove a wild animal from an urban environment that they have chosen as their home. Capturing a healthy wild animal is an extremely stressful experience for them and, in the case of Deer in particular, can be dangerous for humans and potentially fatal for the animal due to capture myopathy. In some cases, it might mean separating animals from group or family members which would be detrimental to their welfare. An animal taken from their territory and moved to another, especially when this involves a dramatic change in environment such as moving from an urban to a rural area, is likely to experience considerable distress and difficulty in adapting and actually becomes more likely to become injured or killed as they frantically attempt to evade others of their species whose territories they may have invaded, establish a new territory, and find food and shelter.

In summary, as long as there are no visible injuries or illnesses and the animal is not trapped (i.e. the way out of where they are is not significantly different to the way in), there is no need to be concerned about the presence of wild animals in built up areas.

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Animals with a Limp

Leg injuries are very common in wildlife, especially at busy times of year such as breeding season. In most cases, the cause is a sprain or strain and the stress of bringing the animal into captivity outweighs the benefits to them. But a animal with a complete fracture or open wound may well need some help.

The descriptions below are a general guide to help you to ascertain the type of injury and what the best course of action is. If in doubt, please contact a wildlife rescue for advice. The four major types of injury are

 

Sprain/strain

Usually animals with this sort of injury will hold the leg up or ‘hobble’ on it periodically. The leg will probably appear normal i.e. no visible wound, swelling, or deformity. In these cases, there is little that can be done in a wildlife rescue to help so we advise continuing to monitor and support the animal with food. Not having to work so hard to find food will help them to heal but, even so, it will likely take a few weeks to improve.

 

Closed fracture

Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, this may appear much like a sprain. If the fracture is lower down the leg, it may just be held up or used less. In this case, the fracture is stable and will usually heal itself in a few weeks. However, if the leg below the fracture is hanging loose or swinging about, the animal will need to go to a wildlife rescue for treatment.

 

Wound or swelling

This can happen with or without a fracture. You may see blood or exposed flesh and the leg may appear swollen. In warmer weather you may see flies buzzing round it. Here the animal is at risk of fly strike or severe infection and is in need of help.

 

Open fracture

This is a combination of a break and a wound. The broken bones have pierced the animal’s skin and this leaves them at severe risk of infection. Usually you’ll see the leg hanging loosely as well as an open wound. This animal definitely needs help.

Note: Hedgehogs commonly get leg injuries but it’s difficult to get a good look at their legs due to their physiology. In our experience most hedgehog leg injuries tend to need treatment so if you see a limping hedgehog please contain them and contact a wildlife rescue.

 

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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When to Help Bats

The UK is host to 18 species of bat. All are highly protected in law because they are threatened. It is illegal to handle a bat without a licence unless you do so to help an injured bat with the aim of returning it to the wild.

Bats most often come to the attention of people when they’re seen clinging to a wall in the day or are caught by a cat.

 

When to seek rescue help

A bat caught by a cat
Any animal which has been in a cat’s mouth must be treated with antibiotics to prevent a life threatening infection.

A baby without its mother
All our bats are pretty tiny so adults are commonly mistaken for babies. A true baby will have little or no fur.

A bat stuck to fly paper or caught in netting
Please don’t try to release it yourself. Contact a rescue urgently for help.

 

When to take other action

A bat on the ground or in an exposed area
It may just be exhausted or disorientated but it is in a very vulnerable position so should be moved out of harm’s way and a wildlife rescue contacted for advice.

A bat flying around indoors
Close internal doors to contain the bat, open windows and turn off all the lights and the bat should find its way out.

A bat roost has been disturbed
If you accidentally disturb a bat roost during building work you should immediately contact the Bat Conservation Trust for advice. Carrying on with the work will be illegal without a license.

 

When to leave alone

A bat flying around during the day
Although they are generally nocturnal, it’s not unusual for bats to hunt during the day

Bats nesting in a loft
Bats are highly protected in law and it is illegal to disturb their roosts

 

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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Caring for Wildlife Casualties Yourself

If you find a sick, injured or apparently orphaned wild animal, you may well be tempted to care for it yourself. You’ll likely have formed an emotional attachment to it, especially if it’s a baby or displays no fear or aggression. You might have seen some of the viral videos online where a family ‘saved’ a hurt animal and they all lived happily ever after. If you’re honest, you’re probably getting a warm glow from the thought of ‘saving’ it, of being a hero. That’s perfectly normal, but – and I’m sorry to be blunt – this isn’t about you. This is about this animal’s one and only chance at life. Any wild animal which allows itself to be captured by a human is in serious trouble and it’s highly unlikely that the average member of the public will be able to ensure all its needs are met, certainly not to the same extent as that of an experienced wildlife rescuer.

Sick or injured casualties

Case study:
A rescuer received a hedgehog which the finder had had for four days. The finder was a member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society so was confident that they knew how to care for it. They eventually decided to seek help on noticing that the hedgehog had a gungy eye. The rescuer examined it and found the hedgehog was thin, dehydrated, had a heavy parasite burden and, worst of all, a badly broken jaw. The pain the poor creature must have been in for those extra unnecessary days is awful to imagine.

An injured or unwell creature is going to need medical attention which you will be unable to provide. Imagine you saw a dog get hit by a car and injured – you’d be unlikely to just take it home and try to fix it yourself. In many cases, a wildlife casualty will be in an even worse position as the injury is likely to be old or infected. It’s severe enough that it was unable to escape its most feared predator (you) so it’s clearly very unwell. Even apparently minor issues like a bird caught by a cat need medical attention (catted birds are likely to die without antibiotics) and most will need pain relief as a minimum. Wild animals survive by hiding the extent of their injuries and suffering so might look ok to the untrained eye but actually be in a great deal of pain or extremely ill. Failing to provide an animal with proper care, suitable housing and medical attention is a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act.

Case study:
We were contacted by a member of the public who found a hedgehog that was out during the day and looked thin. They took it to their trusted vet who pronounced the hedgehog healthy, just in need of feeding up. The member of the public opted to care for the hedgehog while it recovered despite our warnings that there was likely to be a deeper reason for its condition and our advice to get it checked by a rescuer. The hedgehog was dead within 12 hours.

Orphans

Case Study:

This squirrel was caught by a cat as a baby. The cat’s owners decided to try and care for her themselves, feeding her with cow’s milk. A combination of infection from the cat bite and dehydration from the diarrhoea caused by the inappropriate diet led to her suffering from seizures. When she was eventually surrendered she was emaciated, hypothermic and covered in her own diarrhoea. It was a miracle she survived but she was left with brain damage which caused partial blindness and recurrent seizures meaning she couldn’t be released.

An orphaned, abandoned or injured baby will need regular feeding, in some cases as often as every 15 minutes and sometimes through the night. Specialist feeds are needed as is considerable skill to get quantities right and deliver the feed correctly – getting this wrong can lead to choking or inhalation pneumonia. At some stages of development, babies need supplemental heat – without it they could die of hypothermia, but provide it for too long and they could overheat. Some babies need help to toilet and without that toxins build up in their system and poison them from within. For most babies, it is absolutely critical that they are raised with others of their species in order to avoid imprinting and to ensure they are socialised and know how to interact with others. This is a vital skill in the wild and, in some species, a baby raised on its own may never be suitable for release.

You might think this is fine and you can just keep it as a pet. Very very few wild species adapt well to life in captivity. Keep in mind the animals we commonly keep as pets have been domesticated for thousands of years so have had most of their wild instinct removed through selective breeding. A baby born to wild parents will have all its wild instincts and will most likely come to fear and hate you once it reaches puberty. It certainly won’t respect your furniture or be trained to toilet in the garden or a litter tray. Without the company of its own species, it will be lonely, bored, and confused.

Case Study:

A member of the public attempted to hand rear these two baby pigeons, eventually taking them to Five Valleys Bird and Hedgehog Rescue when they didn’t thrive.

Unfortunately, they had looked online to see what to feed the babies and found bad information. The babies couldn’t digest the food and, as the finders weren’t experienced in feeding baby pigeons, they also got covered in food which stuck painfully to their skin when it dried. Both babies died soon after admission.

Release

For any casualty you need also to consider the long term care plan. Even if you can get the animal through their initial problem, do you have facilities to rehabilitate them? You’ll need a soft release enclosure placed in an area which is suitable for its species and you’ll need to release it in the right place at the right time of year so that it doesn’t get attacked by others in the case of territorial species. Do you have those facilities? Do you have that knowledge and understanding of wildlife behaviour? If not, please please pass the casualty to someone who does. It is not enough just to take the animal to into your garden or local park and open the cage door – indeed doing so is likely to be a criminal offence.

But if I don’t care for it who will?

There are hundreds of specialist wildlife rescue organisations in the UK who have the knowledge, training, experience and facilities to care for your casualty properly. You can put your postcode into our map to see those nearby or contact our helpdesk if you need help finding a rescue.

But what if they just put it down?

Sadly in some cases euthanasia is necessary because an animal is just too badly injured and in these cases it is far kinder to surrender your casualty to someone who has the knowledge to make this assessment than to leave the poor creature to suffer. This won’t be a decision which is made lightly. Most wildlife rescues are small charities run by families who put their heart and soul into each and every individual patient. If you’re worried – just ask them what their particular policies are. Most will be happy to update you on your casualty’s progress and, if appropriate, perhaps even involve you in their eventual release. Or you can contact our helpdesk and we’ll give you honest, unbiased advice about the animal’s future and which rescue might be best placed to help them. Either way, your casualty’s chances of survival and a meaningful life back in the wild are far, far better if surrendered to those with the experience and facilities it needs.

But I’ll really miss them!

Of course! Believe me, no-one understands this better than wildlife rescuers. We have all fallen in love, many times, and cried when we’ve had to let animals go. But we have to put their needs first. If this experience has sparked an interest in wildlife in you then there are wildlife rescues all over the country crying out for foster carers. That way you can still have the amazing experience of caring for wild animals but with training, support and access to the right equipment and facilities to ensure a successful outcome.

Finding Help

You can find rescues in your area by putting your location into the search facility at helpwildlife.co.uk/map. 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.

 


Still need convincing? Here are some posts from our wildlife rescue colleagues on this topic. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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When to Help Badgers

Badgers are one of our most shy and elusive mammals so their interactions with humans are often difficult. Chances are if you can get close to one, something is seriously wrong.

Always approach a possibly injured badger with great caution and do not attempt to touch it.

When to seek rescue help

A badger out during the day
Badgers are strictly nocturnal so one out in daylight or one which can be approached is definitely in trouble.

A badger which has been hit by a car or attacked by a dog
The animal will need to be assessed and treated for injuries.

A badger with an obvious injury
If the badger has an obvious wound or damaged leg for example, it’s going to need help.

A badger caught in a snare or fence
Never try to cut the animal free yourself, just call a rescue urgently.

 

When to take other action

A baby badger on its own
Baby badgers usually stay in the sett so if it’s above ground, there may be an issue. Observe before intervening and call a wildlife rescue for advice.

A dead badger
Your local badger group will appreciate reports of dead badgers as these help them locate setts and accident hotspots, and even find orphaned babies in the case of nursing females. You can find details of your local badger group at badgertrust.org.uk or scottishbadgers.org.uk

 

Next Steps

Never attempt to pick up  or touch a badger, even a baby. Badgers have incredibly powerful jaws and very large, sharp claws. They can and will inflict a serious injury if not handled properly. In these cases you should telephone a wildlife rescue and, if possible, wait with the animal until they arrive so that you can provide them with an up to date location. You’ll find detailed advice on 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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Ducks nesting away from a water source

A mallard and her babies in a garden

Every year wildlife rescues get many calls about ducks (usually mallards) nesting in gardens, on balconies, or even in hanging baskets. Householders are, understandably, concerned that there may not be sufficient food or water, or that the babies are vulnerable to cats and other predators.

 

Why do ducks nest in silly places?

During Spring, water bodies become very crowded and female ducks are subjected to a lot of ‘attention’ from the males. Consequently, females will often seek to hatch their eggs in quieter locations. Once the eggs hatch, Mum will walk them to a suitable body of water and raise them there.

Is this safe?

Nesting high up, such as on a balcony or in a hanging basket, may not be a disaster. Many species of duck nest in trees and their babies then leap from the nest after hatching. As the ducklings are so small and light they can survive a considerable fall without damage. However, this tactic doesn’t work so well when the nest is several stories up, the nearby body of water is a garden pond or swimming pool, when the closest body of water is more than walking distance away, or when getting to water involves crossing busy roads. If Mum tries to raise the babies away from a suitable water body, there won’t be enough food or water for them and the babies will be very vulnerable to predators.

What action is needed?

The first thing to note is that all wild bird’s nests are protected by law. Once a nest is in use, it is illegal to disturb them, even if well intentioned. If no nest has yet been prepared, the best solution it’s kindest in the long run to discourage the ducks from nesting anywhere unsuitable. Simply going out and flapping your arms to ‘shoo’ them away should do it.

If you’re too late and Mum lays her eggs, try to note when they are laid and contact a wildlife rescue to get them onboard as early as possible. They will be able to calculate when the eggs are likely to hatch and when intervention is needed. At this point it is illegal to try and deter Mum or to remove the eggs including so that they can be incubated elsewhere.

Once the eggs hatch it’s best not to try to intervene yourself. A skilled rescuer will be able to either help Mum get to a pond, or catch her so that the whole family can be relocated together. If you try to catch any of the family yourself, you could end up scaring Mum away and then the babies will have to be raised in captivity. If you are able, without disturbing them, a headcount of the ducklings will help the rescuer to ensure that they are all caught and none get left behind.

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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Airplane Wing

A Canada Goose with bilateral Airplane Wing

Rescues receive many calls each year about waterfowl with apparently broken wings. Usually, if a wing is broken, it will hang down rather than be tucked up against the body. If the wing is sticking out at a right angle to the body then it’s most likely a deformity known as airplane or angel wing.

 

 

What is Airplane Wing?

Also know as Angel Wing, this is a deformity which causes the final section of the wing, equivalent to our hand, to stick out perpendicular to the body. It can affect one wing or both.

What causes the issue?

The exact cause of the problem is not definitively known. There is some speculation that a diet high in bread may be a cause but this is not proven and the condition has also been recorded in birds who have not been fed bread. It’s likely there is a genetic element as well.

What can be done?

If the condition is spotted in a developing young bird then it’s possible that strapping the wing and providing a good diet may reverse the problem. For this reason, it’s always worth contacting a wildlife rescue for a young bird with this issue.

In adults the situation is less clear. There will not be any treatment for the condition so an assessment will need to be made as to whether moving the bird is in their best interest. In the right environment, a bird affected with airplane wing can lead a pretty normal life. They will need to live in a location where there is plenty of food, where others of their species are permanently resident, and where there is an island in the water that they can go to for protection for predators. If these elements are in place, the bird is likely best left with their flock in their home territory.

An Egyptian Goose with one affected wing

If these elements are not in place then a wildlife rescue should be contacted for advice. It may be that the bird can be relocated to a more suitable location where they will have better food and shelter. However,  there are unfortunately legal issues with helping Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese as they are considered an invasive species. Do check that the organisation you contact is able to relocate the bird rather than cull them.

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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