If you come across a wild animal that you think needs help, please think before taking any action. Unless it has obvious injuries or is in immediate danger, it may not need “rescuing” at all. Whilst we offer the very best standard of care, it will never be as good as “mum”.
Some of the birds brought in to us are nestling and fledgling birds that have been picked up because they are mistakenly thought to be “orphaned”. Many garden birds leave the nest before they are fully grown and spend a few days on the ground exercising their wings before they can fly. During this time they are still fed and protected by the parent, but if anyone is around the parent bird is likely to stay away so to not draw attention to the youngster. If you see a young bird like this, please keep a discreet distance to watch for whether the adult bird is around, and if so, the young bird should be left, unless it is in any immediate danger e.g. from a cat. A common example of this are young blackbirds.
If you see a hedgehog out in the day there is usually some sort of problem, as they are nocturnal. In this instance, it is important to get the hedgehog to your nearest wildlife centre as soon as possible. Put the hedgehog in a high sided box (they climb surprisingly well!) with a towel in the bottom, some water and some meaty cat food. NEVER give a hedgehog cow’s milk as this is extremely harmful to them, despite the old wives tale of feeding them bread and milk. In order to survive their winter hibernation, a hedgehog needs to weigh around 600grams by late autumn. Any small hedgehogs (perhaps born late summer) will be too small to hibernate and so need to be taken in and looked after to build up their fat reserves. We have a group of trained hedgehog fosterers who care for these hedgehogs over the winter, so please bring any small hedgehogs into us if you find them still around in late autumn.
A female hedgehog will leave her hoglets to go and find food, so if you find a nest of hoglets they have not necessarily been abandoned. If the hoglets seem warm, content and sleeping, please leave them alone. If they are cold, or making a high pitched “hungry” noise, or the nest has been destroyed, they will need to be brought to your nearest wildlife centre.
If you find a fox cub which appears to be alone, do not assume it has been abandoned. If the vixen is disturbed in any way, she will move her cubs, but only one at a time, so she may be nearby, but will stay away from the cub while you are there. If possible, watch from a distance to see whether she comes back, before “rescuing” the cub, and call for advice on the best course of action. However, if you find a cub or group of cubs that is cold, wet or clearly distressed something may have happened to the vixen and in this case please take advice immediately. Please check the surrounding area thoroughly as there may be more cubs nearby in a similar situation.
Hares are born fully furred and with eyes open, and are often mistakenly picked up as orphans, as the female hare may only return once a day to feed them. Unless they appear weak, injured, or cold, they should be left alone.
Rabbits are born underground blind and without fur, so if you find any which still have their eyes closed or without fur above ground, there is a problem. Rabbit nests are often dug up by dogs. Young rabbits quickly become independent, so if they are fully furred and running about they are probably fine.
Every situation is different and this information is meant as a guide only. If in any doubt, please call for advice on 01420 562335.
Additional advice by species can be found at www.helpwildlife.co.uk, as well as a list of wildlife rescues in your local area.