ORPHANED WILD ANIMALS
We receive a large number of young wild animals as ‘orphaned’, this is not always the case and in some circumstances human intervention can lessen the young’s chances of survival.
If you are concerned about a baby animal that you think may have been abandoned please read the advice below:
If you find a young bird first look around for a nest as often birds on the ground are fledglings learning to fly, these birds will have grown all or most of their feathers and can walk, run and hop onto low branches. If the fledgling is in imminent danger move it to a safe place nearby and watch from a distance as the parents will probably be waiting for you to leave before returning to feed. If the parents return to the area please do not move the chick. Do not return the bird to its nest as this can disturb other young.
If the bird is an un-feathered nestling or you know a cat or other predator may have injured it, or the parents do not return within 1-2 hrs, then please bring it in for us to assess in a secure softly lined covered box with ventilation. Please do not give the bird any food or water no matter how much it seems to want to take some.
During the autumn months hedgehogs will feed to put on weight in preparation for hibernation. It is therefore possible to help by providing food such as minced meat, fresh liver, tinned dog food (not fish based), or even chopped boiled eggs. Small quantities of bran or crushed dog biscuits can also be used, but do not give milk as this can cause stomach upsets. A shelter can be provided in the garden and nesting material such as dried leaves and brushwood.
Hedgehogs must weigh at least 500g (1.1lbs) to survive hibernation, if they are found smaller than this they may benefit from being taken to a wildlife centre. If you decide to keep the orphan, a temporary home can be made in a large box with plenty of fresh hay, newspaper or leaves. If very young a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can provide warmth.
Human interaction should be kept to a minimum to allow the hedgehog the best chance of survival when released back into the wild.
When the young has reached a suitable weight of over 500 grams, is active and the weather is mild, it may be released back into the wild. A shelter with nesting material and food can still be provided to help the hedgehog through winter.
Baby hedgehogs live in family groups in nests, so if they are found outside the nest there may be reason for concern and young hedgehogs will make a loud squeaking noise if they are distressed.
To teach survival, mothers leave their young (know as Leverets) as soon as they are born. They return to feed once a day at dusk. If you are concerned that they may be orphaned, watch from a distance over a period of a few hours to see if the mother returns before intervening.
As in the case of hares, rabbits will leave their kittens for long periods from an early age. They cover the burrow while away and return to feed them, normally only once a day. If the kittens are out of the burrow, it usually means they are old enough to explore, unless they have been dug out of the burrow, which at a young age may leave them vulnerable to predators.
If you suspect the kittens may have been abandoned and they are not in imminent danger, please monitor to see if the mother returns- baring in mind that this may be only once over a period of 24 hours to feed the young. Do not disturb a nest unless you think it is absolutely necessary as this will increase the chances of the mother abandoning the kittens.
People often think they have found a baby bat simply because they do not realise how small they are as adults. If you find a bat which you suspect is young, before handling it please consider carefully if it has been abandoned or if parents may be close by.
If you think a bat requires medical attention then please bring it to the vet, care should be taken when handling- always wear gloves to protect yourself from being bitten. A small towel can be used to pick the bat up to prevent damage to the very delicate wings and they can then be transported it in a secure, but well ventilated box.
If a young owl (known as an owlet) is seen on the ground, please look around for possible nesting sights. Owlets can actually climb back up into a nest if they have fallen, so watch from a distance to see if the parents are nearby. You may also hear the parents calling and if they appear to be close leave the owlet where is it.
Mothers will leave their young known as fawns, from a very early age to teach survival skills and look for food, so watch for at least 24 hours to see if the mother returns before rescuing the animal. Please bare in mind that once removed from their natural habitat fawns often die due to stress and if they survive can be very difficult to rehabilitate, so this course of action should only be taken if absolutely necessary.
Fox cubs are left from as young as 4 weeks old, as the mother teaches survival and hunting skills. If a young cub is found, monitor from a distance for at least 24hours to see if the mother is caring for them and only ever disturb the litter if the cubs are in immediate danger.
BADGER OR OTTER
Ideally watch the baby for 24 hours or at least over night, to see if the parents return. If they have not returned within 24 hours it is advisable to call the RSPCA for collection.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures meaning they come out during the night and sleep during the day, if they are seen in daylight they may be ill and it is therefore recommended they are taken to the vets for assessment.
Hedgehogs hibernate between November and mid March but can sometimes be seen in winter, when the weather is mild.
Hedgehogs only hibernate or sleep in specially designed nests so if one is found in the middle of a garden or on a path it may be ill and need attention.
When rescuing a hedgehog, thick gloves should be worn as the spines can cause injuries and they may bite. It is best to place them in a secure box with air holes and warmth can be provided to help with possible shock after injury by wrapping a towel around a hot water bottle.
If the need has arisen to catch a bird as you suspect it may be injured, it is best to do so using a blanket, towel or gloves to prevent injury. Once caught, carefully hold the bird around the shoulders to prevent the wings from flapping and hold the head away from you. Smaller birds can then be placed in a secure box with air holes to prevent further stress.
FEEDING WILD BIRDS
Wild birds benefit from being offered food in our gardens not only in winter but also spring when they are searching for extra food for their young and summer when the ground dries up causing ground dwelling prey to move deeper into the soil. This will then prepare them for the autumn moult when they renew feathers for winter.
Birds can be fed a mix of seeds, unsalted peanuts and table scraps such as cooked pasta, rice, potatoes and bread.
Birds also need water to drink and bathe, in winter the feathers must be clean and in good condition for warmth to protect against the harsh weather. Any shallow water container can be used as a bird bath and keeping it frost free will help conserve vital body heat.
In many cases wildlife will benefit from being left in the wild with no intervention, but if at any time an animal appears to be injured and requires veterinary attention, if it is safe to do so, please rescue them or call the RSPCA for collection.
Contacts for help and advice:
RSPCA 24hr cruelty and advice line: 0300 1234 999
Web address: www.rspca.org.uk/
RSPB Birds and wildlife advice: 01767 693690 (office hours) Web address: www.rspb.org.uk/
British Hedgehog Preservation Society: Tel 01584 890801
Web address: www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/
Bat Conservation Trust: 0845 1300228
Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital 24 hour emergency line: 01844 292292