It is difficult to cover every single scenario with these advice pages, but many of the most common incidents and issues surrounding wildlife can be found here. If you still have questions or would like to speak to someone, first look for any specialist contact information on that species page or ring WRAS’s non-emergency number 01825-873003 during office hours.
Badgers are one of the most loved creatures we deal with. However they are very determined creatures and frequently cause trouble in residential areas damaging fencing, digging up bulbs, digging setts in inappropriate places as well as being found injured and causing road accidents.
Most people see the occasional dead badger on the roadside but rarely see them live. There is an estimated population of 250,000 across the UK but the numbers are declining as more and more of our countryside is built on and DEFRA kill more and more badgers blaming them for TB!
East Sussex WRAS is now part of the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project a coalition of groups who aim to help fight the spread of Tb in Badgers. More information on the work of the coalition and about badger and Tb can be found on the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project website
Liaison With Badger Groups
WRAS undertakes numerous badger rescue calls received via the Southdown Badger Group and Badger Trust Sussex. Badger call-outs received outside the areas covered by these groups should be passed on to the area badger groups for attendance. WRAS will only attend if the area badger group is too far away to respond or cannot be contacted.
Local badger groups
Sussex Badger Trust: 07910 198720
South Downs Badger Protection Group: 01273 514942
Road casualty badgers
Badger road casualties can occur at any time of the year, but the most common times are during the spring and autumn when dusk falls during peak traffic times in the morning and evenings. Badgers are dangerous to handle and several members of the public have picked up unconscious badgers placed them on the passenger seat or boot of their car and driven off only to have to stop the car and get out and call for help when the badger comes to and starts charging round their car!
If you find a road casualty park your car where it will help protect the badger from being hit again and turn on your hazard warning lights, however if it is dangerous to stop where the badger is move to a location where it is safer. Call for help as soon as possible. If the badger is in a dangerous location and could cause an accident then call the police using 999 and ask for assistance.
If the badger is alert or moving watch it but do not try to catch or hold it, stand well back. If the badger tries to move towards the road and traffic then try to discourage it by standing between the badger and the traffic, but again only do so if it is safe to do so and you are not putting yourself at risk. If the badger is lying on the road and not holding its head up, then cover the animal using a towel or blanket, again keep your distance once the badger is covered and wait for help to arrive.
Badgers caught in snares
Badgers caught in snares should not be cut free and just released. Call for help as soon as possible. Such calls will be treated as emergency calls. Snares cause ligature wounds and once freed from a snare the toxins which build up below the sometime invisible ligature wounds can cause the badger to have a heart attack. These creatures must come in for observation and care for at least 24 hours to ensure the animal is safe and well. Snares around legs can be extremely dangerous as the pressure can cause the top layers of skin to die off and in the worse case scenario they can loose the limb completely.
Call for help as soon as possible. Try to cover the animal over with a blanket or large towel but do not get too close or stand close enough for the animal to bite you. It is more important to try and cover the head than the body but try to cover as much of the body as you can. Once the head is covered the animal will calm down a bit. Do not stand too close to the animal and keep noise down or you will frighten the poor creature.
Dead badgers should be reported to the local area badger group for their records - see their numbers above. East Sussex WRAS does not remove dead badgers, except where an illegal death is suspected. It is the responsibility of the land/property owner to dispose of a dead badger if found on their property, however your local council or veterinary centre may be willing to assist with the disposal. If you find a dead badger on the road it should be reported to your district, borough or city council for disposal as they have an obligation under European law to dispose of dead animals on the road.
Feeding badgers in your garden
WRAS does not support the regular feeding of badgers in gardens, due to the problems they can cause as a result. Like all animals, badgers will breed to match a food sourse. The occasional bit of food left out for them is not a problem but feeding large quantities can cause problems. One garden WRAS visited a lady was putting out three washing up bowls of food per night for the badgers. In three years the badgers visiting her garden had changed from 2 at a time to 12 at a time. Surprisingly the neighbours were not happy at the damage which was being caused by attracting the badgers to this garden. As a result over one thousand pounds worth of repairs and work had to be carried out to neighbouring gardens to stop the badgers from causing damage in their neighbouring gardens.
If you want to put out scraps occasionally this will not be a problem but limit the amount of food and the frequency in which it is fed. It is better to plant fruit trees and bushes and even crops like maize which badgers like in a small area of your garden. The use of natural food means that if the person feeding goes into hospital or dies or moves away the food source may well stay and help the badgers long term, avoiding any possibility of dependant badger starving as a result.
We receive several complaints about badgers digging up bulbs and digging latrines in gardens. Badgers have regular pathways which they use like clockwork most nights. Trying to stop them from using their pathways is extremely difficult and can result in more damage than you bargained for. By blocking up a hole under a fence you may find they break down your wooden fence to get though.
Badgers adapt very well to development and can survive quite well in the middle of a building site, but end up causing a lot of damage to surrounding gardens once the development is finished. This is a sad fact of our encroachment on our countryside.
The main problems which residents encounter are badgers digging up their garden for several reasons. Badgers love beetles and leatherjackets and with a very sensitive sense of smell they can easily locate them just under the surface of your lawn. The use of bone meal and fish meal to feed plants can be an attraction for badgers too. Badgers will also dig holes to defecate in. There are several products which can be used to discourage badger from using your garden and lawn. Most garden centre will stock a range of badger and fox deterrence products.
Bats live in a variety of locations from trees covered in ivy to the roof of your house. WRAS undertakes bat rescues for the Sussex Bat Group and works under their guidelines and instructions. All main WRAS rescuers are trained by the Sussex Bat Group
If you find a bat please do not touch it with your bare hands, please wear gloves. If it is not in any immediate danger, like inside a room on a curtain etc then leave it alone and seek advice below or call WRAS for a rescue call-out.
Late Summer / Autumn
WRAS has been called out to numerous bat casualties during the late summer and into the autumn. Most of these have been juveniles which have started flying but with the on set of autumn strong winds they can struggle to keep control and stay with their parents. As a result some of them become lost. They are then unable to find food for themselves. Parent bats teach their young historic flight paths and show them where the insects can be found. If they are not found by their parents and once their stomachs are empty they will land and refuse to take off again. Unless found and rescued these bats will die of starvation.
Bats caught in fly paper
Every year several bats are found stuck to hanging sticky fly papers. These bats are attracted to the insects stuck to the paper and as a result become stuck themselves. They are not easy to remove from the paper and specialist help and advice should be sought as soon as possible from a registered bat worker. Do not attempt to remove or treat these bats yourself.
Fly fishing and bats
Bats are a species which you wouldn't expect to come into conflict with fisherman. However, fly fishing does catch more than just fish! Several bats will chase the dart of fishing flies being cast. In addition, rods and line being left standing up against walls and posts have been known to catch bats. Discarded flies caught in branches is also a serious hazard just waiting for a bat to pass. Those managing fishing lakes could easily avoid this situation arising by cutting back vegetation where fishing flies could become caught up.
The following links take you to the Bat Conservation Trust's website.
Birds of prey should be kept in warm environments and not allowed to get cold, unless you suspect internal injuries.
Birds of prey can be transported in anything from a cardboard box to a specialist pet carrier. The container must not be so small that the bird will sustain further damage, but not so large that it can jump around inside. The box should be lined on the bottom with a towel - never use straw or sawdust. Do not place water in the box during transportation. Wire mesh carriers are not the best way of transporting birds of prey as their feathers can become caught and damaged which in turn can prevent then from being released until the following spring.
Do not attempt to feed any bird of prey unless you are trained in feeding.
Remember to wash your hands, especially after handling meat eating birds which pose a higher infection risk that seed eaters.
Many "orphaned" birds of prey are not usually orphaned at all - they are just in the process of testing their wings. Many young birds spread out and away from their nests long before they can fly - this prevents overcrowding in the nest as the youngsters grow rapidly, and is nature’s way of helping to minimise any threat to the entire clutch from predators.
Some young birds do lose their footings during these first explorations and fall to the ground. A grounded chick may look lost and vulnerable, but the chances are its parents know exactly where it is and will continue to feed it. Also, many young birds are quite capable of climbing back into their tree using beaks and talons.
Birds of Prey inside buildings
The most common bird of prey which flies inside buildings is the sparrowhawk. They quite often chase pigeons into factories or warehouses and then have difficulty in finding their way out. However, sparrowhawks are frightened of flying in the dark and they can sometimes be caught by forcing the bird to fly and then switching all the lights off plunging the building into darkness - so best tried at night. The bird will then flutter to the ground and can if you are quick enough be caught and released. Other birds of prey are not so easy and removal can sometimes be impossible.Follow us!
During the spring and autumn they are frequently hit by cars as dusk falls during the rush hour for traffic. As the rush hour gets longer so does the frequency at which deer are hit and injured. WRAS also deals with a number of deer caught in stock fencing and netting of various materials.
Deer become extremely stressed whilst being handled and rescued so it is important that those handling deer have an understanding or their behaviour and how to handle and control deer plus know when a rescue is not possible and too much of a risk to those trying to rescue the deer. Many road casualty deer are so seriously injured that they can only be put to sleep. However young deer are more likely to survive a road accident than adults.
Limping and missing limbs
People frequently phone after seeing a deer limping or with the lower part of a leg missing. Many deer survive quite well on three legs.
After being hit by a car a limping deer will have adrenaline running through its body which will either make it run off and disappear and you’ll not find it; or get up find somewhere close by to hide and collapse down not wanting to stand.
Frequently young baby deer are found by walkers. The general advice is to leave well alone. It is normal for parent deer to leave their young hidden in long grass or other vegetation. However, parents do get killed on roads or killed by humans leaving orphaned young. It is important that these baby deer are not moved, if in doubt about whether the deer is orphaned phone for advice.
The young deer will normally start to wander off when mum does not return. If found in an exposed place like short grassland - not hidden - and at risk from dog walkers or other similar hazards then the baby deer may well have been abandoned. Do not move the deer unless advised to do.
Caught in rope and fencing
WRAS receives many calls about deer caught by their antlers in rope swings, by their legs in stock fencing and by their antlers in electric fencing. These stand a fairly good chance of survival but it depends on the damage and the length of time in which the animal has been caught for. Please do not just cut a deer free and release it, it is always best to wait for rescuers to arrive on site first before attempting to cut them free. Deer caught in rope, netting or electric fencing should be caught and then have the rope/fencing cut free from the antlers - some people have set them free by cutting the rope/fencing well away from the animal which then runs off dragging several metres of fencing behind it to become caught up again later.
WRAS has previously been able to take baby or young deer to St Tiggywinkles but sadly this is not possible anymore. WRAS is not able to take in baby deer itself, but Folly Wildlife Rescue recently opened its new Hospital and is able to help them along with a smaller organisation called Wildlife A & E who can be contacted on the following numbers:
Folly Wildlife Rescue (Nr Tunbridge Wells): 01892-543213
Wildlife A & E (Nr Rotherfield): 07709574665
WRAS frequently gets about road casualty deer. The success of treating these casualties is very low. Quite often deer which receive a glancing blow from a car will just run off in an adreniline rush and you won't see them again. Other deer which are hit harder will first hit the vehicle and then hit the floor and virtually all the adult road casualty deer WRAS has attend have had either spinal damage or internal injuries and had to be put to sleep. WRAS is unable to euthanase deer itself and rely on vets to do so and WRAS has found that most vets are too busy or unwilling to get involved in dealing with such casualties, so now advises motorists to report road casualty deer to Sussex Police by dialing 101 (or if a road hazard dial 999) and asking them to contact the nearest deer warden. WRAS hopes to be able to change this in the future. Do not attempt to move a deer out of the road or scare deer away from grass verges as you may just cause the deer to panic and run in front of another passing car. Always position your car where you are safe and put your hazard lights on.
Deer can cause a lot of problems in gardens and eat much prized vegetables and shrubs, for information of how to discourage deer from visiting your garden visit the British Humane Wildlife Deterrence Association.Follow us!
WRAS receives numerous calls from members of the public concerned about foxes. Limps are one of the most common concerns, however not all limping foxes will need to come in for care. Foxes which are able to put weight on the limping leg will normally recover given time and more likely to be just ligament, tendon or muscular damage. As with humans these can take over six weeks to recover. During this time a fox can be supplementary fed to ensure the animal is getting enough food. However, it is not advisable to continuously feed or you will reduce the foxes territory size and as a result loose control over valuable natural food supplies.
Basic fox facts
- The UK fox is actually the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
- Although it is a member of the dog family, some of fox habits are very cat like as well.
- Foxes are omnivores. They are solitary hunters and eat rodents, insects, worms, fruit, birds, eggs and all other kinds of small animals. About 60 percent of a red fox's diet is made up of rabbits and mice.
- Like cats, foxes often play with their catch before they kill it.
- The red fox can reach a speed of 48 km/h (30 mph).
- The average life span of a fox is 18 months but they can live up to 10 years in the wild.
- Foxes can hear a watch ticking 40 yards away.
- The pupils of a fox's eyes are almond-shaped rather than round.
- Breeding occurs between December and February. Gestation takes 52-53 days. The red fox has 2-5 cubs once a year in spring. Cubs are born naked, blind and helpless. Usually only 2-3 cubs survive.
- The fox is sometimes referred to as vermin, but it is not, and never has been categorised as such by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
- Fox screams often wake and scare people, and the have been incidents where the police have been called out by people thinking a person is being hurt! But they are no more than fox conversations. This is usually only problematic for short periods during autumn, when juveniles are dispersing, and in the breeding season, between Christmas and late February.
- Studies in the south east of England, have shown that there are around 12% fewer foxes than in 1998.
- Risk of catching disease from foxes has very limited. Canine rabies, once widespread in the UK, died out naturally in 1906 and has since rapidly receded over most of Europe. Parvo virus and distemper have never been recorded in UK foxes.
- Doctors routinely warn pregnant women of the dangers of toxoplasmosis, a parasite found in most species of animals including humans and birds. It can in theory, affect the eyes, kidneys, blood, brain and nervous system of any species it infects – no one has ever died as a result and basic hygiene precautions are sufficient to prevent infection.
Foxes which are holding a leg off the ground need to be watched closely to see how the leg is being used and how much the leg is moved. Sometimes a leg will be held off the ground whilst running but will be put to the ground whilst it is walking, this is not too much to worry about but you should keep an eye on the leg to ensure it doesn't get worse.
Foxes which hold a leg up and the foot or end of the leg dangles out of control and flopping around will probably be a nasty fracture and will need catching. A leg which is held out to the side or an unnatural angle may be dislocated. Observe the injured fox and watch how mobile the fox is. These animals may look very slow when injured but normally they are conserving energy so that when rescuers approach they can use this stored up energy to run off! Dealing with these types of injuries can be extremely difficult and frustrating for the rescuers.
Supportive feeding to help keep an injured fox visiting on a regular basis is valuable and helpful in terms of being able to catch the fox. This can then allow rescuers to consider placing a cage trap or look at possible ways of treating a fox using medication provided by sympathetic veterinary surgeons.
If you have a limping fox visiting keep an eye on foxes biting the lower section of leg, becoming more lethargic, sitting or walking but unable to do so without staggering or weaving from side to side. Also if the fox collapses to one side in an uncontrollable fashion then please contact WRAS immediately for advice.
Foxes can be dangerous to handle and rescuers expect to be bitten at least once a year by foxes who are in pain and frightened. If you find a road casualty park your car where it will help protect the fox from being hit again and turn on your hazard warning lights, however if it is dangerous to stop where the fox is move to a location where it is safer. Call for help as soon as possible. If the fox is in a dangerous location and could cause an accident then call the police using 999 and ask for assistance.
If the fox is alert or moving watch it but do not try to catch or hold it, stand well back. If the fox tries to move towards the road and traffic then try to discourage it by standing between the fox and the traffic, but again only do so if it is safe to do so and you are not putting yourself at risk. If the fox is lying on the road and not holding its head up, then cover the animal using a towel or blanket, again keep your distance once the fox is covered and wait for help to arrive.
Foxes caught in snares
Foxes caught in snares should not be cut free and just released. Call for help as soon as possible. Such calls will be treated as emergency calls. Snares cause ligature wounds and once freed from a snare the toxins which build up below the sometime invisible ligature wounds can used the fox to have a heart attack. These creatures must come in for observation and care for at least 24 hours to ensure the animal is safe and well. Snares around legs can be extremely dangerous as the pressure can cause the top layers of skin to die off and in the worse case scenario the loss of the limb completely.
Call for help as soon as possible. Try to cover the animal over with a blanket or large towel but do not get too close or get close to that the animal can bite you. It is more important to try and cover the head than the body but try to cover as much of the body as you can. Once the head is covered the animal will calm down a bit. Do not stand too close to the animal and keep noise down or you will frighten the poor creature.
Foxes caught in stock fencing
This is fairly common. When a fox jumps over a wire fence, one of the legs sometimes goes the wrong side of the top strand of wire and ends up twisting the wire round the leg trapping the leg in the air where the fox is then left hanging. This needs to be treated the same as a snare injury. When you approach try to get the head covered in order to calm the fox down. This can be more difficult as the fox is hanging rather then lying on the ground. Call for help as soon as possible and rescuers will cut the fox free and take the poor creature in for an assessment of the leg damage and other potential damage to the hips.
East Sussex WRAS does not remove dead foxes, except where an illegal death is suspected. It is the responsibility of the land/property owner to dispose of a dead foxes if found on their property, however your local council or veterinary centre may be willing to assist with the disposal. If you find a dead fox on the road it should be reported to your the district, borough or city council for disposal as they have an obligation under European law to dispose of dead animals on the road.
Finding apparently abandoned cubs
Fox cubs are often found in gardens, parks and fields where you wouldn’t expect to find them during the daytime. In the spring it is common for vixens to move their young from one den to another. In order to do this they normally carry their young one at a time. If the distance is lengthy, the vixen will use a half way point, depositing her young in tall grass, under shrubs, behind obstacles or similar to hide them. Sometimes this process can take more than one night and therefore the young can be left hidden at the half way point during the daytime.
If you find more than one cub in your garden hidden in long grass or bushes then you should leave alone unless they look obviously sick or injured. Even then you should call for help and someone can visit and check they are ok without risking their Mum abandoning them unnecessarily.
If you find a cub which is wondering aimlessly round your garden during the daytime or staggering then you should place the cub in a box if it is weak enough for you to catch. Alternatively place a box over the top of the cub trapping it in your garden or leave it alone but keep an eye on it an call for help and advice.
If you are not sure then please call and we will attempt to attend and check them.
It is possible to re-unite cubs with their mums on some occasions, this involves rescuers sitting up into the night wathcing and monitoring the cubs where they were found. This is not always successful but does frequently work.
Feeding foxes in your garden
WRAS does not support the regular feeding of foxes in gardens, due to the problems they can cause as a result. Like all animals, foxes will breed to match a food sourse. The occasional bit of food left out for them is not a problem but feeding large quantities can cause problems. One garden WRAS visited a gentleman was putting out four large bowls of food per night for the foxes. After a few months the foxes visiting the garden had changed from 3 at a time to 9 at a time. Surprisingly the neighbours were not happy at the damage which was being caused by attracting the foxes to this garden. Some neighbours complained and as a result called pet control who started shooting them.
If you want to put out scraps occasionally this will not be a problem but limit the amount of food and the frequency in which it is fed. Putting out food infrequently and only in small quantities mean that if the person feeding goes into hospital or dies or moves away the foxes will not starve as a result.
For details on how to deal with unwanted foxes visiting gardens, please contact the British Humane Wildlife Deterrence Association.Follow us!
Every year hundreds of birds across East Sussex are picked up unnecessarily by member of the public and handed into veterinary centre or delivered to wildlife hospitals when they should have been left alone.
Baby and fledgling birds
It is very easy to assume a bird has been abandoned when you find it on the floor, but quite often it is a fledgling learning to fly. When a fledgling takes its first flight it is going to be unsuccessful, it is natural for them to spend 2-3 days on the floor sometimes before they can fly properly. Mum and dad will normally be near by but they do not always fly down to feed every few minutes as they are trying to encourage the youngster to fly. Both the youngster and the parents are good at hiding themselves.
Parent birds will encourage their young to disperse into different hide-aways where they will carry on feeding them. This is nature's way of spreading the risk of the youngsters getting taken by a predator. Clustered in the nest they would be easy prey for any bird or other animal that detected it.
This natural system of dispersal has worked for millions of years and has worked successfully. Some will be taken as these small garden birds form part of natures food chain, helping other wild animals and birds to survive. For this reason, young and fledgling birds should be left alone. However there are some situations of man-made origin that means you should intervene.
There are two stages at which birds are found. As a chick and as a fledgling.
If you find a fledgling (a feathered bird) you should leave it alone unless:
- There are nearby environmental hazards like roads or pools
- The fledgling is injured in any way
- The parents have definitely been killed or incapacitated
- The fledglings are of a species known to be ignored once they have left the nest prematurely, e.g. tawny owls, heron or swifts
This is a complex issue, some species of baby birds like ducklings and pheasant chicks are able to fed themselves straight after hatching but other species like moorhen and partridge need help.
You can reduce the chances of a young bird surviving by bring it into care and hand rearing. It is surprising how many avoid capture by cats and other prey by hiding in bushes and vegetation.
The risk of being caught by a cat or prey is frequently less than the risks of feeding it the wrong moisture content. Its mum is best at preparing the baby's food, we can only guess at what it is used to and can easily get it wrong.
DO NOT FEED MILK
Every year we get calls from people who have fed a baby bird milk. Birds do not have breasts and do not produce milk. This is bad for their digestive system. Seek advice as soon as possible.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REAR A BIRD ON ITS OWN
Every year WRAS is asked to take on birds which have been hand reared on their own or as a pair and have become domesticated. It is important that birds are not reared on their own but with others of their own species to ensure they learn life survival skills and compete for food. Handling should be kept to a minimum to ensure they are not tamed and can be released back into the wild.
Wing and leg injuries
Some fractures can be fixed depending on where they occur i.e. close to a joint. However sometimes a bird is so weak that it may appear to be unable to fly or use its legs however if no injuries can be found then it may just need rest food and water to build up its strength.
Eye and head injuries
Eye problems quite often occur along with collision injuries to the head. These birds may need help with feeding as they are sometime uncoordinated. Therefore need to be seen by a veterinary surgeon, in order to recover properly.
Mouth and crop problems
Pigeons and doves commonly get Trichomoniosis or Canker [a protozoa] in the mouth and crop you will see a thick yellow substance. These birds will be unable to feed themselves as the mouth gets blocked with the canker, they quite often get respiratory problems for the same reason.
DO NOT pull any of the yellow discharge away from the mouth /crop as this will pull away the tissue and cause bleeding. Treatment maybe needed for a week or more depending on progress. Antibiotic cover and vitamins will be needed.
Pigeons and doves also get a fungal disease called Candidaisis or "Sour Crop". This disease affects the Upper alimentary tract, you can see greyish white lesions in the mouth/ pharynx and birds become listless and may develop diarrhoea and vomiting. Young birds are more susceptible. These birds will need help with feeding until strong enough to feed themselves. This condition can be easily confused with Trichomoniasis or Vitamin A deficiency however it is possible that a bird will have both candidaisis and Trich at the same time and can be treated for both.
Cat attack victims
For many years it was accepted that a bird caught by a cat was going to die of shock within 48 hours. Since then rehabilitators have discovered that this is not the case and the "48 hour syndrome", as it was called, was in fact septicemia that killed the birds. This septicemia was shown to be caused by a bacteria Pasteurella multocida, a normal bacteria carried on a cat's teeth.
Further to this revelation it was also proven that even if the bird was thought to have been caught by a cat it usually succumbed to septicemia. Modern-day practices provide medication for birds both positively caught by a cat and those birds thought to have been attacked by a cat. A single intramuscular injection of long-acting antibiotic has markedly reduced the mortality rate. A single dose of antibiotics is not normally recommended but it was found that to continue a full course was often too stressfull for these small birds.
It is extremely important that a cat attacked bird receive antibiotic injection as a matter of urgency when you find one. Good veterinary centres will be more than willing to given antibiotic injections and hold the bird until WRAS or another organisation can collect the bird.
Feeding visiting birds
As a general rule WRAS does not believe in artificial feeding of wildlife visiting gardens. This can and has led to numerous problems and caused many arguements in residential areas which unfortunately always seems to lead to the wildlife suffering.
Rather than usuing bird feeders it is more advisable to plant bushes which produce berries, let the grass grow long in part of your garden to provide seeds, plant fruit trees and other plants which produce flowers which will attract insects. Using artificial feeders will encourage birds to breed to match the food source. One garden WRAS visited had over 10 bird feeders and over 40 blue tits visiting at a time - this is not natural and has only developed as a result of the artificial feeding. If this couple were to go into hospital, go away on holiday or move many of these birds would starve as a result of relying on this artificial food source.
The winter is the only time of year which WRAS feels it is sometimes necessary to help out wildlife. Ensuring there is access to fresh water. Bird baths and water bowls for wildlife will freeze over quickly, so please place out fresh water daily. It is best to do this in the morning and as dusk falls to give day time and night time animals a chance to get fresh water. You can also add a tablespoon of sugar to 2 pints of warm water let it dissolve and place out for them.
During snowy weather it is always beneficial to put out a small quantity of food some of the ground and some on a table. It is good to put out fruit and berries as these will contain vitimins and sugars which can help our wildlife survive.
Fish pond Heron deterrents
The use of home made deterrent can be fatal for garden birds. Strings stretched across fish ponds can be a serious problem for herons and other wildlife. Most trapped birds occur in locations where deterrents have been used and not erected or maintained properly. If you have a pond and you do not want herons taking your fish, try the old plastic heron trick. There are other products on the market like "Netfloat" which is a series of circular plastic disks that are joined together and placed under the water, stopping the heron taking any fish. A 3.5 x 0.5 metre section of pond can be covered for about £23.00 (www.netfloat.co.uk). You can also buy Scarers which have movement sensors and sent a 3 second jet of water in that direction but these cost about £50 (www.primrose-london.co.uk). Another product on the market is the "Oasis Brilliant Pyramid" which is left floating on the water surface. It shines, sparkles, and reflects the daylight so intensively, that herons are frightened by it. These costs arout £8 each (www.gardensite.co.uk). So there are plenty of alternatives to netting and line being erected. If anyone has any experience of these please contact us as we would be interested to know how well they have worked.Follow us!
Seagull Gulls are some of the most dedicated parents you will find in the bird world. Gulls have been forced to adapt to urban life as their natural coastal habitats are being destroyed by humans coastal defences and cleansing of the cliff faces to remove their nesting sites. Thousands of birds used to nest between Brighton and Newhaven, now only a small colony of about 12 pairs of fulmars live at Newhaven as a result. As a result many of these gulls have adapted and now live on roof tops in the surrounding towns and villages.
All birds are protected under the Countryside and Wildlife Act during their nesting season including all gulls, crows, pigeons and doves.
Nesting Seagulls and the law
WRAS will not touch or interfere with any nesting seagulls, their young, their nest or eggs, as to do so would be illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, unless:
- an adult or young seagull is sick, injured or orphaned
- a licence is obtained and there is a valid reason for interference
Seagull consultancy work
Regardless of the reason in which DEFRA or any other government body issues a license to disturb and interfere with nesting seagulls, WRAS rescuers will not undertake any work unless WRAS's Rescue Co-ordinator is satisfied that the removal of the seagull young or eggs and/or nest is essential from a human health and safety aspect, and cannot wait until the young have flown. The young will only be removed if they are dependent on the nest. If the young are old enough to walk around and use other parts of the roof, in safety, away from where essential work is required, the young will be left on the roof but the nest removed. The person requesting the work will be expected to make a donation to the suggested value of £75 and agrees to pay all other expenses before the work is commenced.
Problem Seagulls - dive bombing
WRAS does not believe that seagulls should be removed because they are dive bombing or causing an inconvenience to residents or users of a building. WRAS rescuers issue the following advice in such circumstances:
- use an umbrella to cover yourself whilst in the area affect by the gulls
- the use of sticks, rakes, brooms and other long handled objects to protect and frighten the seagulls is not advisable, as this will encourage the gulls to attack
- preventing the gulls from nesting is the only long term solution to the above problems
Crime relating to Seagulls
Any information relating to the illegal removal, killing or interference of seagulls should be passed on to Sussex Police Wildlife Crime team and also the RSPCA. WRAS volunteers do not undertake any action relating to information received unless asked to do so by Sussex Police or the RSPCA.
Five Stages of the Gulls Nesting Season
The gull nesting season is divided into five overlapping periods as follows.
1. Nest building / laying of eggs
This is the initial period, which starts around late May, but where nest are destroyed by weather conditions or by man, gulls may try again. During this period calls are received from people who do not want gulls nesting on their roof or under licence need urgent work undertaking on their roof. Gulls are protected like all birds are during nesting. Their nests cannot be disturbed unless using a general licence. Dive Bombing and noisy gulls are NOT a suitable reason for using a general licence. For further advice on using general licences you need to contact Natural England (part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
2. Baby Seagull chicks / fluffy chicks
As soon as chicks appear on roofs you start getting calls where the chicks has fallen off the roof. These should be replaced using the directions set out below. Very small chicks up to 3 days old do need the warmth of their parents at night. After strong winds numerous calls are received about chicks falling off roofs. Placing them on a garage, extension or even back on to the main house roof is the best thing to do. The parent will continue to look after them and feed them. They do not need to go back to their nest. Ensuring fresh water is available to drink is very beneficial for all wildlife in these situations.
It is common for the gulls to be calling to their parents, whining and whimpering, this is normal and not a sign of distress. All young gulls do this even up on top of the roofs, this is them just asking for attention and food. It is nothing to worry about. As a general rule most wildlife avoids making noise when injured to avoid attracting predators.
3. Feathered juveniles
As the feathers appear they start to follow their parents and attempt to fly. Even more calls are received about young gulls falling off roofs. Again, where possible these should be placed on a roof close to their original roof to get them off the ground, as described above.
Fledgling can be identified as those whose wing tips overlap just above the base of the tail. Ideally there should be at least a 1cm overlap. As with all fledgling birds they are unsuccessful when they take their first flight and land in gardens. They need to spend time building up the muscle strength in their wings before they can fly. Fledglings should be left alone even if on the ground unless injured or in a confined space (6ft x 6ft or very high walls i.e. more than 12ft high but depends on size of confined space).
During this time the parents often withhold food in an attempt to encourage the gulls to fly up to them, this is normal.
5. Gull flying accidents
The final stage is when the fledglings are flying and getting used to their wings. This results in a variety of calls for dog attacked gulls, road casualties and found with a whole variety of injuries.
Is the young gull being fed?
Adult gulls do not feed their young as often as garden birds would feed their young. A blue tit may feed as often as every 20 minutes or more often. Seagulls feed 3-5 times a day - mainly in the early morning, late afternoon and evening depending on the temperature as adult gulls do not like flying during really hot weather. Frequently people believe that chicks and youngsters are not being fed, as they have not seen the parents come down to a young bird all day. However, very few people will actually sit and watch continuously from 4am through till 10pm to determine whether the parents are bring down food. If the parents are on the roof above and a youngster is on a lower roof, they will normally be coming down to feed still. Gull parents do not abandon their young very easily.
Feeding young Seagulls
Many people ask if they should start feeding young gulls placed back onto low roofs or those fallen into gardens. Feeding can frequently lead to the youngster being attacked by other adult gulls who want the food too. Other adult gulls can get aggressive towards youngsters which are not theirs. Feeding is not necessary, as the parent birds will feed them. If they are abandoned then they will need to be taken in for hand rearing.
Replacing a youngster back on a roof
Where a baby or young seagull falls off a roof and is unable to return to its parents on its own, it should be placed back onto the roof if:
- it is clear which nest and roof it has come from
- the bird has no obvious injures
... Or be placed onto a flat extension roof, another shallow low roof or garage roof as along as:
- the roof is close enough for the parents to easily find there young
- the roof is not encroaching on other seagulls rearing their young
- the baby seagull is not too young and not going to be too exposed
Every year thousands of gulls fall off roof tops across the Southeast of England, and it is impossible for them all to come into care as the money and resources does not exist to do so. Rescue organisations do as much as they can within their budgets and balancing it against the rest of the work they have to undertake. However, every year the facilities become full and a limit is reached. Please do not take offence if you are asked to try and get the bird off the ground or take it somewhere as East Sussex WRAS along with all the organisations are only small and have a limited number of volunteers and resources and cannot help everyone as there just aren't enough hours in the day.Follow us!
Hedgehogs are very delicate creatures. They have a wide range of illness and injuries which they suffer from. One of the most common is slug pellet poisoning. If found early enough then they can be treated, but many are lost. Look for the green staining round their lips. Hedgehogs are frequently caught by strimmers and end up with nasty head wounds which can easily become infected and fly blown as a result.
Dog attacked hedgehogs don’t always end up being as damaged as they look as sometimes the blood is actually from the dogs mouth and not from the hedgehog. We also see numerous road casualties. It is amazing how fast a hedgehog can run when it wants to, but late at night some people just can’t resist running over whatever they get a chance to.
If you find an injured hedgehog pick it up using a cloth or gardening gloves and place it in pet carrier or box lined with ideally a white cloth or tissue paper, and then call for help. Do not leave the hedgehog outside, in your shed, garage or outside toilet, bring it inside where it will benefit from a bit of warmth. Most people are worried about the fleas, but they can not survive on cats, dogs or any other pet nor ourselves.
DO NOT FEED HEDGEHOGS BREAD AND MILK. This is dangerous for their digestive system and can cause weak hedgehogs to die.
When to rescue hedgehogs
Apart from the obviously sick and injured hedgehog, if you find a hedgehog:
- out during the day time
- weighting less than 600 grams after 31st October
- covered in a substantial number of ticks
September / October hedgehogs
At this time of year we are frequently called to young hedgehogs being found. They should not be found out during the daytime, but many youngsters are seen during the evening and night with their mum. The most common concern is whether the young are going to be able to put on enough weight to survive hibernation. This is a difficult questions to answer at this time. As a general rule if they are with their mum at night and they look healthy and mum is taking care of them then leave them alone regardless of their weight.
However if there are complications of any sort it MAY after seeking advice be necessary to pick up mum and all her youngsters and bring them in to a rescue centre where they can be looked after until they weigh enough to be released back into the wild. If the youngsters are at an age when they could be suckling from mum, them it is important that mum if picked up with the young so that she can continue to feed the young. The hedgehog carer which takes them on will place the family into a large hutch and run and place in food for mum so that the young can naturally suckle from mum still, rather than the carer trying to replicate this suckling with artificial milk replacers.
It is unclear how may hedgehogs and other wildlife is killed in bonfires each year, mainly because they rarely get found afterwards. Numerous people have unfortunately had their bonfire celebrations ruined after finding escaping hedgehogs and other wildlife crawling out from bonfires burnt or injured.
WRAS has produced the following top ten tips for keeping hedgehogs and other wildlife safe during the bonfire season:
- Re-site the entire bonfire pile before being lit where possible
- Use broom handles to lift the bonfire up to check for wildlife sleeping inside before lighting the fire. Use torches to check underneath and listen carefully for any signs of life.
- With larger bonfires, erect a mesh fence with an overhang round the bonfire to avoid small wild mammals getting inside
- Light the bonfire at one side rather than all round so that any animals or bird inside have a chance to escape
- Move bird feeders and other food left out on the ground for wildlife away from the bonfire site for at least a week before building a bonfire
- Light bonfires away from over hanging trees and bushes
- Use fireworks away from trees and woodland
- Place a hedgehog house or simple small hutch with clean and fresh straw, hay and hand shredded paper to provide an alternative home for any animals which might be visiting your garden
- Have a bucket of water available in care you need to put out the fire or an animal on fire
- Know who to call if you find an injured wildlife casualty
Guillemots and Razorbills migrate through the English Channel to their breeding grounds during the winter. Juvenile birds will spend much of the winter in the channel rather than at the breeding sites. The type of oil that these birds are covered in varies from thick sticky crude oil to thin engine and heating oil. It is more common for oiled birds to be found with patches of thick black oil as spills of lighter heating oil with evaporate quite quickly.
Other greasy chemicals have been found covering seabirds. It is becoming more common for emaciated seabirds to be washed ashore. By the time these casualties reached the beach they have normally become quite critical. The emaciation is normally caused by a dramatic change in the weather or from a lack of fish stocks.
If you find a oiled bird on the beach
It is surprising how fast a Guillemot can run and if frightened will run or fly back into the sea for safety. It is not advisable to attempt capture unless you are experienced at catching birds. To catch any seabird on the beach you will need a towel or pillowcase and/or a net. Do not approach the bird from the land side, keeping wide of the bird, go down to the water line and stand between the bird and the water. This is not always possible as they may be on the edge of the tide - if this is the case wait for a while and the bird will normally move higher up the beach.
Approach the bird with the towel held low covering your lower legs and feet or use a net. Guillemots and Razorbills have a habit of running between your legs if given the chance! Try not to look directly at the bird, as this will frighten it more. Once caught small seabirds like Guillemots and Razorbills can be wrapped in towels or pillowcases and carried back to your vehicle. They can then be placed into pet carriers but ensure there is plenty of ventilation. This is due to the fumes building up inside theses containers.
Treatment and hospitalisation
It is more important that these casualties receive internal medication rather than external cleaning and washing so please do not take such a bird home and start washing it. Guillemots and Razorbills benefit from being kept with others of their kind so please do not try to look after an oiled bird yourself. Contact East Sussex WRAS or your local veterinary centre for help and advice.
Rehabilitation and release
Birds will only be washed once they are fit enough to withstand the stress of the washing process. After this is complete these birds need to be given regular access to warm water and allowed to washed and preen themselves. This will stimulate the oil glands, which water proof their feathers. Until the birds have recovered their natural oil on their feather the birds will need drying and keeping warm.
Guillemots and Razorbills need to be rehabilitated in large outdoor pens with others and in pools where they can dive and develop their strength again. Once they are heartily eating and diving for food they can be released back into the wild. When major spills have occurred these birds should be released away from any known danger.Follow us!
East Sussex WRAS unfortunately cannot deal with domestic rabbits or the capture of escaped pet rabbits.
Although many people do not like wild rabbits, they are an important part of nature’s food chain and can conserve chalk grassland which would otherwise turn to forest if left. What damage rabbits cause can fairly easily be prevented with the use of rabbit proof fencing and tree guards.
Every year millions of rabbits are caused to suffer and targeted by humans using air guns, dogs, snares, ferrets and gassing.
If you do not want rabbits in your garden it is best to try and keep them out by using rabbit proof fencing, which needs to be dug into the ground for at least 12 inches. Some gardeners put fencing up round their vegetable plots to help stop rabbits helping themselves.
If you find a myxomatosis rabbit or one hit on the road then please ring for advice.
Dealing with rabbit casualties
It can be very difficult to catch wild rabbits when they are injured and it is important to take your time and care when attempting to catch one. The last thing you want is for the rabbit to run out into the road and be hit by a car. Even those which are blind with myxomatosis can feel the vibration of you walking towards them. A net is very important when trying to catch rabbits. Sometimes it is best to encourage a myxomatosis rabbit towards someone standing still with a net so they can’t see or feel their presence. Road casualty rabbits are very difficult to catch if lively and again approaching from two different angles is normally best, but not always successful. Please take care whilst trying to catch any animal on a road side - your safety is paramount.
It is mainly Harbour seals which are seen off our coastline, but we do occasionally get visiting Grey seals from the north French coast. There are colonies of seals off Dover and at Chichester Harbour. Occasionally we find seals sunning themselves on mud flats around Denton Island, Newhaven.
Seals are mammals and they will come out of the water and sun bathe, quite often they will lie on their side waving a front flipper in the air. These are normally ok and do not need rescuing. Harbour seals are born during the summer and youngsters can sometimes wash up onto local beaches unable to feed themselves. A normal healthy seal will be nice and rounded, where as a poorly seal will lose weight and have wrinkled skin, a visible neck line and possibly visible pelvis bones.
If you need advice on seal on the beach them please contact WRAS on 07815 078 234 or BDMLR on 01825 765 546.
Seals in rivers
WRAS has been called out to several sightings of seals in river across East Sussex, mainly the Ouse and Cuckmere Rivers. Normally they swim up rivers following fish and when there are peak high tides. These seals are usually healthy and can stay around for several days or even a couple of weeks before swimming back down to the sea.
Sun bathing seals
Sometimes along the Sussex coast we get Harbour seals resting on concrete breakwaters or wide groynes as well as on the shingle beaches. They will often be on their sides and waving a flipper or "bananaring" which is where they lift their head and tail up curving their bodies, this is normal behaviour.
Abandonded / poorly seals
Occasionally we get young common and older grey seals on our beaches which are not very well. Most seals will loose body condition when they are not well and this can be the first sign of a problem. Seals should be nice and rounded from their head to their flippers. If a seal has a visible neck or you can see the bones of its rib cage or pelvis then there is a problem and experts from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) need to be involved. Most of WRAS’s rescuers are trained Marine Mammal Medics with BDMLR and therefore work under their guidelines and instructions. If in any doubt then please call for help and advice.
There are three native species of snake in this country: the Adder, the Grass snake and the Smooth snake. All three are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is illegal to kill, take or injure them by any method.
It is worth noting that Grass snakes produce a foul smelling liquid when handled or captured which is difficult to remove from clothing. Once covered you will want to change your clothing!
Snakes caught in netting
It is common for snakes to become caught in netting in gardens or over ponds. They twist themselves round and become more and more tangled. Do not release the snake straight away. It will need to be checked over for wounds and taken to a veterinary surgeon for antibiotics and other treatment. Ligature wounds need to be monitored for thickening of the skin, if this develops seek veterinary help as soon as possible. The snake should be placed under observation for at least 24 hours. If there is a reptile rescue organisation in your area pass the snake over for them to deal with.
Finding a snake in your garden
Many people are frightened of snakes and panic when finding one in their garden. Many people assume that it is the first time they have had a snake in their garden. It is more likely they have always been around but just not been seen.
Snakes cannot be picked up and relocated as this would be an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Abandonment of Animals Act.
Many people mistake Grass snakes for Adders. The Grass snake has a yellow "V" on the back of his head. The Grass snake varies in colour from a grey/green colour to a dark black/green colour with some darker almost black marks down its back. They prefer the damp and wetter areas of our countryside and like ponds and streams.
It is normally the male Adder that is seen sunning itself in dry areas. The male Adder is light grey in colour with a diamond or zigzag black mark down its back. The female is normally an orange/red or brown colour with a slightly dark shade of diamond or zigzag markings down its back. The Adder is thick and short whereas the Grass snake is thin and long.
Anyone experiencing problems with snakes in their gardens should contact their local amphibian and reptile group via Froglife. It can also be found via your local Wildlife Trust or library.
Poison and snakes
Only the Adder is poisonous. However, the poison is not very strong. Humans are more likely to have an allergic reaction from the bacteria on the snake’s teeth then from the poison carried. All bites should be checked over as soon as possible by a minor injury unit or hospital A&E department. However, smaller animals like dogs and cats can be affected and should seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
For further advice on snakes please contact:
- Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group: 01273 497553
- East Sussex Reptile Society (ESRAS): 07973 302351
- The British Herpetological Society
Red squirrels have struggled to survive for hundreds of years even before the Grey squirrels were introduced. They were fighting disease well before the Grey squirrel could be blamed for introducing it.
Both the Red and Grey squirrels have been hunted mercilessly by gamekeepers and foresters. Both the Red and Grey squirrel will strip bark in the early summer and will occasionally take the odd egg or chick for food.
Up until the 1920s Red squirrels were officially hunted and killed in large numbers in the New Forest. One "squirrel club" in Scotland killed over 80,000 between 1900 and 1930.
People experience problems with squirrels when they gain access to lofts where they can damage cables and wooden beams. Some people complain about squirrels raiding bird feeders and tables.
For further information on squirrel deterrence please contact John Bryant at:
Humane Urban Wildlife Deterrence
6 Royal Avenue
We are often called out to various swan incidents ranging from swans caught in fishing hooks, crash landing on roads or in gardens, sick swans living on unhealthy lakes and incidents of swans flying into overhead power cables. WRAS has been involved in numerous major swan incidents.
Juvenile swans are particularly good at crash-landing on roads, fields and in the middle of housing estates. Every year WRAS gets called to 30+ crash landed swans which are landed with a bump on roads or fields. Frequently we get calls from the Police to attend, but when we arrive a well meaning member of the public has walked the swan back to the nearest river or pond.
Please DO NOT walk a swan back to a river of lake unless advised to do so. The swan may be able to walk but it could have crashed landed due to being shot - shot wounds are not always easily visible on swans especially air gun wounds. They could have damage to their rib cage or internal organs but still able to walk. It is important that you call for help and advice. On some occasions it is safe to do so, but it is difficult to know unless you are used to checking them over.
Swans do not land on roads because they think they are rivers when wet. Swans crash land on various locations not just roads and it is mainly due to turbulence. Different land types give off different heat levels, this can cause turbulence. In areas like Lottbridge Drove, Eastbourne, swans frequently crash due to turbulence, due to the close bands of different ground types - housing, roads, fields, lake, rivers, etc. The juvenile swans are not used to this turbulence and therefore crash land as a result.
Legs on backs
Swans have a habit of resting either of their legs on their backs. Unfortunately, those who have not seen this before, frequently think the leg is injured as a result. This is mainly to do with heat exchange and rest. Swan have been known to hold a leg on its back for over an hour, even when swimming or being chased by other swans too.
As swans get old some of them tend to develop arthritis or other similar conditions in their joints. We do monitor swans (or encourage local people to) when a swan develops this type of condition. However, we do not normally catch and treat this condition unless it is necessary from a safety point of view. If the condition becomes too bad that the swan can hardly walk then we will seek advice from the Swan Sanctuary to see whether a more suitable and/or treatment is necessary.
Swans can develop injured legs for a number of different reasons. Legs which are clearly injured with blood and a clear fracture with bone showing are obviously conditions which require our attention as soon as possible. Fishing Line and hooks in legs, are fairly easy to deal with as long as the swan does not fly off. Hooks and line can be easily removed.
Swans with line, elastic bands, plastic etc which is applying pressure to a leg should NOT have the line, band or plastic cut off and the swan just released - these casualties MUST be observed for 24 hours (at least) and checked to ensure that the area beneath where the pressure was applied does not die off and cause a potentially fatal injury or wound.
Limps are common in swan leg call-outs. Sometimes these are to do with old age, other could be to do with infections in the joints or even foreign objects stuck in the feet. Sometimes the best place for minor limps is for the swan to have some hydrotherapy - by swimming around in a lake or river - so if the swan is already at a lake or river then it is best it stays there and is observed in case it gets worse.
Can a swan break your arm or leg?
Very unlikely - Swans are powerful birds and are the largest bird in the UK. Unless you are suffering from a condition like brittle bones, are a child, or happen to fall as a result of being hit by a swan, you are very unlikely to break you arm or leg by being hid by a swans wing.
They can give you a nasty bruise, their nails on their toes can scratch skin if you pick them up, their beaks can pitch your skin, but that is about it!
Be aware that swans are very territorial birds especially when they have their young about, a swans will charge down a river or across a lake if they think you are a threat. It is best to keep your movements slow and keep well clear if you are at all concerned about being near a swan.
For more swan advice and information, contact the National Swan Sanctuary on 01932 240 790 or visit their website.Follow us!
Why do cetaceans strand?
Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) strand for numerous reasons sometimes due to geomagetic contours which cross beaches, gently shelving beaches which do not reflect echolocation properly, chasing prey up onto beaches, unfamiliar coastal configurations or usual weather patterns. They may also strand due to social reasons following a sick or injured animal up onto the beach. Cetaceans will also strand due to illness and injury.
First response and first aid
- Send someone to ring or call WRAS or BDMLR from your mobile as soon as possible, remembering to note the exact location of where the animal has stranded.
- Do not push the animal back into water or pick it up and move it back into deeper water.
- Do not hold the animal under water or you ay drown it.
- Cetaceans can survive short periods of time on the beach if supported and cared for properly.
- Keep noises and movement around the animal as quiet as possible and stand behind the animals line of sight. Keep dogs and children away.
- Use the flats of your hands try to role and hold the animal into an upright position.
- Cover the animal with sheets or seaweed and keep wet. Use buckets / hose to continuously apply water to the cetaceans skin.
- Dig trenches either side of the animal where the side fins are so that they can point downwards. The animal can become uncomfortable if these fins are horizontal or pointing upwards at all.
- Protect the blow hole to the top of the animals head, so that sand and water does not enter, cup your hand around one side but do not cover the blow hole or restrict the animals ability to breath. Ensure you do not hold your head over the blow hole as you could catch an illnesses from the animals exhaled air.
- Do not pure water into the blow hole, this is the equivalent or your nose an you will drown them if you do.
- Wait for BDMLR or WRAS rescuers to arrive.
For further information on cetacean strandings or on how to become trained as a Marine Mammal Medic please go to BDMLR’s website. BDMLR can be contacted on 01825 765 546, 24 hours a day.Follow us!