Don’t ignore ligature wounds

A wildlife rescue charity is urging members of the public about the dangers of ligature wounds after dealing with what they describe as "one of the worse cases of misguided care they have ever seen involving a baby deer".

On Friday 7th October a member of the public found a 5 week old fallow deer caught in barbed wire fencing near Ardingly in Sussex, they took the deer home and because they couldn't see much external damage they decided to try and treat and rear the animal at home in a stable.

"Mistaking the stillness of the deer for calmness, and not realising how much in fright and pain she was and the internal damage caused by ligature wounds, the finder kept the deer in a stable until Wednesday 19th October – 5 days later" said WRAS founder Trevor Weeks from Uckfield.

The finder only called for help after discovering the deer had self-mutilated and tried to chew her foot off because of the pain and discomfort because by the ligature wound.

"On seeing this the finder tried getting help from a vet who said they would only put the deer down, but she then found WRAS's rescue line and called us for help. When we arrived the fawn was in a lot of distress, clearly in a lot of pain, she had lost quite a bit of blood too where she had been self-mutilating. We had to work on her quickly to stop the bleeding and give first aid. The poor creature had not received any treatment from a vet in the 5 days she had been in care, and what treatment the finders had given was far from adequate. This is the worst case of well-intentioned neglect I have ever seen" Trevor added.

"The finder told us that when she cut the deer free from the fence there was hardly any damage to the leg and therefore she didn't think the wounds were that serious. This is a common mistake, ligature wounds cause internal damage that you cannot necessarily see. The wound can start off as just a red mark on the skin, or look like a little graze or small cut in the skin, but they can turn into much larger wounds over the following 2 weeks" said Carrie Grace WRAS rescuer from Newhaven.

"Ligature wounds are caused in any situation where pressure is applied to the skin for more than an hour. The longer the pressure is applied the worse the wound will become. The tissue beneath where the pressure is applied will start to thicken and die off, and on a leg for example the ligature wound can trap blood in the foot which will start to become toxic if it stays trapped there for too long" said WRAS rescuer Kathy Martyn from Uckfield.

The deer named "Dusk" was taken by rescuers to a veterinary practice where emergency veterinary work was undertaken on stabilising her foot and leg. Overnight WRAS volunteer deer foster parent Chris stayed up all night with "Dusk" to try build up a bond with the little deer and to help calm her down. Thursday morning she was taken back to the vets where vets agreed that the only option was to amputate the leg. Thursday afternoon "dusk" died whilst trying to recover.

"This has really upset us all, you think you are hardened to this sort of thing after working with wildlife for so long, but cases like this really get to you and are very upsetting. Clearly the finder was well meaning and didn't want the vets to just put the deer to sleep, but I wish she had called us earlier, as we would have stood a good chance of saving the leg and saving her from going through 5 days of hell. I can't imagine what the poor creature must have been going through to drive her to self-mutilate like this, I will have nightmares about this" said Trevor.

"Dime" another baby fallow deer in WRAS's care at the moment was found at Flecthing about 6 weeks ago also had a small 2cm long wound on her leg after being rescued from fencing. This small wound eventually turned into a 6inch long and 2inch wind wound round the leg which almost cut off the blood supply to the foot. 6 weeks later the leg is still recovering from the ligature wound.

This is not the first time WRAS has seen this happen. Earlier this year WRAS dealt with a similar situation at Dallington near Battle, where a fawn caught in fencing had been kept in a caravan for 3 days without veterinary treatment and a bandaged so tightly wrapped round the leg that it was causing a second ligature wound, this deer also did not survive due to the trauma suffered in those 3 days without any veterinary treatment.

WRAS has rescued 16 baby deer this year over twice as many as previous years, and over half of them have been caught in fencing and suffered from ligature wounds. "With the correct treatment and care their legs can be saved except in severe cases. WRAS only has limited facilities and this year we have spent over £4,000 on treating, feeding, rearing these baby deer and improving our facilities to deal with them" said Trevor Weeks.

WRAS is asking member of the public not to ignore ligature wounds and to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. "I would rather see a deer put to sleep rather than go through the suffering that "Dusk" has been through. So if you don't know what you are doing, can't afford to pay a vet to treat the wounds, and there isn't a rescue organisation which can take it on, you are better off having a vet put the creature to sleep rather than to put the deer through so much suffering. It is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act to keep a casualty in pain and discomfort without seeking veterinary treatment. Please seek help and do not ignore potentially fatal and invisible ligature wounds" said Trevor.

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Press Contact: Trevor Weeks, Director, East Sussex WRAS, 07931 523958

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