Well that was a little Auk-ward.

What to do when you find wildlife in unusual places.

If you asked a member of the public what they think working for the Scottish Wildlife Trust means.  I reckon they would conjure up an image of people working outdoors on the land. Protecting Scotland’s wildlife for the future by counting birds; maintaining the reserves and rescuing injured wildlife.  Well the first two are certainly true but we can’t however claim to have the expertise or tools to rehabilitate injured or exhausted wildlife.

Although many of our staff and volunteers have amassed knowledge over time about how to deal with such things, it is not actually part of our charities overall vision.  Of course we are sympathetic when wildlife is in need of rescue but if we can’t do anything, what would we advise?

The Scottish Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) is Scotland’s only national welfare charity.  In 2014 alone, it took in over 7,200 wild animals into care.  At the moment as you may have seen on the BBC they have been inundated with exhausted Little Auks.

Little Auk (c) WikiComms
Little Auk (c) WikiComms

These Arctic sea birds are about the same size as a Starling, but they don’t usually spend time on our coastline.  In fact they spend their summer in the Arctic and their winter out in the North Sea. So in turbulent weather such as storm Frank they are vulnerable to being ‘wrecked’.   So what should you do if you find one in your garden?

Call the SSPCA (03000 999 999) and you will be put through to someone that can ask you all the necessary questions.  If they deem a rescue necessary then they will send out an officer and possibly take it back to the wildlife rescue centre at Fishcross in Clackmannanshire.

Whether its a Little Auk or an injured animal, how do you know when to intervene?

A little knowledge of animal behaviour and ecology can go a long way to understanding whether an animal is out of it’s normal habitat or acting strangely.  But if your not a wildlife expert then here is an easy way to assess the situation.

Only intervene if the animal is clearly;

  • in immediate danger, for example on a road
  • seen to have an injury or bleeding
  • is weak or visibly emaciated

Usually birds and animals will attempt to get away from people if they are approached and as a general rule if you can pick them up then they must be feeling very tired or poorly.

However, in some cases being ‘rescued’ by someone can cause more distress than is necessary.  So have a look at the animal from a safe distance and ascertain the problem, then call the SSPCA for advice.

IF POSSIBLE PLEASE DO NOT PICK UP A WILD ANIMAL! Wildlife can be dangerous especially when fully grown.  Just this morning an adult Cormorant was rescued by police after it was spotted on a busy road in Hillside.  Unfortunately it caused its captors some damage with it’s razor sharp beak before being subdued.  They called the centre and shortly afterwards, it was released on the reserve and flew off effortlessly.

Every so often the centre will get a phone call about an injured animal, that someone has taken into their home.  This is not advisable and I would urge everyone to seek advice from the SSPCA before removing the animal from the wild.

All too often wildlife gets taken into our homes and inexperienced carers inadvertently kill the animal by attempting to feed it.  Sometimes just the stress of the experience of coming into a heated home filled with unfamiliar scents can be enough to kill them.

Gull chick (c) Pixabay - DesignFife
Gull chick (c) Pixabay – DesignFife

This is especially true in the summer months in Montrose when gull chicks are left unattended in peoples gardens for hours on end.  By our very nature humans want to take care of baby animals and are often distressed by the thought of an animal being abandoned.  However, in many cases chicks are left on their own out of necessity by their parents but not abandoned.  The adults of course do return periodically to feed their young.  So taking a gull chick indoors would almost certainly mean that the parent would ultimately abandon it.  As its absence would lead it to think that the chick had been caught by a predator.

As a wildlife charity we are always delighted to help the public with any and all enquiries about wildlife.  We would never wish to see anything in distress or harmed in anyway but please consider whether or not intervening will make the situation worse. Please do not hesitate to call the centre but if you do have a Little Auk in your garden then calling the SSPCA will certainly get the wee guy into care quicker.

Emma Castle-Smith                                                                                                                                        Visitor Centre Assistant Manager



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What to do when you find wildlife in unusual places. If you asked a member of the public what they think working for the Scottish Wildlife Trust means.  I reckon …

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