Advice on dealing with injured animals:
“Any animal that is found with any type of constriction around a part of its body should never be released immediately, even if there are no obvious wounds. Very often the area where the constriction was will start to break down after a few days (a process known as pressure necrosis) and it can become infected. Animals should be monitored for at least 7 days”.
— Vale Wildlife Hospital
As well as potentially killing off tissue (even if a snare has caught an animal by a leg instead of the neck it is still highly dangerous as the limb could be lost) any constriction can cause ligature wounds and a build up of toxins which, once released, can cause organ failure. Unless an animal has literally just been caught, releasing them from the constriction (whether snare or body-grip trap) could kill them.
Basic advice is to call for assistance / advice (see links below) and cover the animal with something like a towel, blanket or jacket. If you only have something small, cover the head – this should calm the animal to an extent. After this, stand back and wait for assistance (unless you’ve been advised otherwise) and keep noise to a minimum.
Take photos or film if possible, including evidence of the location, if an animal has been injured illegally (e.g. badger caught in snare, locking snares found, finding gin traps or raptor traps).
Please remember that wild animals are unlikely to feel comforted by contact with humans such as stroking and cuddling. While it can be hard to know what to do when another is suffering and you want to show compassion and love, the best approach to take towards animals who are unused to human company (and even some that are) is to keep them warm and in a dark place (for example putting something over the animal’s head while transporting / removing from a trap). Often trying to comfort a wild animal through contact can distress them further, with stress and shock being killers, as they are very unlikely to understand that you are trying to help them.
Obviously sometimes discretion is needed and situations we find ourselves in are rarely ideal. Some people have found animals caught in snares or traps and, given that they could not easily direct rescuers into the area and that they were being looked for by aggressive landowners, they stabilised the animal within the snare / trap and moved them back to the road / vehicle with it still attached before driving them to a wildlife hospital. Unless you really know what you’re doing or have no other options, call for advice!
Do not cut a snare loose from its anchor and leave the noose, especially if an animal is trapped – they can run off with it still attached. In one of the above situations this was done in order to take the animal to a rescue centre where the snare could be safely removed but only once the animal was secure and unable to run away.
Call-birds used in Larsen / funnel cage traps may have their wings clipped so they can no longer fly, or fly far, so should not just be released straight from the trap. Birds of prey should ideally only be handled by experts and should be kept warm and in the dark if being transported – ideally not in wire mesh cages due to likelihood of damaging feathers and in boxes large enough to prevent further injury but not so big that they can jump around and injure themselves (like we said, we’re unlikely to find ourselves in ideal situations – call for advice if possible!) Boxes should be lined with a towel or similar and not straw or sawdust. Don’t attempt to feed a bird unless you have the experience.
Who should I call?
If you find sick or injured farm animals you can call the DEFRA Rural Services Helpline on 0300 020 0301 – some patrollers and sett-surveyors have reported a good response from them, vets being sent out.
Various wildlife hospitals will be willing to give advice even if not in the area. Vale Wildlife Hospital (01386 882 288 / emergency number 5pm – 7am is 07961 413574) and Secret World Wildlife Rescue (01278 783 250) are two trusted wildlife hospitals that we have worked with (there are a number of others!)
You can also call your local veterinary surgery but they may have less experience of working with wildlife – some may euthanise an animal who could have been treated by a specialist. Wildlife rescues are more likely to be able to come out and rescue foxes, badgers, deer from snares and so on and may ask fewer questions as to what you were doing.
If an injured animal has found their way on to a road or is posing a risk to the public / drivers in another way you can call the police to let them know. In the case of injured deer especially they may send armed officers or local hunt staff to euthanise the animal – expert advice should probably be sought to see if successful treatment is likely so call a wildlife rescue too.