& Management / UK
Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Release which contains
background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK
Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
||This page has been prepared for the "UK
Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the
needs of the following species: Alectoris
rufa - Red-legged partridge, Chrysolophus
pictus - Golden pheasant, Coturnix
coturnix - Common quail, Lagopus
lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus
mutus - Rock ptarmigan, Perdix
perdix - Grey partridge, Phasianus
colchicus - Common pheasant, Tetrao
tetrix - Black grouse, Tetrao
urogallus - Western capercaillie.
These species are from the families Phasianidae.
- No pre-release preparation is required if these birds have been in care for a short
period of time.
- Birds which have been in care for more than a few days should be reacclimatised by
housing in an outside aviary for a period of time (generally about two weeks) before
- Appropriate health checks should be carried out prior to release. A careful
assessment (risk analysis) must be made as to the risks of released animals introducing
novel pathogens (disease agents) into the wild population/environment.
- These pathogens may have been acquired from domestic animals, other wildlife casualties
or humans whilst the animal was in captivity.
- The health checks should be designed to
minimise the risk that pathogens posing a threat to wild populations of this or other
species will be introduced into the environment when the animal is released.
- Birds must be able to walk, fly, see, feed and preen normally on release and
have sufficient fitness for sustained activity.
- A bird with a damaged bill which has not fully mended is not suitable for release.
- Birds must have adequate plumage with normal
waterproofing/weatherproofing, and must be acclimatised to outside environmental
conditions at the time of release.
- Birds must display appropriate behaviour, interacting with others of
their own species as normal and showing appropriate wariness of humans (neither imprinted
- Birds must be of an appropriate weight for the age, sex, and time of year for the
- Detailed care records noting the weight, feeding/food intake, fitness and
behaviour of the bird are extremely helpful for assessment of release suitability.
- Release adults back into the site the individual came from if known, or the nearest safe
- The release site must provide habitat meeting the nutritional, biological and
behavioural needs of the bird being released and must be in the known distribution of the
- Release into appropriate rural woodland/fields with hedge habitat. (B151,
- Avoid releasing into areas where the shooting of game birds is known to take place. (B151)
Timing of release:
- These diurnal birds should be released early in the morning so they have the whole day
to find food.
- Release during a period of fine weather if possible.
- Avoiding releasing in the shooting season where practical. (B203)
Type of release:
- Hard release is generally suitable for adults.
- Soft release with provision of food following release may be more appropriate for
|Appropriate Use (?)
- Soft release is particularly important for hand reared animals, particularly of species
which need to learn about their surroundings (e.g. food sources) and/or learn survival
skills such as hunting.
- Soft release is also suitable for animals which have been in care for prolonged periods.
- Soft release may compensate for difficulties of newly released animals finding food and
shelter, particularly in a new environment and/or at a time of reduced physical
- Hard release is most appropriate for animals which have been held in captivity for only
a short time, for adult animals and for animals being released back into their own
- The individual animal must, at the the time of release, be healthy, have a reasonable
level of fitness and be able to fend for itself in the wild.
- Diurnal species should be released in the morning, giving them a full day to explore and
look for food and shelter before nightfall.
- Nocturnal species should be released at night.
- Release should preferably take place during a period of fine weather.
- Preferably have all birds ringed before release - contact the British
Trust for Ornithology for details of local licensed bird ringers.(B156.15.w15,
|Complications/ Limitations / Risk
- Hard release is least appropriate for juveniles which have been hand reared,
particularly species for which learning about their environment and/or social skills are
- Hard release may also be inappropriate for adults which have been maintained in
captivity for prolonged periods and/or are being released at a site distant from their
- There is always a risk of game birds being shot following release.
- Released animals may be at risk of contracting disease if there is an ongoing disease
problem in the wild population at the time of release.
- The wild population may be at risk from novel pathogens (disease agents) carried by a
rehabilitated animal. These pathogens may pose the greatest threat to free-ranging
populations if the animal is to be released at a site distant from its original location
therefore increasing the likelihood of spread of disease. It is important to remember that
the casualty wild animal may have acquired disease from domestic animals, other wildlife
casualties or humans whilst in captivity.
|Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
|Expertise level / Ease of Use
- Knowledge of the natural history of the species concerned is required for correct
decision making regarding a suitable release site.
- Soft release may involve a considerable time investment.
- Soft release may be expensive in terms of construction of appropriate temporary
accommodation at the release site.
- Costs of appropriate health screening.
|Legal and Ethical Considerations
- The potential risks to the individual being released and to the wild population into
which it is being released (also to domestic animals) must be considered before release is
- The potential risk to humans and pets from habituated/tame individuals must be
- An offence may be committed under Section 1 of the Abandonment
of Animals Act 1960 if a released rehabilitated animal does not have a
reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated
- This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not
having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc.
- The following species are listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside
Act 1981 and their release without a licence is therefore prohibited under Section
14 of that Act:
- Capercaillie (Tetrao
urogallus - Western capercaillie)
- Chukar partridge Alectoris chukar
- Rock partridge Alectoris graeca
- Bobwhite quail Colinus virginianus
- Golden pheasant (Chrysolophus
pictus - Golden pheasant (Link))
- Lady Amherst's pheasant Chrysolophus amherstiae
- Reeve's pheasant Syrmaticus reevesi
- Silver pheasant Lophura nycthemera
Release of any non-native species is also prohibited. (J35.147.w1, D31,
- Release of any non-native species is also prohibited. (J35.147.w1, D31,
- In Britain bird ringing must be undertaken by someone with a British
Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ringing licence. (B118.20.w20,
||Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman