& 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: Alle
alle - Dovekie (Little auk), Alca
torda - Razorbill, Cepphus
grylle - Black guillemot, Fratercula
arctica - Atlantic puffin, Fulmarus
glacialis - Northern fulmar, Hydrobates
pelagicus - European storm-petrel , Morus
bassanus - Northern gannet, Oceanodroma
leucorhoa - Leach's storm-petrel, Phalacrocorax
carbo - Great cormorant, Phalacocorax
aristotelis - European Shag, Puffinus
griseus - Sooty shearwater, Puffinus
puffinus - Manx shearwater, Uria
aalge - Common murre (Common guillemot).
species are from the families Laridae,
- 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, pool-based enclosure for a period of time (generally about two
weeks) before release.(B203)
- 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.
- It may not be possible to assess the flying ability of some birds,
particularly larger species such as gannets, before release.
- A bird with a damaged bill which has not fully mended is not suitable for release.
- Seabirds must have adequate plumage with normal
waterproofing/weatherproofing and must be acclimatised to outside environmental conditions
at the time of release.
- It is important to recognise species differences; for example cormorants (Phalacrocorax
carbo - Great cormorant) normally are not fully waterproof
following prolonged periods on water.
- 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.
- It is important to remember that many seabirds utilise different areas
at different times of the year and some move long distances.
- Individuals of non-sedentary species released during or just before a
period of habitat change must have sufficient body (fat) reserves for movement between
- The ability to sustain flight for long periods is particularly important for
- Recent reports have suggested that certain species of seabirds have poor survival
after treatment and rehabilitation following oiling. It is therefore particularly
important that oiled birds are fully assessed at specialist centres prior to their
release. Assessment must include consideration of plumage condition and waterproofing,
body weight and general body condition, screening for anaemia, condition of the feet and
webbing and any signs of gastro-intestinal irritation such as diarrhoea. (V.w26)
- These birds should be returned to the sea for release.(D29)
- 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
- Releasing off seaside cliffs which provide an updraft to help the released bird get
airborne may be appropriate.(P24.335.w21)
- Shearwaters, petrels: Release close to a cliff edge.(D24)
- Release windblown birds back at the coast.(B151)
- Avoid releasing in the evening in an area where outdoor lighting may
disorientate birds which normally use the moon as a marker and encourage them to fly
- After a prolonged period in captivity determining the correct place for release
may be problematic and require the assistance of expert organisations with detailed
knowledge of the whereabouts of the species at different times of year. (P19.1.w12,
Timing of release:
- Release windblown birds as soon as possible.(B151)
- Shearwaters: Release at dusk.(D24)
- Release during a period of fine weather onto a calm sea.(V.w26)
- However very calm weather with still air or low wind speeds may not allow
flight in some species. (P24.335.w21)
- Migratory species must be released during their normal period of
Type of release:
- Hard release is generally used for these birds.
- Release on the beach or from cliff tops may be appropriate depending on the species and
- Hard release gannets from a cliff overlooking the sea. (P24.233.w11)
|Appropriate Use (?)
- 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.
- The RSPCA
runs an in-depth recording scheme for oiled bird care along with stringent pre-release
casualty assessment; it is hoped that these records in conjunction with individual bird
identification (birds ringed by a licensed British
Trust for Ornithology bird ringer) will permit further assessment of
- 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
- Release at the site of origin is unlikely to be appropriate for most casualty seabirds.
- Potential hazards with staff working in or near the sea include drowning, hypothermia
and physical injury.
- 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 and the exact locations at which birds
of a given species may be found at different times of year is important for correct
release of birds which have been in captivity for prolonged periods.
- Transport to the release site may involve a variable cost associated with vehicles and
- 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.
- In Britain bird ringing must be undertaken by someone with a British
Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ringing licence. (B118.20.w20,
- Sea shores are potentially hazardous environments. The risks to human health and safety
must be remembered: these include sharp rocks, water and the external environment, which
may lead to physical injury, drowning, hypothermia or (less commonly in the UK)
hyperthermia/sunstroke. All personnel who may work in such conditions must be given
adequate training to ensure that they are aware of the risks and know how to minimise
and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 applies to protect any employees of a
wildlife hospital, as well as volunteers at the hospital and visitors. Appropriate safety
procedures must be provided to take into account any special risks involved with persons
working with non-domesticated species (J35.147.w1,
||Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman