Accommodation of Casualty Lutra lutra - European otter (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords -N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description 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: Lutra lutra - European otter

Transport Container:

  • Carrying cage of heavy mesh, small gauge to reduce risk of tooth damage.
  • Preferably with a crush facility.
  • Towels should be provided within the cage for bedding.
  • Cover any open sides with a cloth such as a towel or blanket

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Solid kennel with barred gate, e.g. a robust transport kennel such as a Vari Kennel
  • Newspaper may be used to line the cage.
  • Towels should be provided for bedding.
  • May be left within the container used for transportation.

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Brick kennels avoid the chance of tooth damage on wire or bars (B151)
  • Dim, quiet pen. (V.w26)
  • Concrete, metal or similar required, not wood.
  • e.g. a run/ garage/loose-box, shed, with solid floor (concrete or slabs).
  • A box on its side should be provided for shelter.
  • Straw may be used for bedding, or hay or blankets (V.w26)
    • Blankets may be particularly useful initially for monitoring of urination and defecation.
  • If the pen has an open front, keep front covered with sacking.
  • An infra-red heat lamp may be used to provide heat and some light for monitoring purposes without overly disturbing the occupant.
  • An observation window in a solid door will facilitate visual monitoring and observation without disturbing the occupant.
  • (B151, V.w5, V.w26)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Pens of e.g. 30 x 15m to 50 x 40m for a pair of otters
  • Fence preferably 2m high (minimum 1.4m), supported with posts (e.g. creosoted wood); chain link netting buried 0.75m deep to prevent otters digging out.
  • Inward overhang of galvanised sheeting (e.g. 0.5m wide sheeting, one edge of 5cm  turned down at right angles and secured to fence, other (free) edge 7.5cm turned down at right angles, secured to a horizontal rail at the top of the fence and supported by brackets from fence posts.
    • Smaller enclosures could be covered with chain-link netting. (B151)
  • Minimum two wooden dens for a pair of animals, 65x55cm, with height 52cm sloping to 38cm at the back, timber 5cm thick and hinged roof, also 5cm thick timber covered with galvanised metal sheeting.
  • Entrance tunnel into the side of each den, 18cmx18cm, 80cm long with a bend in the centre to exclude both light and draughts.
  • Provision of water for swimming, ideally by use of a stream running through the enclosure and widened out to give a pool e.g. 14 metres diameter and reaching 1.5 metres depth, with gently sloping sides.
  • Enclosure should contain ample natural vegetation including trees and bushes as well as hollow logs, rocks, and ground vegetation (grass etc.).
  • (B157.w12)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation is important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
  • Consider requirements for handling.
  • Consider requirements for cleaning and provision of food and water.
  • Perimeter of external enclosure must be checked daily for signs of digging or other damage which might allow escape.
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems such as stereotypies (abnormal repetitive movements such as pacing etc.). (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Risk of escape must be minimised
  • Risk of injury to the occupant must be minimised
  • Risk of injury to people must be minimised
  • May be physical and/or psychological problems associated with confinement.
  • Steel kennels may be both cold and noisy.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and rehabilitation enclosures may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation requires some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation in particular May be expensive – the cost is generally proportional to the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01).
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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