Accommodation of Casualty Stoats, Weasels etc. (Wildlife Casualty Management)

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: Martes martes - Pine marten, Mustela erminea - Stoat, Mustela nivalis - Weasel, Mustela putorius - Polecat, Mustela vison - American mink.

These species are within the family Mustelidae.

Transport Container:

  • Mustela erminea - Stoat, Mustela nivalis - Weasel  : small carrying cage with small mesh (e.g.10mm mesh)
  • Martes martes - Pine marten, Mustela putorius - Polecat, Mustela vison - American mink: carrying cage of heavy mesh, of 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.
  • It has been suggested that a sack may be used for stoats and weasels for short journeys. (D25)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Wire cage with fine gauge mesh and a tightly fitting lid can be used.
  • Must be escape-proof. (D24)
  • Towels should be provided within the cage for bedding material.
  • Provide areas where the animal can shelter out of sight such as a hide box. (D24)

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Strong metal cages suggested. (B151)
  • Large glass vivaria with a tight fitting lid can me used for the smallest species e.g. weasel.
  • Must be escape-proof. (D24)
  • Provide areas where the animal can shelter out of sight, such as a hide box. (D24)
  • A divider for the cage will facilitate cleaning (the animal can be shut in one side while the other half of the cage is cleaned).
  • Newspaper or sawdust can be used as bedding.
  • Food and water bowls should be stainless steel and non-tip in design.
  • For Mustela nivalis - Weasel: it may be useful, within cage, to provide as a nest box a small plastic aquarium with a trapdoor in the lid: this allows catching for moving by closing the lid while the weasel is inside. (B151)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Outside pen, covered or with inward-facing overhang to prevent climbing, and sides of pen to at least 0.75 metres underground to prevent digging out.
    • The perimeter of the fence should be checked for evidence of digging on a daily basis to prevent escape.

  • Pen should have natural vegetation and ground cover.
  • Appropriate-sized nest boxes should be provided with at least one box\per animal.
  • Ensure no agrochemical use in the paddock.
  • Food can be thrown into the enclosure to stimulate foraging behaviour as the mustelid finds its meal.

  • Mustela vison - American mink should be provided with the opportunity to swim (B151)

(B151, D24, D25, V.w26)

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 fences of longer-term accommodation should be checked daily for evidence 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. (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Risk of escape must be minimised.
    • Wooden structures will be destroyed rapidly and might allow escape.
  • 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.
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 escape-proof accommodation may require some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • Cost of constructing suitable longer term accommodation may be significant.
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.
  • The keeping of American mink (injured or otherwise) requires a licence which lays down specific conditions for keeping under the Mink (Keeping) Order 1987 of the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932. The requirements of the licence give restrictions on how the mink are to be kept, including the provision of a "mink-proof" boundary fence with an overhang. (J35.147.w1).
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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