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Introduction and General Information

Hand-rearing of wild animals is a challenging task and should be avoided if possible: wild animals should not be taken for hand-rearing unless they are definitely orphaned or abandoned, injured/visibly unwell, or in immediate danger.
  • Knowledge of natural history is required to distinguish between orphaned/abandoned juveniles and those normally left alone by their parents, sometimes for long periods.
  • A "possibly-orphaned" animal should ideally be watched from a distance, discreetly, avoiding disturbing the animal or its parent(s), so that a decision can be made as to whether or not intervention is required.
  • Knowledge of natural history and general knowledge of animals and their behaviour are important to distinguish healthy well-fed infants from ill and/or unfed infants.
  • N.B. In some situations adults or older juveniles may be incorrectly identified as "orphans". This is particularly common for swifts brought to the ground, for example by heavy rain during migration, when members of the public may mis-identify the bird as a "baby kestrel".
  • Hand-rearing is an art as well as a science; species and individual animals vary in temperament and have their own "personalities."
  • Good observational skills, accurate records and a willingness to adapt a regime to suit a particular animal, are important.
  • Knowledge of the natural history of the species concerned is very helpful in all aspects, from choosing a suitable milk replacer/chick diet to indicating weaning age, socialisation requirements and the place and timing of release.
  • A good hand-rearer should be prepared to invest a lot of effort with the reward being the release of a successfully rehabilitated animal rather than a pet.
  • The goal should always be to return the animal to the wild with the same chance of survival as its parent-reared conspecifics.
  • For some species, successful rearing and release requires specialist facilities.
  • Hand-rearing of most species is best performed by experienced personnel; arrangements should be made for transfer of "orphaned" animals to specialist centres whenever possible.
  • It is important to remember that for many species, particularly small short-lived and prolific prey species, survival rates for juveniles are naturally low, particularly in the period of dispersal immediately after weaning and careful consideration should be given as to the value of rearing such species and euthanasia may be considered (See: Wildlife Casualty Euthanasia).

    (J34.9.w1,  J35.147.w1, P3.1987.w3, V.w26)

Reasons for animals being "orphaned":

  • Mother/parents killed.
  • Injuries to infants/juveniles, e.g. road traffic accidents.
  • Accidental separation from parents/mother.
  • Parental rejection (not common in wild animals).
  • Nestlings falling/blown from nest.
  • Fledglings failing to learn to feed independently.
  • In some species it is normal for animals to be temporarily left by parents/mother, sometimes for prolonged period while the parents/mother are foraging. Well-meaning members of the public finding these animals commonly mistakenly identify them as "orphans" and therefore take them into care for hand-rearing when they should be left alone (e.g. fawns and leverets).

(J34.9.w1, V.w26)

General comments:

  • In general, the younger the animal is at the time it is brought in for rearing:
    • the more frequently it needs to be fed;
    • the less likely it is to survive;
    • the more likely it is to become imprinted on humans and be un-releasable.
  • Reproduction of the natural diet in care is often difficult.
  • Use of inappropriate milk replacers may result in diarrhoea, poor weight gain, poor coat quality and even death. Inappropriate weaning food with an incorrect vitamin and mineral balance may lead to severe problems such as skeletal malformation.
  • Maintenance at an adequate and constant temperature is important, particularly for very young animals which have not yet developed their fur/feathers and have a poor ability to maintain their own body temperature.
    • It is important to consider temperature maintenance during feeding - very small animals taken out of their heated accommodation for feeding may quickly lose heat while being fed.
    • Individuals which become chilled while feeding may not feed properly.
  • Contact with and familiarisation to humans and domestic animals should be minimised.
  • For most species, rearing alongside one or more conspecifics or similar species is desirable if at all possible (taking into consideration the risks of disease transfer if animals are from different broods/litters).
  • Good hygiene is very important, particularly with very young animals; it is important to keep feeding equipment separate for different litter/clutches and to sterilise feeding implements between meals.
  • Contact with natural earth (soil) may be important for access to minerals such as iron. Some infants, such as deer, will eat appreciable quantities of soil if given the opportunity to do so. (V.w5, V.w18).
  • Maintenance in a "sterile" environment for too long may result in problems when introducing the young animal to a normal environment at a later stage; juveniles should be introduced to an increasingly natural environment to ensure that their immune system receives some challenge but is not overwhelmed.
  • Best results may be seen when a single caretaker is responsible for feeding one individual/group, particularly in the early stages, and individuals of some species may only ever feed properly from one person.

(J35.147.w1, P3.1987.w5, V.w5, V.w18, V.w22)

Initial care:

  • An initial period of warmth, quiet and darkness is often beneficial if there is no injury or other problem requiring immediate attention, to allow the individual to acclimatise to its new surroundings.(P19.1.w4)

Control/treat immediate life-threatening conditions (shock, haemorrhage, rarely hypoxia) (See Wildlife Casualty Assessment - First Aid)

  • Shock - may result from injury, disease or hypothermia. Treat as for any animal.
  • Haemorrhage - it is particularly important to control even apparently minor blood loss in very small individuals as a small total loss may be a very large percentage loss of the total blood volume. For example, in a 50gm chick with a total blood volume of approximately 4.5ml, loss of 30-35 drops (=1.8ml=40% of blood volume) could be fatal.
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) - check for airway obstruction, provide oxygen (using an oxygen chamber, mask or intubation as required).

    (J34.9.w1)

Establish normal body temperature

  • Hypothermia (lowered body temperature) is a very common problem when an orphaned animal is presented.
  • A hypothermic infant may be cold to the touch, shiver and be relatively inactive and dull and also may be unwilling to suckle.
    • Signs of hypothermia in infants may be diminished due to immature reflex responses but may include a lowered body temperature, cool extremities (e.g. ears, toes), shivering, dullness, slowed/diminished response to stimuli and lack of suckling reflex.
  • N.B. Hypothermia is accompanied by: decreased cardiac output, decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, decreased glomerular filtration rate, increased blood viscosity, increased packed cell volume.
  • When hypothermia is severe (below 32C/89.6F for mammals), there may be coma and total lack of response to stimulation.
  • Below 30C/86F may result in slow, shallow breathing, metabolic acidosis, sludging in microcirculation, ventricular fibrillation, and coagulation disorder.
  • N.B. If warming is too rapid the animal the animal may be harmed as this may result in an initial dilatation of peripheral capillaries, which diverts blood away from the vital organs, leading to relative hypovolaemic hypotension and shock.
  • Extra care must be taken when warming an animal which is unable to move away from a direct heat source.
    • Increased risk of burns and/or hyperthermia.
  • Methods of warming:
    • Quick drying of the infant and placing the animal under clothes next to the skin is often used as an initial method of warming by experienced zoo keepers and rehabilitators. N.B. this method carries a risk of zoonoses, particularly dermatological (skin infections of the handler caught from the casualty).
    • The animal may be wrapped in e.g. a towel or a wool blanket, and transported in a container (such as a cardboard box) containing a hot water bottle (a plastic milk bottle or similar filled with warm water may be used as an emergency hot water bottle). Any hot water bottle should be wrapped in cloth to prevent direct contact with the infant.
      • N.B. hot water bottles lose heat over time and frequent monitoring is required to ensure they are providing the intended level of warming.
      • N.B. hot water bottles can cause severe burns if placed directly in contact with the animal.
    • Infrared lamp: keep at least 18 inches/ 50cm from the animal; great care must be taken if the animal is comatose or has circulatory compromise, due to the risk of burns.
    • Heating pads - these are not suitable for comatose animals if they are very warm, due to the risk of burns as the animal is unable to move from the heat.
    • Thermostatically controlled hospital cage.
    • Poultry incubators/brooders.
    • Human incubators.
    • Electric heaters or radiators; ensure the animal cannot come into direct contact with the heater.
    • Careful use of a hair drier or forced air drier (consideration must be given to the associated noise if likely to increase the stress on the animal significantly).
    • General massage of skin and muscles to increase peripheral circulation.
    • Warm water enema for mammals.
    • Warm-water immersion (for rapid warming of extremely cold animals (in extremis)):
      • Other techniques are probably more suitable for conscious, responsive animals.
      • For animals where wetting is contra-indicated, such as mammals with skin trauma, and all birds, the animal may be placed in a plastic bag gathered at neck before being placed in the water and held such that the neck of the bag as well as the head of the animal remains above water level.
      • Immerse in warm (40.5-45.5C/105-114F) water, supporting the head above water. Fluff hair to ensure warm water reaching skin, massage body surface to stimulate peripheral circulation.
      • Monitor body temperature to avoid the risk of over correction of temperature and the development of hyperthermia.
      • Once the body temperature is acceptable, dry the animal promptly (e.g. with towel or hair dryer (carefully) to avoid evaporative cooling and therefore re-chilling.
      • (J34.9.w1)

Hydration status: signs and treatment of dehydration:

  • Orphans which have not been fed for some time are likely to be dehydrated.
  • Signs of dehydration:
    • Mammals: loss of skin elasticity ("skin tenting"), eyes sunken, hair coat dull, mucous membranes dry, lethargy, anuria (lack of urine output), metabolic acidosis, shock.
    • Birds: mucous membranes dry, feet and leg skin wrinkled, eyes sunken. (J34.9.w1)
  • Maintenance fluid requirements are approximately 40ml/kg body weight per day for mammals.(J34.9.w1)
  • Activity, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea all increase the total fluid requirement - this can be as much as five times times the maintenance requirement. (J34.9.w1)
  • As a "rule of thumb" is may be considered that a daily fluid intake of 10% of body weight is required. (J34.9.w1)
  • It should be remembered that the total fluid intake includes intake of liquids and the proportion of solid foodstuffs which are water; the proportion of food which is water is very variable.
  • It is important to remember that very young animals may be unable or unwilling to drink water.
  • Mammals and birds may be hydrated orally with a proprietary rehydration solution (e.g. Lectade (Pfizer Limited), Rehydrat (Serle), a home-made rehydration solution (a basic oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution may be made by dissolving one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt in one litre of water (B203)), or water.
    • Extra fluids may be given by stomach tube (gavage) to juveniles which are not drinking independently.
  • A rectal enema may be given to mammals as a route to ensure some fluid uptake; however the practicalities of this technique are limited. Cloacal enemas of birds are not recommended due to the risk of water entering the oviduct (females) or ureters. (J34.9.w1)
  • Parenteral fluids may also be used for rehydration, particularly in very weak or collapsed individuals in which the swallowing reflex is compromised and the risks of regurgitation and aspiration of fluid into the lungs following administration of fluids by stomach tube are high.
    • Subcutaneous fluids can usually be given. It is important not to inject too high a volume at any one site but to distribute the total volume over several sites and to massage the areas of injection to encourage fluid absorption.
    • Intraperitoneal fluid administration can be very useful in collapsed mammals but must be avoided in birds.
    • Intravenous fluids may be extremely useful. However it may be difficult to find a vein to give intravenous fluids, particularly in very small individuals and in those which are suffering from circulatory collapse. The jugular and (not for very small species) cephalic veins are often accessible in mammals and the right jugular vein is generally accessible in birds.

Diagnosis and treatment of concurrent disease/injury

  • A physical examination should be carried out as for any wildlife casualty: see: Wildlife Casualty Assessment.
  • Assess any traumatic injuries, particularly whether they will prevent a normal life in the wild.
  • It is important to accept that euthanasia may be the most humane option for the individual animal. This decision should be made at an early stage whenever possible to reduce the loss of time invested in hand-rearing by the carer and to avoid pain and stress to the animal.

Ongoing care:

Maintenance of normal body temperature:

  • Maintaining an adequate, and constant, temperature is extremely important, particularly with very young individuals which have not yet developed their fur/feathers and have a poor ability to maintain their own body temperature.
  • Whenever possible, provide accommodation with a temperature gradient such that the animal can choose the most comfortable temperature.
  • The temperature range provided should minimise the risks both of overheating near the heat source and of chilling away from the heat source.
  • Suggested temperatures to keep different species at include:
    • Felids/canids first week 82-85F, slowly reducing to 27.5-29.5C/70-75F.
    • Rodents: 12.6-29.5C/55-85F depending on the species.
    • Ungulates: usually do not require supplemental heat if the air temperature is over 18.5C/65F.
    • Altricial chicks: 32-35C/90-95F.
    • Precocial chicks (waterfowl, galliformes) 26.5-29.5C/80-85F.
    • (J34.9.w1)
  • N.B. Behavioural indicators as well as the temperature shown on a thermometer should be used to asses whether the correct temperature is being provided: cold animals will huddle, shiver, move directly under a heat lamp etc. while overheated animals will pant, move away from the heat source and move apart from one another.
  • (J34.9.w1)

Provide nourishment and establish a feeding regime (J34.9.w1)

  • See below and on the individual technique pages for details for different species of mammals and birds.

Meet the behavioural needs of the animal

  • This is crucial for successful rearing of animals for return to the wild.
  • Needs a knowledge of the normal biology/natural history of the species.
  • Whenever possible species which are normally reared in litters/broods rather than individually should be provided with companions of their own species and similar age.
    • This may involve contacting other individuals/organisations to locate suitable foster-siblings and bringing the animals together to be reared in one location.
  • There is a risk (varying with species and age on presentation) of the orphan imprinting on the caretaker and being unable to socialise with its own species subsequently.
  • There is a risk of detrimental habituation to humans/other species in providing companionship during the rearing period; this may jeopardise the subsequent release of the animal as some animals may become dangerous (e.g. male deer and badgers).
  • It is difficult to provide a substitute for normal inter-sibling relationships for a single individual of a species in which a litter is normal.
  • There is a risk of animals sucking on the ears/tails/penis of themselves or littermates, particularly in carnivores. This abnormal behaviour arises due to the absence of a lactating mother on which to suckle and can lead to serious injury to littermates.

    (J34.9.w1, B151, V.w26)

Consider and arrange for rehabilitation or, if necessary, long term captive management. 

  • Release is always the ideal outcome when embarking on hand-rearing of wild-born animals.
    • Specialist accommodation and care and in some cases pre-release training may be required for successful release of some species.
    • Individuals of such species should be transferred to specialist organisations which can provide these requirements.
  • Hand-reared wild animals may revert to aggressive behaviour as adults; they are rarely suitable as pets and hand-rearing should never be undertaken with the aim of producing a pet.
  • Hand-reared wild animals are often not wanted by zoos or similar institutions and there is rarely room for such institutions to house them.
  • There may be legal implications involved in both keeping and releasing hand-reared animals. (See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties)

    (J34.9.w1)

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Hand-rearing of Orphaned Mammals

When Admitted:
  • Examine the infant (see: Wildlife Casualty Assessment: Physical examination) for evidence of injury or dehydration.
  • Record body weight and determine the age of the infant if possible.
  • Provide warmth. This may be by means of an incubator, towel-covered heat pad, towel-wrapped hot water bottle (within the infant's container), electrically heated plant propagator or heat lamp over the container.
  • Give warm fluids as required. Appropriate routes may be oral or parenteral.
  • Treat as required for any problems present.
  • Stimulate urination/defecation ("toileting"). In most species the mother stimulates urination and defecation by licking the urogenital area of the infant. For hand-reared animals it is generally necessary to stimulate urination/defecation by gently wiping the anogenital area with a moistened cloth, piece of cotton wool or cotton bud, depending on the size of the animal.
  • Provide the first bottle feed. The first feed given should be of warm oral rehydration fluids (see below). 

    (B151, P3.1987.w5)

Feeding:

  • The initial feed should consist of an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution such as Lectade (Pfizer Limited) or Rehydrat (Serle).
    • This minimises the chance of inhalation pneumonia if aspiration (inhalation of fluid) occurs during feeding while the infant learns to suckle from a bottle.
  • After two feeds, gradually switch to a milk replacer suitable for the species. Successive feeds may consist of:
    • 75% rehydration solution / 25% milk replacer.
    • 50% rehydration solution / 50% milk replacer.
    • 25% rehydration solution / 75% milk replacer.
    • 100% milk replacer.

    N.B. oral rehydration solutions provide little energy and are not sufficient to allow the animal to gain weight or even maintain its body weight.

  • Gastric intubation may be a useful feeding route for individuals which are very weak or are reluctant to nurse on a bottle. Tubes should be pre-measured along the outside of the animal and the tube placement checked to ensure the tube is correctly positioned down the oesophagus to the stomach and not in the trachea (windpipe) before any fluid is given through it.

    (B151, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

Choice of milk type, quantity and frequency of feeding:

  • The milk/milk replacer used should be chosen to mimic as closely as possible the composition of the normal milk for the species in order to meet the animal's needs. However:
    • Little is known regarding the milk composition or specific nutrient requirements for most species.
    • Reported milk values have often been measured from a single milk sample which may not give an accurate indication of milk composition across a whole lactation.
    • Even if details of components such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, calcium and phosphorus are known, further data on vitamins, trace minerals, amino acids composition, fatty acid composition, carbohydrate composition and lactose tolerance are often lacking.
  • Both precise measurement of body weight and regular accurate monitoring of weight is required 
  • Accurate scales are required for measuring feeding amounts.
  • Consider the normal feeding regime for the species (i.e. its natural history) in deciding on a hand-feeding protocol, but also consider whether alteration from the natural pattern may be beneficial.
  • As a general guide, most species initially require feeding at intervals of 2-3 hours during the day, possibly with longer intervals at night. However, more frequent feeds may be required for very small species, while lagomorphs such as rabbits and hares benefit from less frequent feeding (e.g. 2-4 feeds per day).
  • "Little and often" feeding may be more beneficial than infrequent large feeds for most species: this may need to be balanced against time constraints.
  • Generally, the interval between feeds may be lengthened as the animal's age increases.
  • The following amounts have been suggested:
    • artiodactylids (Artiodactyla): 10% body weight in milk per day (J34.9.w1).
    • carnivores (Carnivora) and rodents (Rodentia): up to 35-40% of body weight per day (J34.9.w1).
    • artiodactylids (Artiodactyla): 20ml/kg/feed for 4 to 6 feeds daily (J34.9.w1).
    • carnivores (Carnivora) and rodents (Rodentia): may give 25-50ml/kg per feed (J34.9.w1).
    • Mammals in general: usually 10-25% of body weight per day.(P3.1987.w3)
  • For carnivores:
    • Energy requirements for growth and development are 3-4 times basal energy requirements. Basal Energy Requirement (kcal/day) = 70 times (bodyweight in kg)0.75 .
    • Fluid requirements of neonatal carnivores are 10-15% of body weight per day (100-150ml per kg bodyweight per day); 30-35% of body weight may be given per day in juveniles following initial care and stabilisation.
    • Requirements for fluids are increased if losses increase due to e.g. diarrhoea.
    • (B10.48.w30)
  • The amount to feed daily may be estimated on the basis of calculated energy requirements:

    Energy intake (kilocalories per day) = 200-250 x weight (kg) 0.83 (P19.1.w5, P3.1987.w3)

  • Rearing failure often results from failure to provide sufficient energy; a hungry or underfed youngster may have an empty-looking abdomen and is likely to be restless whereas an adequately fed animal should have a rounded but not distended abdomen, and should sleep quietly.
  • Care should be taken not to overfeed. Overfeeding, which may be seen as an over-distended abdomen, may lead to:
    • Lethargy.
    • Reluctance to feed.
    • Nutritional diarrhoea.
    • Long-term excess fat deposition.
  • It should be remembered that juveniles do not always self-regulate feeding requirements effectively. (P3.1987.w3)
  • N.B. Always warm milk/rehydration solution to body temperature before feeding, but avoid repeated re-warming of prepared solutions.

(B194, J34.9.w1, P3.1987.w3, P3.1987.w5, P19.1.w5)

Feeding Utensils:

  • Appropriate utensils will vary depending on the size of animal and its willingness to feed.
  • Commonly used utensils include bottles and teats designed for kittens, puppies, lambs and human babies.
  • A syringe with a teat or catheter attached allows good control of the feeding rate and monitoring of the volume fed. The syringe size may be chosen to match the required feed volume. Syringes must be discarded when the plunger begins to stick in order to prevent fluid being presented in rapid squirts.
  • An eye-dropper may be used in a similar manner to a syringe, with the bulb slowly depressed.
  • The bottle and nipple, and the size and the type of hole in the nipple, should be selected carefully to allow the appropriate rate of flow of milk when the animal suckles. 
  • A variety of blunt-ended soft tubing of different diameters and lengths tubes should be available for gastric tubing. Tubes should be sterilisable. 

    (B194, J34.9.w1, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

Hygiene:

  • A high standard of hygiene is essential when feeding infants.
  • Soiled bedding must be frequently washed/changed.
  • If there is any indication of skin irritation, consider changing the brand of washing powder used.
  • Use a separate bottle/feeding utensil for each individual or litter if possible.
    • Thoroughly wash all utensils after use.
    • Store in a sterilising solution such as Milton (Proctor & Gamble).
    • Rinse utensils thoroughly in clean plain water before use.
  • Keep milk solutions refrigerated once prepared.
    • Before each feed, warm a sufficient quantity for the animal(s) to be fed.
    • Milk may be warmed e.g. by placing the bottle, syringe or other container of feeding solution into a container of hot water.
    • Check the temperature of the milk just before feeding - it should just feel warm on the wrist or the back of your hand; it is advisable to mix the milk before checking the temperature as there may be a temperature range across the bottle/syringe/container.
    • If milk must be heated in a microwave it is particularly important to mix the solution thoroughly after heating to avoid "hot-spots" which may burn the animal, and to leave the liquid for a couple of minutes after warming to ensure it has reached its final temperature.
    • Discard unused milk after it has been warmed for a feed; avoid repeated re-warming of milk solutions.

    (P3.1987.w3, P3.1987.w5, J34.9.w1, B151)

  • Contact with natural earth (soil) may be important for access to minerals such as iron. Some infants, such as deer, will eat appreciable quantities of soil if given the opportunity to do so. (V.w5, V.w18)
  • In some species, particularly herbivorous mammals, contact with faeces of adults of the same species may be useful in developing the correct gut flora. (V.w5, V.w18)

Toileting:

  • Stimulation of urination/defecation is required for most species of mammals, particularly in animals less than about 2-4 weeks old.
  • Massage the ano-genital area: gently but rapidly brush a damp cotton wool, paper towel or cotton wool bud (depending on the size of the animal) over the ano-genital area.
  • Keep the animal dry; and ensure that the bedding is dry between feeds to reduce the risk of urine scalding.
  • Treat urine scalding or excoriation with white petroleum jelly and/or an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory preparations as required.

    (B151, J34.9.w1)

Encouraging feeding:

  • Stimulation of urination/defecation commonly acts as an encouragement for feeding.
  • Offer a feeding position which closely mimics that normally adopted by the infant suckling from its dam. This varies with species, for example:
    • fox and badger cubs may feed lying on their abdomen with their head raised
    • deer tend to standing with the head tipped slightly upwards.
  • For very small animals, feeding may be encouraged by placing a single drop of milk on the lips, preferably with the animal held upright and with care taken that it does not sniff the milk in through its nostrils.
  • For larger animals - insert teat in mouth directed towards the roof of the mouth, and massage the throat gently to encourage swallowing.

    (J34.9.w1, P3.1987.w5)

Winding (Burping):

  • This is required more with some species than others.
  • May be stimulated by gentle massage.

    (B151, P3.1987.w5)

Housing:

  • For most species an appropriate container may be provided initially by a pet-carrying basket, suitable-size cardboard box or a plastic aquarium.
  • Care must be taken when using plastic containers to provide additional absorbent material in the bottom of the container to absorb condensation and urine.
  • The sides of the container should be sufficiently high to prevent the occupant falling out.
  • A wire lid may be needed to prevent juveniles of some species from climbing or jumping out of the container.
  • The container used should be sufficiently large to allow the occupant to move into a comfortable position.
  • A non-slip substrate should be provided on the floor: both in the nest box and when the animal is being fed.
  • Bedding materials (e.g. vetbed, tissues, old blankets) should be soft, comfortable and either disposable or easily washed. They should keep the animal dry and be changed as frequently as necessary to prevent soiling.
  • Newspaper or similar may be used under the bedding as an extra layer to absorb moisture.
  • A cuddly toy or a piece of warm blanket to snuggle up to/under may be appreciated.
    • This is particularly important for juveniles which cannot be reared in a group for whatever reason and which may derive some comfort bonding from the cuddly toy acting as an inanimate companion.

    (B151, B194, V.w5)

Warmth and ventilation:

  • Young mammals have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia, hyperthermia and burns, particularly when hairless.
  • Heat may be provided with an overhead heat source, e.g. a heat lamp (preferred), flexible desk lamp with red bulb. (In an emergency an ordinary incandescent bulb has been suggested, but this should be avoided if possible as it keeps the infant in constant bright light.)
  • Care must be taken if using a heat mat that the animal cannot get over heated or burned, particularly for animals with limited mobility.
  • Hot water bottles must be wrapped to avoid burning and must be monitored and changed before cooling.
  • Placing the container next to a radiator may also be used, and for smaller species, placing in an airing cupboard.
  • The temperature in the box should be monitored with a thermometer, this and the behaviour of the animal should be used to indicate whether more or less heat is required.
  • Ideally a temperature gradient should be provided, and sufficient room within the container for the animal to move to the zone providing its preferred temperature.
  • Suggested temperatures include:
    • Initial 32C, then 28C, later 23C for small mammals.(P3.1987.w5)
    • Initial 95F for hairless babies, 90F for infants which are haired but blind (eyes still permanently closed), with a decrease of 5F per week once the eyes have opened.(B194)
  • Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.

    (B194, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

Rest:

  • Leave the animal to rest between feeds.
  • Provide a dark, quiet, undisturbed place.
  • (B151)

Weaning:

  • This is a critical period in rearing.
  • The addition of adult foodstuffs should be gradual.
  • Age for weaning is variable depending on the species.
    • May be based on natural weaning age, if known (see species natural history).
    • Sometimes it may be advantageous to wean earlier than the natural weaning age, particularly if the milk replacer does not closely match maternal milk composition.
  • A selection of species-appropriate foods should be available for the juvenile to try.
  • The frequency of milk feeds should be reduced as solid food intake increases.
  • It is important to monitor the weanling's weight closely to ensure the animal is still gaining weight.
  • It is important to ensure that fresh water is always available.
  • N.B. some individuals may resist weaning. Each weaning protocol must be adapted to suit the individual animal.

    (P3.1987.w5, J34.9.w1)

Records:

  • In addition to the normal daily records that should be maintained for all hospitalised animals, specific data should be recorded when hand-rearing animals. (See: Wildlife Casualty Record Keeping)
  • Accurate records provide a vital objective indication of the progress of the individual animal, and can also act as a guide for the rearing of other individuals in the future.
  • Individuals in a litter must be individually identifiable in order to allow the progress of each infant to be monitored. Temporary identification may be made possible using small colour marks applied to the fur. An appropriate non-toxic material such as coloured correction fluid (e.g. Tippex) or nail varnish may be used for this purpose.

The following data should be included in records of each hand-reared individual:

  • Weight:
    • Weigh daily, at same time each day in order to monitor weight gain accurately.
    • Scales must be of an accuracy appropriate to the body weight of the animal.
    • It may be useful to weight the animal before and after feeding to determine the actual weight of food taken.
    • If the infant's weight is not increasing or weight loss is occurring, consider the quantity of food being consumed, whether the animal is suffering from diarrhoea, or if there is an infection present.
  • Feeding: keep individual records of:
    • All fluids given
    • Milk replacer used.
    • Any dilution.
    • Addition of e.g. vitamins, minerals.
    • Quantity of milk taken.
    • Number of feeds per day (note time at each feed).
  • Urination/defecation:
    • Produced spontaneously?
    • Produced in response to toileting?
    • Changes in colour/consistency of faeces.
  • Weaning:
    • Age first solid foods taken.
    • Preferred initial food items.
    • Age of weaning.

Potential Problems:

  • Hypothermia / Hyperthermia
  • Chilling (hypothermia) or overheating (hyperthermia) poses a particular risk for very young individuals which are unable to regulate their body temperature effectively.
  • Hypothermia predisposes to disinclination to feed; this prevents the animal taking in energy which it needs to maintain its body temperature which can lead to a vicious cycle of deterioration in condition.
  • Hypothermia also interferes with the digestion of food.
  • Hypogammaglobulinaemia (low levels of antibodies)
  • This is a risk in mammal species which normally absorb antibodies from their mother's colostrum (e.g. carnivores, ruminants, equids). 
  • Colostrum is the first milk produced by many mammal species, which is particularly rich in antibodies and provides an important protection for the infant while its own immune system is still developing. 
  • "Orphaned" animals which are prematurely separated from their dam may not receive adequate colostrum and may therefore have low antibody levels.
  • Fresh or frozen colostrum (goat's colostrum preferred, otherwise cow's) may be used as a substitute for natural colostrum intake. Commercial colostrum substitutes designed for calves and lambs are also available from agricultural merchants and veterinary practices.
  • Intake of colostrum is most important in the first 24 hours after birth as this is the main period when antibodies can be absorbed from the gut into the blood.
  • In some species absorption of antibodies continues for a longer period during lactation, e.g. hedgehogs.
  • There may be benefit from feeding colostrum even after antibodies are no longer absorbed into the blood, as it still provides some local protection within the gut.
  • Intravenous serum transfusion from an adult of the same species has been used as a substitute technique for providing antibodies to domestic and zoo animals.
  • The risks of infection which are increased by a lack of colostrum intake may be minimised by decreasing stress, and by attention to sanitation.

    (J34.9.w1, P3.1987.w3, P19.5.w5, V.w5)

  • Inhalation (aspiration) pneumonia:
  • This frequently follows inhalation (aspiration) of milk.
  • There is an increased risk during first feeds, before a routine of feeding from the bottle has been established.
  • The risk is reduced if an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution (e.g. Lectade, Pfizer Limited) or 10% glucose solution is fed initially rather than milk.
  • There may be a particular risk of developing inhalation pneumonia if the "orphan" which is being hand-fed has already suckled from its mother before presentation. This may be due to a greater resistance of the infant to accepting the artificial teat in place of its mother's udder (to which it has already become accustomed).
  • The alternative of stomach-tubing rather than bottle feeding may be considered to reduce the risk of aspiration, particularly for the first few feeds. Tube placement must be checked to ensure that fluids are administered into the digestive system and not the trachea.

    (P19.5.w5)

  • Nutritional diarrhoea
  • This is commonly seen due to excess milk consumption, inappropriate milk, or following a sudden change in milk formula (including from mother's milk to first substitute).
  • Alternative causes of diarrhoea such as bacterial, parasitic or viral infection should also be considered.
  • To reduce the risk of the development of nutritional diarrhoea, it is recommended that at least the first two feeds given are of electrolyte solution, followed by a gradual change over to milk. It must be remembered that electrolyte solution does not adequately meet the nutritional needs of the infant.
  • Every effort should be made to avoid changing milk replacer which is being used successfully as a change may result in nutritional diarrhoea. If a change is essential, at least one feed of electrolyte solution should be given between the different formulae and the new milk then introduced gradually.
  • electrolyte feeds should be given for a brief period if nutritional diarrhoea occurs. The milk replacer diet may then be gradually reintroduced.

    (P19.5.w5, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

  • Constipation/urine retention.
    • This may occur if toileting is not carried out to stimulate urination/defecation, particularly in very young infants.
  • Infectious/parasitic diarrhoea.
    • Viral, bacterial and coccidial infections leading to diarrhoea are common problems in hand reared animals.
  • Wind/bloat.
    • Some infants take in excessive quantities of air while feeding and need winding in a similar manner to human infants.
  • Incorrect imprinting (mis-imprinting).
    • Imprinting is a normal part of development.
    • Animals which are hand-reared may wrongly imprint on humans rather than their own species.
    • This may lead to serious behavioural difficulties and an inability of the animal to interact normally with members of its own species.
    • Incorrectly imprinted (mis-imprinted) individuals are often unsuitable for release.
  • Suckling on littermates.
    • The ears, tail and penis are common targets of this misdirected behaviour and may become traumatised and infected.

    (B151, V.w5, V.w26)

CETACEAN CONSIDERATIONS

Hand-rearing of cetaceans is extremely difficult and requires facilities not presently available in the UK (J15.20.w1). As a result further information has not been included in the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" module.

More information on specific subject areas is available at the bottom of this page in:
DETAILED INDIVIDUAL / SPECIES-SPECIFIC TECHNIQUES

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Hand-rearing of Orphaned Birds

Many birds taken in for hand-rearing are removed from the wild unnecessarily. For many species it is usual that fledglings (feathered but not yet independent or fully flight-capable) will leave the nest and perch nearby. Sometimes these are found on the ground and rescued in error as "orphans".
  • In the majority of cases the parents are still feeding the chick and may only be waiting for the human to depart before returning.
  • Bright, alert uninjured fledglings should be left exactly where they are found if possible.
  • If this position appears particularly vulnerable (e.g. on the ground in a garden frequented by cats) the bird may be placed on a branch in a nearby bush/hedge/tree, or even inside an open-topped box, where the parents are able to find and feed it.
  • Cats should be kept away and the fledgling watched discreetly from a distance.
  • Further intervention should be considered only if the parents do not return after an appropriate period (for example one hour is probably an appropriate time period to leave garden birds).
  • It may be possible to return uninjured nestlings (chicks with few or no feathers) to a nest, and even to replace a nest after it has been dislodged. 
  • If chicks are close to fledging (well feathered) returning the chick to the nest should not be attempted as there is a risk of all the chicks in the nest "exploding" from the nest if an attempt is made to replace a chick. This is a normal reaction to reduce the chances of a whole brood being taken by a predator. It can then be difficult (if not impossible) to retrieve chicks which have scattered in this way.
  • Chicks which feel cold to the touch may be warmed by being held in cupped hands before being returned to the nest.

N.B.

  • The requirements for hand-rearing orphaned wild birds varies considerably depending on the species. 
  • There are major differences in the developmental stage of the chick at hatching, brooding requirements, methods of feeding, feeding frequency required, type of food required and stimuli which will stimulate the feeding response of the chick. 
    • Altricial birds are hatched naked, blind and helpless, requiring feeding by their parents. 
    • Semialtricial chicks have a covering of down when hatched and may or may not have their eyes open, but are also helpless and require feeding.
    • Precocial chicks hatch with a good covering of down and are capable of following their parents from an early age. Most precocial chicks are able to feed by themselves, although some are given food by their parents. 
  • A good knowledge of the natural history of the different species is important for hand-rearing.
  • Hand-rearing of small birds requires a huge commitment of time and an appropriate diet.

(J34.9.w1, B150.w2, B199)

Age determination/development of altricial chicks:

This information applies for most species of songbirds (passerines).

  • Egg tooth lost from bill at three days;
  • Naked except for pin feathers for first week;
  • Feathers covering most of body by two weeks; 
  • Completely feathered and start fledging by three weeks;
  • Able to fly well by 4-6 weeks.

    (B150.w2, B194)

Initial Care:

  • Examine (see: Wildlife Casualty Assessment: Physical examination) the chick for evidence of injury or dehydration.
  • Record the body weight and determine the age of the infant if possible.
  • Provide warmth. This may be by means of an incubator, towel-covered heat pad, towel-wrapped hot water bottle (within the infant's container), electrically heated plant propagator, heat lamp or in an emergency a light bulb over the container. (Take care not to overheat or cause burns to the bird.)
  • Give warm fluids as required. Appropriate routes may be oral (usually) or parenteral (most commonly subcutaneous). e.g. using warmed lactated Ringer's solution, 40-50ml per kg body weight divided into 3 or four treatments over 24 hours. 
  • Treat as required for any problems present.

    (B150.w2)

Housing and Heating:

  • Altricial birds:
  • Initially these need an artificial nest.
  • The nest may be made from small plastic feed bowls, lined with paper towel, or similar.
  • Old bird nests should not be used due to the risk of their containing parasites such as mites. (However, if the birds have been found within their own original nest, it may be appropriate to continue to use this, although careful checks for external parasites should be made and the nest treated with appropriate insecticide if necessary.)
  • Nests should be placed within a suitable container such as a box or open-topped cage to ensure that if the chicks leave the nest they cannot move very far away.
  • Newspaper or river-washed sharp sand (from builders' merchants) is suitable as a substrate under the nests.
  • Nests should be kept free from draughts.
  • Heat may be provided using a heat lamp.
  • Alternate heat sources include a heat pad or hot water bottle, high ambient temperature within the room, or placing the "nest" within an airing cupboard, an incubator at a suitable setting or an electrically heated plant propagator. An incandescent light bulb may be used short term in an emergency but is far from ideal as this keeps the infant in constant bright light.
  • Care should be taken to avoid both overheating and in the case of direct heat sources, burning.
  • Temperature may be monitored by placing a thermometer near the nest; initial temperature 80-95F depending on age on admission and species. 95F has been suggested as a suitable temperature at which to maintain featherless chicks, with a decrease of 5F per week once the chicks are feathered.(B194)
  • The behaviour of the chicks should be used as a guide to the required heat: chicks which are too cold will huddle together, chicks which are too hot will keep apart and stretch their necks out.
  • A few twigs may be placed to provide perches just above the substrate as the chicks begin to fledge.
  • Accommodation may be changed gradually, moving fledglings to a standard bird cage (solid on all sides except for a wire front) before moving to an aviary.
  • Both cages and aviaries should contain perches of a size appropriate for the occupants, of varying diameter and preferably natural branches with the bark still attached.
  • Perches should be positioned in such a manner as to encourage both hopping and flying between perches to promote exercise.
  • Newspaper may be used on the floor of cages.This should be changed frequently (at least every other day, more frequently if necessary) to prevent soiling.
  • Fledged birds must be given time in an outdoor aviary to ensure that the bird is acclimatised to the outdoor environment, to stimulate the bird to preen, and ensure that its plumage is in order and weatherproof before release.
  • Birds should be encouraged to fly and/or swim, as appropriate, for at least 1-2 weeks before release.

    (B150.w2, B151, B194, P19.1.w4)

  • Precocial birds:
    • Precocial birds such as waterfowl and pheasants may be reared by the methods well developed in aviculture for ornamental (non-domestic) waterfowl and pheasants.
    • Care should be taken to avoid imprinting the birds on inappropriate species including humans.
    • Wild birds intended for release should be kept as wild as possible and care taken not to let them become accustomed to dogs or other domestic animals.
    • Precocial chicks may be kept in a standard brooder box (designed for poultry, pheasants etc.), with solid sides and a mesh top to prevent active birds from jumping or climbing out.
    • Heat is usually provided using an infra-red heat lamp suspended over the brooder box by means of a chain, allowing the lamp to be raised or lowered as required to adjust the temperature inside the box.
    • In an emergency incandescent bulbs may also be used to provide heat, but are these are more vulnerable to breakage if knocked or splashed with water (and may shatter), and do not allow for a period of darkness. They should be avoided unless there is no other alternative.
    • A thermal gradient should be present varying from the temperature directly under the lamp (warmest area) to the far end of the box (coolest area), allowing the chicks to chose for themselves the most comfortable temperature zone.
    • A sturdy thermometer may be placed inside the box to monitor the temperature, which should initially be about 90-99F (32.2-37.2C) directly under the lamp, reducing to 65-70F (18.3-21.1C) (or ambient temperature if higher) by about three weeks old.
    • Behavioural monitoring should be used also:
      • if the chicks are all underneath the lamp and huddling together, they are too cold (lamp needs lowering)
      • if they are staying in the far corners of the box, as far away from the lamp as possible, panting and appearing stressed, they are too hot (lamp needs raising).
    • Care should be taken that the temperature range provided does not prevent chicks from getting away from excessive heat or allow them to choose an area in which they will get chilled.
    • Substrate should preferably be non-slip to avoid chicks from developing splay-leg and should be disposable or easily washable.
      • Corrugated cardboard may be used initially (e.g. for gallinaceous birds).
      • Sand is a useful substrate.
      • Newspaper is sometimes used for gallinaceous birds but is less suitable for water birds as it quickly becomes sodden and is also slippery when dry.
      • Tea towels may be used initially but quickly become soiled and wet, particularly with water birds.
      • Hay and straw should be avoided as they may be a source of Aspergillus spp. spores which may lead to the development of Aspergillosis in the chicks.
      • Wood shavings, hay, straw and paper might be eaten by some species, which may lead to impaction (See: Impaction in Waterfowl).
      • For waterfowl rubber mats with a stippled surface have been used successfully as a substrate, as has synthetic turf.
      • Plastic-covered weldmesh or stiff plastic mesh on a frame may be used for waterfowl and has the advantage that spilled feed, water and droppings can fall though to a gutter area underneath to be washed away.
    • Good hygiene is very important; brooder boxes should be cleaned daily to avoid bacterial and fungal growth and associated diseases.
    • Chicks of many waterbird species may be reared with access to water for drinking only until the initial downy plumage is replaced by feathers. Chicks with downy plumage may be vulnerable to hypothermia if given unlimited access to water for bathing in the absence of their mother. The water bowl may have pebbles placed inside to minimise the risk of the chick becoming water-logged and / or drowning.
    • Chicks may be given access to a wire-roofed outside run in suitable weather from an early age (e.g. they may be let outside during daytime from as early as 1-2 weeks old, weather permitting).
    • The run should be placed on clean short grass preferably in an area not used the previous year (to reduce the risk of high rates of contamination with parasites).
    • Runs should provide sunny areas (weather permitting) and shade to avoid sunstroke/heatstroke, and should be designed to exclude mice as well as rats. Thought should be given to the direction of the sun moving overhead during the day, so that a board giving adequate shade in the morning may need to be moved in order to continue to provide shade later in the day.
    • Young birds should be shut away at night until the down is being replaced by the first proper feathers. Depending on the climate/weather, some heat may be required at night at this stage. Until birds are both fully feathered and waterproof it is advisable to ensure that either the birds are shut in at night or the whole run is covered at night, to avoid the risk of birds becoming soaked during a night time downpour; this can be fatal.
    • Once fully feathered, juveniles may be placed in aviaries. These aviaries should provide dry spots for resting and shelter from the rain as well as areas in sunshine.
    • Waterbirds will require a good-sized pool, and at this stage, waterbirds which have previously been maintained off water must be watched carefully when first let onto water as they may become water-logged and sink (see: Drowning). They are also at greater risk of Chilling until the first plumage has become waterproof and may need to be dried if they become too wet. Waterproofing usually develops properly within a couple of days.

Feeding stimulus and feeding methods:

  • It is crucial to stimulate the feeding response; the required stimulus varies between species.
  • Very young chicks of many species peck at red, yellow or green - tweezers or forceps used for feeding may be of these colours to stimulate feeding.
  • Moving food items such as small live earthworms, grasshoppers or green caterpillars placed on other food such as chick crumbs often provide a useful stimulus to initiate self-feeding. 
  • In many species which are fed by their parents it should be possible to elicit the begging reflex by the tapping bill, or around the base of the bill, or for passerines the yellow/orange flanges around the bill.
  • Nestlings may also respond to a tapping on the nest box and later may learn to beg at the sight of the approaching hand of the carer. Care should be taken to avoid imprinting during this process.
  • Older nestlings/fledglings, with eyes open at the time when hand-rearing is started, may initially react with fear to approaching hands; patience and perseverance are required.
  • Young precocial birds often peck at objects which are seen in contrast to the surrounding substrate, and may respond to food items being repeatedly picked up and dropped in front of them.
  • For species which are fed from above by their parents it may be important to present the chick with food from above.
  • For species which gape, food should be placed well back in the mouth when the chick gapes, taking care to avoid the opening to the trachea (windpipe).

    (B118.18.w18, B150.w2, B151, B194)

    See also: Stimulating Feeding of Downies (Waterfowl)

Quantities:

  • The capacity of the crop varies considerably between species (not all species have a crop).
    • Gently palpating (feeling) the crop (if present) may be used to check how full it is.
  • Do not necessarily feed until begging stops: chicks may beg well past the point at which their crop is full. (B150.w2)
  • For small seed eaters/omnivores it has been recommended that approximately 25ml food per kg body weight should be given at each feed i.e. 1ml for 50gm bird, 10 ml for 500gm bird, per feed. (J34.9.w1)
  • Carnivorous birds (raptors, fish-eaters, shore birds) may take up to 50ml/kg body weight per feed.(J34.9.w1)

Weight:

  • Regular weighing (for example, daily weighing at the same time each day) provides a good indication of growth and the adequacy of the diet and food intake.
  • A balance must be chosen between the frequency of weighing for accurate monitoring of progress and the stress which may be caused by repeated handling.
  • If the bird can be handled easily, it may be useful to weigh the animal before and after feeding to determine the actual weight of food taken. 
  • Scales must be of an accuracy appropriate to the body weight of the bird.
  • If the bird's weight is not increasing or weight loss is occurring, consider the following factors:
    • whether the quantity of food being consumed is sufficient
    • whether the animal is suffering from diarrhoea
    • if there could be another infection / problem
  • Individuals in a brood or being reared in a group must be individually identifiable in order to allow the progress of each chick to be monitored. Temporary identification may be made possible using small colour marks applied to the feathers. An appropriate non-toxic material such as coloured correction fluid (e.g. Tippex) or nail varnish may be used for this purpose. Alternatively, for larger chicks, lightweight leg rings made of flat plastic may be used. These are available in a wide variety of colours. Rings must be of an appropriate size and changed as the bird grows.

    (B150.w2, V.w5, V.w26)

Feeding Utensils:

  • Appropriate utensils for food delivery include forceps, paint brushes, toothpicks, syringes, plastic coffee stirrers with rounded edges, tongue depressors and for some species feeding (gavage) tubes in a variety of sizes.

Food Handling and Food Hygiene:

  • Clean the bird's bill and surrounding skin after feeding. The tip of a clean paint brush may be useful for cleaning without the need to catch and handle the bird. (B150.w2)
  • Food should be fresh and warmed to room temperature just before use.(B150.w2)
  • Great care must be taken, particularly if heating food in a microwave, to avoid overheated food which may cause crop burns.(B150.w2)
  • Food should be kept refrigerated.(B151)

Water/Hydration:

  • Nestlings generally rely on water within the diet or given by hand and may be unable to drink from a bowl at an early age.
  • The food offered to altricial birds should generally contain sufficient water to match the water intake needs of the chick.
  • Water should be offered as hanging drops on the end of a suitable implement such as a paintbrush either between boluses/mouthfuls of food or at the end of a feeding session.
  • For fledglings a shallow bowl of clean water should be available throughout the day.
  • For precocial birds, water must be provided in a bowl. Care must be taken not to use a bowl which is too large / deep. Stones can be added to the bowl to allow sufficient depth of water for the bird to drink, but prevent if from falling in and drowning or becoming waterlogged.

    (B150.w2, B194, V.w6)

Weaning: 

  • A wide variety of foods should be offered, following the natural diet for the species as much as possible to encourage self-feeding as soon as possible.
  • Access should be provided to a soluble calcium-containing grit such as ground up eggshell or oyster shell, and also access to soil for minerals.
  • Clean water should be available for drinking for the vast majority of species; for these birds, a shallow bowl of clean water which the chicks cannot get trapped in should be available at all times.

    (B150.w2, B194)

Potential Problems:

  • Underfeeding leads to malnutrition and "runting".
  • Overfeeding may result in aspiration pneumonia, stress, crop stasis, nutritional diarrhoea and secondary bacterial disease of the digestive system.
  • Dehydration may occur in association with the diet being too concentrated, inadequate volumes of water or diarrhoea. (This risk may be reduced by offering water at each feeding session).
  • Taming/imprinting:
    • Human contact should be minimised to reduce the risk the bird becoming tame and imprinting inappropriately.
    • Chicks should be kept with conspecifics if possible.
    • If possible chicks should be placed in an aviary with adults of the same species or within sight of adults once thermoregulating and mobile.
    • Feeding with a puppet designed to disguise the hand of the carer and resembling the head of an adult bird of the correct species may be used for some species (e.g. some birds of prey).

(B118.18.w18, J34.9.w1, B150.w2, B151, B194, V.w5)

More information on specific subject areas is available at the bottom of this page in:
DETAILED INDIVIDUAL / SPECIES-SPECIFIC TECHNIQUES

Hand-rearing of Orphaned Birds - Waterfowl Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Medium-term Accommodation" section above)
Waterfowl Considerations
  • Wild waterfowl may be reared by the methods, well developed in aviculture, for rearing ornamental (non-domestic) waterfowl of the same species. 
  • Care should be taken to avoid imprinting the birds on inappropriate species including humans.
  • Wild waterfowl intended for release should be kept as wild as possible and care taken not to let them become accustomed to dogs or other domestic animals.

See: Rearing of Birds - Artificial Rearing - Waterfowl considerations

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Human Health Consideration

1) Risks to human health while hand-rearing orphaned wild animals.
  • Injury: particularly with larger species such as seals.
    • The risk of injury may be decreased by wearing protective clothing when appropriate and by remembering at all times that the orphans are wild animals.
  • Zoonotic infections: including salmonellosis, "seal finger"and ringworm.
    • The risk of transfer of zoonootic infections may be decreased by good hygienic practices, including the wearing of protective gloves and other clothing as appropriate, always washing hands after caring for the orphan(s), keeping animal and human food preparation areas separate and similar precautions.
  • N.B. Hand-rearing is labour-intensive. When feeding small mammals with high-frequency night feeds, exhaustion of the carer can be significant.

2) Risks to human health (particularly public) following release of hand-reared animals.

  • This risk is mainly from animals, particularly males, which have been allowed to lose their normal fear of humans during the hand-rearing period.
  • This risk to human health is generally avoidable by careful implementation of practices designed to minimise taming during the rearing period.
  • Hand-reared animals which are a danger to people will usually have to be destroyed as they are dangerous both to keep and to release.

See also: Wildlife Casualty Legislation - Human Health Considerations

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Detailed Individual / Species-specific Techniques

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro MAMMALS

BIRDS

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UK Contact Organisations and Published Guidelines for Further Reading (Electronic Library)

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Authors & Referees

Author Debra Bourne
Referees Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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