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Introduction and General Information

FOR INFORMATION ON TRANSPORT CONTAINERS AND VEHICLES:

See: Accommodation: Transport Containers and Transport Vehicles

When catching, handling and transporting wildlife casualties of any species, it is important to:

  • Minimise the risk of injury to people (both handlers and the general public).
  • Minimise the risk of injury to the animal.
  • Minimise the risk of escape of the casualty.
  • Minimise the stress to the animal.

N.B. 

  • If an individual or organisation expects to attend wildlife casualties in the field (i.e. to go out and rescue animals) they should have appropriate well-maintained equipment and all personnel involved should be trained in the techniques involved in catching and handling the animals, including protocols for dealing with emergency situations.
  • For liability issues see: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties - Human Health.
  • When animals outside the experience of the handlers must be attended, advice and, if appropriate, assistance from personnel with experience with the relevant species should be sought.
  • All equipment to be used for wildlife casualty capture, handling and transportation should be well maintained and must be checked before use. Following use, all items must be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected, or discarded, as appropriate.
  • Transportation times should be minimised for all casualties. This is particularly important for some casualties, for example:
  • Field assessment of the casualty combined with appropriate telephone advice from a suitably experienced veterinary surgeon may be advisable in order to decide whether it is most appropriate to transport the casualty to a specialist wildlife clinic (if available) or to the nearest veterinary surgery for reassessment, treatment or euthanasia as appropriate.
    • It is important to consider whether a long journey is in the best interests of the individual casualty, particularly if the prognosis (chance of survival and return to the wild) is very poor. In some cases "on site" euthanasia may be the most appropriate option.
    • See: Wildlife Casualty Assessment

(B123, D27, D28, V.w5, V.w26)

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Catching

Specialist suppliers provide catching equipment and will sometimes build to order. One example of a Specialist Equipment Supplier is: MDC Exports Ltd, Unit 11, Titon Court, Laporte Way, Luton BEDS, LU4 8EF.

Useful equipment:

  • Gloves (various types)
  • Nets on long handles, preferably with a padded rim (various sizes)
  • "Walk-towards" net or "long-net". This is similar in appearance to a tennis net. Dimensions one metre high by several metres long.
  • Boxes/cages
  • Bags/sacks
  • Blankets/towels
  • Rope
  • Knife
  • Wire-cutters
  • Dog-grasper
  • Goggles or similar eye protection.
  • (B151, D25, D27)

Role and abuse of gloves.

  • Thin latex gloves are useful for reducing the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases such as ringworm from an animal to the handler and provide a minimal amount of protection with minimal loss of sensitivity and dexterity.
  • Thin leather gloves give some protection; thick leather gloves give more protection but reduce sensitivity and dexterity.
  • In many cases gloves will not be sufficiently thick to prevent bites reaching the hands but at the same time will greatly decrease the sensitivity and security of grip; loss of dexterity and grip security with thick gloves may be a particular problem if the wearer has small hands and if the gloves are not supple.
  • (D24, V.w5)

Role and abuse of dog grasper:

  • Traditionally a dog grasper is a pole with a noose on the end which can be tightened. This allows the handler to control the animal whilst maintaining a distance.
  • Dog graspers are useful in the control of some species such as foxes and badgers, but should only be used by experienced personnel.
  • Larger species such as foxes and badgers must never be lifted using a dog grasper alone; there should always be an additional source of support so that the whole weight of the animal is not being supported only by the dog grasper.
  • Care must be taken that the noose does not become too tight and cause the animal to choke.
  • Care must be taken that the animal does not damage its spine by "spinning" on the end of the dog grasper.
  • Care must be taken to ensure that the noose does not become too loose allowing the head to get free.
  • Ensure that the noose is in place for the minimum amount of time required to complete the capture safely.
  • Suppliers include MDC Exports Ltd, Unit 11, Titon Court, Laporte Way, Luton BEDS, LU4 8EF.
  • (B151, B152, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

GUIDELINES FOR CATCHING: 

  • Before capturing a possible wildlife casualty the animal should be observed, assessed and a decision made as to whether or not capture and intervention is appropriate. See: Wildlife Casualty Assessment.
  • Planning is an essential part of capture operations and is important to minimise the risks.
  • Whenever possible the number of people and the equipment likely to be required for successful capture should be determined before setting out to capture the casualty.
  • It is important to take account of potential hazards and escape routes when planning capture, e.g. cliffs, roads, rivers, waterbodies, rough terrain etc.
  • Wild animals being caught will generally try to escape. If escape is impossible they may try to defend themselves with their teeth, bill, claws, antlers etc.
  • Darting (remote chemical restraint) may be required to catch some individuals. Licences are required for the use of darting equipment (see: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties: "Taking" of Animals).
  • Avoid chasing the casualty whenever possible.
    • If herding or chasing is required, sufficient people should be used to minimise the time to capture.
    • Prolonged chases are very stressful to the animal and may lead to complication such as shock, hyperthermia (see: Sunstroke - Heatstroke) and Capture Myopathy.
  • When possible, encourage the animal to go into a box, covered cage or sack, e.g. using the natural desire of many animals to go to ground or find shelter (D25).

Legal aspects of catching wild animal casualties:

  • Most wild bird species and many other species are protected under legislation, particularly the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, such that it is illegal to "take" listed animals from the wild. 
  • There is provision within the various Acts to allow the "taking" of injured or otherwise incapacitated animals for the purpose of caring and rehabilitation. 
  • For some species there is further legislation restricting "taking" if this cannot be done by hand (e.g. if nets or traps are required), and there are additional restrictions prohibiting the use of certain articles/substances to "take" animals for whatever reason.(J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1)
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties - Taking of Animals.
Catching of Animals - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Catching" section above)
Mammal Considerations
  • Mammals being caught will generally try to escape.
  • If escape appears impossible most mammals will try to defend themselves with teeth, hooves, antlers and/or claws.
  • Larger carnivores are particularly dangerous; they are capable of inflicting severe bites and claw wounds.
  • Covering the head quietens most species and also reduces their ability to direct attacks at the catchers.
  • Capture of long-legged species (e.g. deer) with nets (including "walk-towards" nets) involves a considerable risk of limb fractures.
  • Physical capture of larger species may be difficult and require several people.
  • The risk of Capture Myopathy is considerable with some species.
  • Chemical restraint may be preferable to physical capture, or may be essential, particularly when catching large individuals which have retained mobility.
  • In some situations, particularly where an animal can be easily targeted, the use of darting techniques may greatly reduce the stress of capture when compared with physical capture combined with hand-injection. In using darting techniques, the following points must be remembered:
    • The size of needle, volume and viscosity of the fluid, and the amount of power used to project the dart should be appropriate to the size of the muscle mass and thickness of the skin. The use of inappropriate equipment and materials can cause serious damage to the animal.
    • Darting should only be undertaken by experienced personnel holding the requisite UK firearms licences.
    • Licences are required for the use of darting equipment (see: Law Reference LUK24 - Firearms Acts 1968-1997).
    • (V.w6)

(B123, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

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

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Catching of Animals - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Catching" section above)
Bird Considerations
  • Birds may be difficult to catch, particularly single-handed.
  • In addition, after the first attempt has lead to failure, the bird may be more aware of the intention to capture it and as a result more difficult to catch. Help should be sought before attempting capture whenever such difficulty is anticipated. 
  • Long chases are very stressful for the bird and should be avoided.
  • Corner the bird if possible.
  • Throwing a cloth such as a tea towel, towel, lightweight blanket or coat over the bird is often useful for capture (cloth size and weight should be appropriate for the size of bird).
  • Hand-held nets with a deep pocket are useful (see: Catching using Hand-held Nets).
  • Covering the head is useful as this quietens birds of most species and also reduces the ability of the bird to direct attacks at the handler.
  • The most likely weapon of the individual bird should be identified and controlled first. This will vary depending on species, e.g. the feet (talons) of birds of prey (raptors), the bill of herons and the wings of swans.
  • For all species:
    • Control the head as soon as possible to avoid bites or pecks.
    • The wings should be controlled as soon as possible to avoid wing flapping during which the bird may damage itself.
    • The legs should be controlled to avoid scratches or puncture injuries from talons.
  • Legs of long-legged birds should be controlled quickly and carefully to reduce the chance of the bird injuring itself.
  • If a bird is caught by hand, both hands should be used to reduce the risk of injury to the bird, and in some cases the handler.
  • There is a risk of causing further injury by careless handling during capture.

(B118.5.w5 B156.15.w15, B169.43.w43, D26, D29, V.w5)

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

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Catching of Animals - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Catching" section above)
Reptile Considerations
  • (see: Catching and Handling of Reptiles)
  • All reptiles should be handled firmly but with great care as they are easily damaged through bruising and fractured ribs (particularly smaller species).
  • Lizards must never be caught by the tail as this may break off.
    • This is a natural defence mechanism to avoid predation and is known as autotomy.

Great care must be taken when catching venomous snakes. This should only be attempted by experienced personnel.

  • In the UK the only native venomous snake is Vipera berus - Common viper (adder).
  • However, it should be remembered that exotic species (pets / private collections) may escape and present as "wildlife" casualties.
    • Caution is required whenever the species has not been definitely identified.
    • Expert advice should be sought when reptiles are presented which cannot be readily identified. This is available from organisations such as Froglife and British Herpetological Society

(B123, B151, V.w5, V.w6)

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

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Catching of Animals - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Catching" section above)
Amphibian Considerations
  • (see: Catching and Handling of Amphibia)
  • Care is required when catching amphibians to avoid damaging the animal.
  • It is important to remember that the skin is permeable and toxins present on the hands or equipment used for capture may be absorbed through the skin.
  • The hands should be moistened with clean water to minimise damage to the delicate amphibian skin.
  • Toads can excrete a noxious substance through the skin which can cause a skin reaction in some handlers.

(B123, B151, V.w5, V.w6)

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

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Holding & Carrying

FOR INFORMATION ON TRANSPORT CONTAINERS AND VEHICLES:

See: Accommodation: Transport Containers and Transport Vehicles

The information in the following section is concerned with the short-term handling of casualty animals during capture and initial transportation. Handling for physical examination or veterinary attention is described in: Wildlife Casualty Assessment - Handling for Physical Examination & Treatment".

  • When handling a wild animal casualty it is important to minimise the stress and risk of further injury to the animal whilst also minimising the risk of escape and the risk of injury to the handler(s). All these considerations may generally be covered by a "firm but gentle" approach to handling.
  • It is important to remember that however quiet and docile a wildlife casualty appears to be, it is still a wild animal and may have the potential to inflict serious injuries on its handlers. In addition, shock due to initial injury can wear off very rapidly (e.g. during a car journey) and the animal may suddenly become very active and / or aggressive.
  • Wild animals are stressed by proximity to humans and by being handled by them. Indirect handling (where the animal is not actually touched by a human) may be less stressful and this should be used where possible. For example, it may be possible to release an animal from a catching net into a carrying cage without any direct physical contact with a human.
  • Most animals are less stressed when they cannot see the humans around them. Blindfolds should be applied whenever possible and as soon as possible. These may be specifically designed for use on a species (e.g. hoods for raptors) or adapted from commonly available items such as:
    • cloths (throw a towel/lightweight blanket over the head)
    • clothing (e.g. a cotton shirt or sweatshirt, the arms of which may be tied under the head of species such as deer)
    • bandaging material.
    • airline eye mask with two elastic cords. Knot one behind the ears at an appropriate length and the other cord beneath the chin (e.g. for medium-sized species such as foxes or small deer)
  • Covering the eyes also makes it more difficult for the animal to direct attacks of teeth, bills or other weapons towards the handlers.
  • Gloves may be useful in handling wild animals. However, gloves also have serious limitations. Whether or not gloves are worn, and of what type and thickness, is mainly a matter of personal preference.
  • Most gloves of sufficient thickness to prevent tooth penetration by a species are also sufficiently thick to reduce sensitivity and dexterity and thereby decrease the ability of the handler to hold the animal in a controlled manner. (This is particularly true when the handler has small hands relative to the gloves available and/or the gloves are stiff.)
  • Gloves may provide a useful degree of protection even when they cannot provide total immunity from injury. The wearing of gloves may be useful in that, by providing some protection, they increase the confidence of the handler. However, by the same token, they may make a handler overconfident with a species that can bite through the gloves. 
  • All but the thinnest gloves (e.g. latex/surgical gloves) will reduce the sensitivity with which the handler can feel what they are doing. This may lead to injury to small animals and/or lack of sufficient grip on, and therefore control over, both small and large animals.
  • Many animals will calm down to some degree once they are within a confined dark space. Depending on the species, a sack/bag or an appropriately sized box may be most suitable. Rabbits and hares, for example, are calmer and easier to handle once within a sack, while deer are often calmer inside a crate of sufficient size to allow them to lie down or stand but not to jump up or turn around.

(V.w5, V.w6, B151, B156.15.w15, B169.24.24, D24)

Holding and Carrying of Animals - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Holding and Carrying" section above)

Mammal Considerations
  • Most mammals are capable of inflicting injuries on people who are holding them.
  • Most species will bite if possible. Larger carnivores are particularly dangerous; they are capable of inflicting severe bites and claw wounds.
  • For normal purposes it is usually appropriate to handle the animal under sedation or general anaesthesia to minimise stress to the animal and risks of injury to personnel. Muzzles are used by some wildlife rehabilitators when handling foxes although alternative means of control are usually preferable.
  • Some species may inflict severe injuries by kicking (e.g. deer) or clawing (e.g. badgers).
  • The head and the eyes of the animal should be kept covered whenever possible.
  • The duration of manual restraint should be minimised.
  • Prolonged physical restraint increases the risk of the development of Capture Myopathy.
  • When possible, indirect means rather than direct physical contact should be used to move individuals from one container/cage to another. 

(B123, V.w5, V.w26)

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

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Holding and Carrying of Animals - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Holding and Carrying" section above)

Bird Considerations
  • Handling is usually stress-full for birds and a bird may become highly stressed on any handling. It is important to be aware of the casualty's general condition and breathing, and be prepared to cease handling the bird immediately if it becomes too stressed.
  • Handling and any resulting escape attempts may cause further injury to a bird, particularly if it already has any traumatic injuries.
  • Be aware that many birds can give a nasty nip with their bill, while others will stab, sometimes aiming for the eyes.
  • Handling must be firm but gentle.
    • It is particularly important to avoid placing any pressure or constriction around the body of small birds, as this may stop them breathing properly.
    • Small birds (e.g. garden birds, swallows) may be held with a single hand, the head being positioned between the first and second fingers while the other fingers and the thumb gently but firmly hold the body and the wings to the body.
    • Both hands are required to hold and carry larger birds. The bird should be grasped around its body with its feet supported in the hands of the handler.
    • More than one person may be required to safely hold and carry some birds:
      • For example safe handling of birds with long necks and sharp bills, such as herons, may involve two people, one responsible solely for controlling and supporting the bird's head while the other is responsible for the bird's body and limbs.
  • Transfer any bird to a box for carriage as soon as possible.
    •  In particular avoid carrying small birds by hand for long periods.
  • The protection provided by thick leather gloves must be balanced against the loss of sensitivity and dexterity caused by their use. See section above: Catching - Role and abuse of gloves.
  • Be aware that many birds can inflict serious wounds with their bill or talons.
    • Never hold a bird near anyone's face.
    • Wear eye protection such as goggles when handling high-risk species such as herons, gannets, cormorants, divers and many other fish-eating birds, which commonly stab at eyes with the bill.
    • See: Human Health Consideration

(B156.15.w15, B169.43.w43. D26, D29, V.w5, V.w26)

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

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Holding and Carrying of Animals - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Holding and Carrying" section above)

Reptile considerations
  • (see: Catching and Handling of Reptiles)
  • All reptiles should be handled firmly but with great care as they are easily damaged through bruising and fractured ribs (particularly smaller species).
  • Lizards must never be caught by the tail as this may break off.
    • This is a natural defence mechanism to avoid predation and is known as autotomy.

Great care must be taken when catching venomous snakes. This should only be attempted by experienced personnel.

  • In the UK the only native venomous snake is Vipera berus - Common viper (adder).
  • However, it should be remembered that exotic species (pets / private collections) may escape and present as "wildlife" casualties.
    • Caution is required whenever the species has not been definitely identified.
    • Expert advice should be sought when reptiles are presented which cannot be readily identified. This is available from organisations such as Froglife and British Herpetological Society

(B123, B151, V.w5, V.w6)

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

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Holding and Carrying of Animals - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Holding and Carrying" section above)

Amphibian Considerations
  • (see: Catching and Handling of Amphibia)
  • Care is required when catching amphibians to avoid damaging the animal.
  • It is important to remember that the skin is permeable and toxins present on the hands or equipment used for capture may be absorbed through the skin.
  • The hands should be moistened with clean water to minimise damage to the delicate amphibian skin.
  • Toads can excrete a noxious substance through the skin which can cause a skin reaction in some handlers.

(B123, B151, V.w5, V.w6)

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

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Human Health Consideration

It is important at all times when handling and transporting wild animals to be aware of the potential health risks and to remember that some animals carry infections which may be transmitted to humans (zoonoses).
  • For liability issues see: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties - Human Health.
  • Some people are allergic to fur. This can be a very serious if they become asthmatic. Allergies may be to only one species (or individual) and may not be known until the person is exposed.

Physical:

  • Wild animals cannot be expected to know that the human(s) capturing, holding and treating them are trying to help. Wild animals generally will defend themselves with their bill, teeth, talons, feet, wings, antlers or any other potential weapon at their disposal.
  • Care should be taken when handling wild animals, even when an animal appears to be dead or unconscious.
  • Wear eye protection when handling birds which may strike with the bill, particularly fish-eating birds.
  • Avoid looking into transport containers containing e.g. long-billed birds which may strike with their bill through ventilation/peep holes.
  • Avoid placing eyes/face near a box or cage when opening it.
  • Wear protective gloves/gauntlets when appropriate.
  • Make use of cloths such as towels to cover the head of casualties, both to calm the casualty and to reduce the risk of its biting or stabbing.

SOME PROCEDURES SHOULD ONLY BE UNDERTAKEN BY EXPERIENCED PERSONNEL:

Two situations require standard operating procedures and should only be undertaken by experienced personnel:

  1. Handling venomous snakes: these can cause serious injury or death.
  2. The use of remote injection techniques (darting): the risk of inadvertently injecting a human must be minimised. All non-vital personnel should remain well away during darting and careful thought given to the possibilities of darts bouncing out of the animal or ricocheting off other solid objects and then hitting a person.

Emergency protocols (including emergency hospital contact details) must be in place AND all personnel must understand and agree to adhere to standard operating procedures BEFORE either:

  • handling venomous animals, or
  • remote injection (darting) of anaesthetic agents

Zoonoses:

  • A variety of diseases may be transmitted from animals to humans (and vice versa).
  • Important diseases to consider in dealing with wild mammals include Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis (Weil's Disease), Brucellosis, Hedgehog Ringworm, Lyme Disease and Tuberculosis.
  • Important zoonotic diseases to consider in dealing with birds include Aspergillosis, Avian Tuberculosis, Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis, Erysipelothrix Infection, Salmonellosis and Yersiniosis.
  • When dealing with reptiles, the potential for the transmission of Salmonellosis should be considered.
  • General personal hygiene procedures should be adopted by all handlers regarding their personal cleanliness and extending to their clothes, boots, equipment etc.
  • If there is an apparent risk of disease from aerosol transmission (e.g. Chlamydiosis - Psittacosis) appropriate advice should be sought regarding the use of masks / breathing apparatus etc.
  • Diseases may be caught from apparently healthy animals either through direct contact, through contact with body fluids / excrement or through aerosol transmission.
  • The risks of disease transmission are reduced if gloves (latex gloves, household gloves) are worn when handling animals and hands are washed adequately (using soap/disinfectant) after handling animals.
  • There is always a risk of infection associated with a bite from an animal, particularly puncture wounds and bites resulting in bruising.
  • Bite wounds, punctures from talons etc. must always be cleaned and disinfected promptly and medical treatment sought as appropriate. Bite wounds from seals and other carnivores must always be properly assessed medically and normally prophylactic antibiotics would be indicated.
  • External parasites may be transferred from the animal to the holder and/or to the person examining the animal.
  • Skin lesions which may be due to zoonotic infections (whether viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic) should be seen by a doctor.
    • It is important to inform the doctor of the possibility of zoonotic infection.
    • When possible a doctor with some experience with such infections should be consulted.

(P24.335.w20, D29, V.w5, V.w6)

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Detailed Individual / Species-specific Techniques

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

MAMMALS

BIRDS

REPTILES

AMPHIBIA

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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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