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Introduction and General Information


    See: Wildlife Casualty Record Keeping

  • Animals which are presented (found and caught) are often:
    • suffering from acute (sudden) severe physical injury / concussion (following a road traffic accident or other traumatic accident)
    • suffering from chronic injury / disease (By the time they are found and caught, most wild animal casualties will be extremely ill, with problems including starvation, dehydration, hypothermia and shock in addition to their original problem).
    • young animals which are abandoned / unable to care for themselves.
  • Early differentiation should be made between the animals requiring assistance to survive, such as the above, and those that can be found and handled due to a normal physiological state, such as young fawns and leverets, and those torpid due to coming out of hibernation or digesting an excessively large meal.
  • Assessment of a wildlife casualty should take into account the species, age and sex of the animal.
  • It is important to make an early decision as to the best option for the animal .The options include:
    • Release:
      • Immediate return to the wild (e.g. for a fit healthy animal which has been trapped for a short time but is uninjured; or for a neonate (newly born) which has been taken in mistakenly as an orphan, and which can be returned to its original location).
      • Rapid treatment and release within hours to days (e.g. for a grounded swift or a mildly concussed animal).
      • Treatment and release within days to weeks (e.g. a badger with snare wounds).
      • Prolonged rehabilitation required prior to release (e.g. for many hand-reared animals, and following fracture management).
    • Permanent care.
    • Euthanasia.

It is important to remember whenever an assessment is being made that:

  • For most species, rapid recovery and release are key to survival. 
  • Successful long-term rehabilitation, particularly of species which are social and/or territorial may require specialist facilities and a considerable input of time and other resources.
  • Releasing an animal which is unfit and unlikely to survive is unethical and also has legal implications (Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960). 
  • Permanent care is likely to be suitable for only a limited number of individuals.

    For further information see: Wildlife Casualty Long Term Care

  • Euthanasia may be the most humane option for many casualties.

    For further information see: Wildlife Casualty Euthanasia

The ethics of intervention

Opinions vary as to whether or not wild animal casualties should be taken into care and treated. 

  • In only a minority of cases, with rare / endangered species, is the rehabilitation of an individual animal important for the conservation of the species. Very rarely, it may even be considered that the benefit to the population outweighs the short term suffering of an individual undergoing treatment to save its genes for the next generation.
  • These varying opinions are broadly represented within the following:
  1. Some people consider that it is wrong to interfere with wild animals and natural selection, and that nature should be allowed to take its course. Death, including the early death of many individuals without any chance to breed, is a part of natural selection and the "balance of nature".
  2. Other people consider that on humane/welfare grounds anything that can be done to prevent suffering, or to save life, should be done. It is important to recognise that these two goals (preventing suffering and saving life) are not always compatible with one another.
  3. A third viewpoint suggests that where casualties have resulted from human action (such oiling, road traffic accidents, vandalism etc.) human action should be taken to redress the balance, but that where the casualty results from natural processes (such as infectious disease, or juveniles failing to learn to feed successfully, or starvation during drought), interference is unwarranted. 

Such decisions are not simple. 

  • It is difficult to know whether a given road traffic accident victim was just unlucky or insufficiently fit to avoid the oncoming vehicle. 
  • Similarly infectious diseases may be "natural" but they may also
    • be the result of human activity
    • have an increased impact on wild populations due to human interference (including artificial provision of food which encourages populations to congregate unnaturally)
    • be introduced to an area by humans
    • have increased impact due to pollution of the environment which may reduce the ability of wild animals to cope with infection by reducing the effectiveness of the immune system through immunosuppression.
  • An additional consideration is the potential negative impact that the rehabilitated and released individual may have on the wild population:
    • in competing with other individuals for food and territory
    • on genetics if release takes place at a point distant from the origin of the animal
    • on the potential for introduction of disease picked up from domestic animals, humans or other wildlife casualties while the animal was in care.
  • It is important whenever intervention is being considered that an assessment is made of:
    • the potential benefits (mainly to the individual)
    • the potential harm to both the individual and the population
    • the costs of treatment in circumstances of limited finance and time.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual carer to decide; the precautionary principle "first, do no harm" should always be borne in mind.

(J15.20.w3, P23.1995.w1, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

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Assessment in the Field / Initial Assessment / Triage

Whenever possible the first action should be to observe any possible wildlife casualty without handling it and without it being aware that it is being watched (unless the animal is in immediate danger (e.g. on a road)). Such observation may allow an assessment that no action is needed, in which case it should be left alone.

Care and rehabilitation of wildlife casualties generally requires a large investment of time and a variety of resources which may not be available to most people. In most cases the interests of the animal are best met by transferring the animal into the care of an appropriately trained and equipped person/organisation as soon as possible.  Depending on the species and the problem, the efforts of a veterinary surgeon or an experienced rehabilitator may be required.

"Triage", from the French word for "sorting", is the term used to describe a basic categorisation of casualties depending on the required response.

  • In a situation where large numbers of casualties are presented at one time (e.g. oiling, botulism outbreak), triage generally involves dividing the casualties into three groups:
    • "can wait for treatment"
    • "need immediate attention"
    • "unlikely to survive - do not attempt treatment" (euthanasia is required for animals in this category).
  • When a single casualty is presented, a similar decision-making process should be applied. The categories in this situation include:
    • "should not be taken in - suitable for immediate release / return to original location"
    • "examination and treatment required"
    • "unlikely to survive/be able to be released - euthanasia required"
  • Immediate treatment for obviously life-threatening conditions such as bleeding (haemorrhage) or respiratory obstruction should be initiated if the animal is likely to die before triage (assessment) can be undertaken.

Early recognition that an animal is unlikely to survive or should not be released, necessitating euthanasia is extremely important to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering to the casualty. Prolonged treatment of a wild animal with extensive injuries from which it cannot recover is not in the best interests of that individual animal.

Early triage also reduces the risk of taking into captivity animals which would be better left in the wild, particularly "abandoned" infants whose parents will return if the animal is left or if it is returned to the nest/roost/burrow/den.

  • The same decision-making process should be used repeatedly during the treatment and rehabilitation process. The categories might then be described as:
    • "progressing - further treatment/further time in rehabilitation required"
    • "no further progress or progress to release fitness not possible - euthanasia required"
    • "no further treatment required - suitable for release" (or for rehabilitation prior to release)
    • "not suitable for release into the wild - fit for semi-captivity"
    • "not suitable for release into the wild - fit for permanent captivity"

      See also: Wildlife Casualty Release and Long Term Care

  • Early application of the triage decision-making process may be particularly important with:
    • juveniles, when the decision not to interfere or to return the baby to its mother/parents should be made as quickly as possible
    • lactating female mammals, and birds with an active brood patch indicating that they have dependent young (return of the adult to the wild, or collection of young is likely to be imperative if the young are to survive)
    • in mass-casualty events where limited resources (time and finance) must be used to the best effect (e.g. oiling of a large numbers of birds).

(B118.5.w5, V.w5)

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FIRST AID: Emergency Care

This section is designed to assist any person faced with a wild animal in need of emergency treatment. The more general assessment information is detailed in the species-specific sections further down this page.

The basic ABC principles (Airway; Breathing; Circulation) used for domestic animals should be applied in an emergency situation with wildlife. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE POTENTIAL RISKS OF ZOONOTIC INFECTION AND PERSONAL SAFETY ASSOCIATED WITH HANDLING WILD ANIMALS.

Whenever possible, treatment of wildlife casualties should be carried out by experienced personnel with access to the appropriate equipment / facilities / drugs / consumables. However, there is an important first aid role for members of the public who may be the first to attend the animal, or the rehabilitator prior to the availability of specialised veterinary care. The point to which basic first aid will be taken (before care is continued by a more experienced / trained person) will vary greatly depending on factors including the knowledge, experience and training of the initial carer, the species and age of the casualty, the degree of injury to the animal, and the resources available.

General Principles:

  • For many wildlife casualties the most appropriate initial care is the provision of a warm, dark and quiet place. This will minimise the stress that the animal will experience and may reduce the chance of shock or Capture Myopathy developing.

  • If an animal is severely shocked/concussed additional medical treatment with emergency fluid therapy and fast-acting corticosteriods may be beneficial. However, great caution must be used not to compound the shock by unnecessary initial handling, and consideration should be given to the possibility that the rate of fluids appropriate for a shocked animal (usually quite a high rate) may possibly exacerbate any swelling of the brain associated with concussion. Fluid rate should be appropriate to the size and condition of the animal.

  • It may be advisable to postpone further examination and treatment for a period of thirty minutes to a few hours after first assessment. This will allow the animal time to recover from the initial handling and transport and the immediate shock of any physical injury (e.g. associated with concussion).

  • For almost all casualties (not including those which are unconscious or too weak to hold their head up), food and water/rehydration fluids should be made available very soon after admission. This is particularly important for very small species with a high metabolic rate which require food very frequently (e.g. shrews and garden birds etc. (small passerines)).

  • If an animal has a requirement to feed frequently, it may be necessary for some light to enter the emergency accommodation. This is particularly important for diurnal birds.

Specific Presentations:

There are several major presentations requiring immediate first aid for life-threatening situations. THERE MAY BE MORE THAN ONE OF THESE CATEGORIES WHICH APPLY TO AN INJURED ANIMAL. They include:

  • Breathing Problems

    These can be caused by a wide range of problems. Consideration should first be given to:

    • Airway obstruction (choking)

      If airway obstruction is suspected and the animal can be safely handled the mouth should be checked for foreign bodies and if possible the obstruction cleared sufficiently to "buy time" to enable expert attention to be sought.

      Mouth to mouth resuscitation is NOT recommended due to potential zoonoses (these are diseases, such as Mammalian tuberculosis and Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis that can affect humans).

    • Hyperthermia / Sunstroke / Heatstroke (see below)

    • Shock (see above)

    Beyond these conditions (for which first aid is indicated) veterinary examination and assessment is essential to determine appropriate specific action for the condition (including pneumothorax (air in the chest), pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), rupture of the diaphragm and a wide range of other possible conditions).

  • Hypothermia / Chilling

    Provision of warmth to a chilled animal, particularly a very young individual may be essential. However there are dangers associated with too rapid warming and care must be taken to avoid hyperthermia (see: Sunstroke / Heatstroke) and burns (see: Burns). Administration of warmed fluids may be indicated. Further detailed information is available in:

  • Hyperthermia / Sunstroke / Heatstroke

    • This is a critical situation and requires immediate action to cool the animal.
    • Moving into a cool, shaded area may be all that is required for mild hyperthermia.
    • Indirect fans or air conditioning may be used to lower the temperature inside an enclosed space.
    • Cooling with water may be useful: legs and feet may be placed in cool water, fur or feathers may be wetted to the skin with cool water or with alcohol.
    • Cool water enemas may be used with caution.

      N.B. take care not to over cool.

    • Low doses of intravenous or subcutaneous fluids should be given if the bird is in shock.
    • Control of cerebral oedema secondary to hyperthermia may be assisted by:
      • the use of mannitol or furosemide / frusemide.
      • a single dose of fast-acting corticosteroid.
    • General information is available within:

  • Bleeding / Haemorrhage / Lacerations / Puncture Wounds

    • Stopping bleeding is an essential part of first aid. When dealing with very small animals it must be remembered that a small volume of blood may be a large percentage of the animal’s total blood volume and that stopping bleeding quickly is essential. Pressure is extremely useful for control of haemorrhage. A silver nitrate pencil (styptic pencil) is very helpful on the ends of claws, bills etc., and potassium permanganate powder on a piece of cotton wool is also effective.

    • For a damaged and bleeding blood feather in a bird, the skin around the feather must be held firmly with one hand and the feather pulled out. This will usually solve the problem. However, if there is any further bleeding, pressure may then put on the feather follicle. If the feather follicle is damaged following physical removal subsequent feather growth may be abnormal. Feather growth is a critical factor in determining whether some birds (particularly birds of prey) are suitable for release and feathers should only be removed if they are causing a problem.

    • Details of wound cleaning, including the management of fly eggs/maggots which may be on the wound, are included in:

  • Drowning

    • Remove the animal from the water and hold its head down to encourage water to drain from the lungs and the rest of the respiratory tract. It may be appropriate to slap / percuss the chest wall to encourage coughing or in some cases to "swing the animal" vertically (head down) in a controlled fashion holding the hind-legs and using gravity to drain the fluid. Artificial respiration in the form of external chest compression may be performed. For further information see the disease page:

  • Severe structural damage

    • If there is injury to a wing or leg and a fracture is suspected, physical support should be given to the injured limb. Details of bandaging and splinting for birds are given in:

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As with any patient, the history is a vital part of the assessment process.

For wildlife casualties this includes:

  • Admission records, including details of origin, care or feeding prior to admission etc.
  • Correct identification including, if possible, the age and sex of the animal. This can be used to gain further information about the natural history of the individual, which may indicate feeding and housing requirements etc. as well as its normal behavioural patterns and habitat.
  • N.B. Identification of the species together with the details of the location and circumstances under which the animal was found may allow a presumptive diagnosis in many cases, for example:
    • a migratory bird, found off its normal flight path during or after inclement weather may just be exhausted.
    • a badger found hiding around outbuildings may be a victim of territorial fight wounds and have been ousted from its sett.
    • a swan found directly under power lines may have collided with the wires.

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  • Whenever possible a wildlife casualty should be observed without restraint and preferably without the animal knowing that it is being watched.
  • Wild animals commonly hide any signs that they are unfit when they know they are under observation.
  • Deformities, unusual position of the legs/wings, lameness, ability or otherwise to stand, walk and (with birds and bats) fly, may be seen on observation and be less visible once the animal is under restraint.
    • In birds, abnormalities of wing posture can be used as a guide to locate an injury. Usually, if the tip of the primary (flight) feathers are drooping down the injury is below the elbow while if the tip is pointing upwards, the injury is above the elbow (e.g. the shoulder).
  • The rate and character of breathing (respiration) is likely to be very different in an unrestrained animal (particularly one which is not aware it is being observed) than in an animal under restraint.

(B118.5.w5, V.w5)

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Handling for Physical Examination

  • Wild animals are stressed by proximity to humans and by being handled by them.
  • When handling a wild animal casualty it is important to minimise the stress and risk of further injury to the animal. It is important to minimising the risk of escape and of injury to the handler(s). All these considerations may generally be taken into account by a "firm but gentle" approach to handling.
  • Physical examination and subsequent treatment may require prolonged handling and restraint.
    • In many cases the stress/risk to the patient as well as the risk of injury to the handlers/examiners may be greatly reduced by the use of chemical restraint (sedation or general anaesthesia).
  • Where it is possible to observe the animal without handling, such as in a transparent container, such indirect handling (where the animal is not actually touched by a human) may be less stressful than direct physical contact. This should be applied when appropriate.
  • The time for which animals are physically restrained should be minimised.
    • Planning and preparation of the materials likely to be needed for examination and treatment should be carried out before the animal is handled.
  • Most animals are less stressed when they cannot see the humans around them.
    • Blindfolds should be applied whenever possible and as soon as possible.
    • Covering the eyes also makes it less easy for the animal to direct attacks of teeth or bill 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. 
    • In many cases gloves will not be sufficiently thick to prevent bites reaching the hands while 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.
    • Thin latex gloves are useful for reducing the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases such as ringworm from an animal to the handler. They have minimal loss of sensitivity and dexterity. They also provide a minimal amount of protection against injuries such as bites from very small bats but otherwise provide almost no protection from physical injury.
    • Thin leather gloves give some protection against scratches and the bites of small mammals; long, thick leather gloves (gauntlets) give more protection, particularly of the arms, but reduce sensitivity and dexterity.

(D24, V.w5, V.w26)

Handling for Physical Examination - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Mammal Considerations
  • For many species, sedation or general anaesthesia is required to enable a full clinical examination without excessive stress to the animal and/or risk of injury to the handler/examiner.

(B151, B156.7.w7, D24, J15.20.w1, J15.21.w1)


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Handling for Physical Examination - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Bird Considerations
  • The first considerations must be the safety of the patient and the handler(s).
  • Dim light is generally useful for catching and handling birds.
  • Windows should be covered and possible exits closed to avoid escape if the handler loses control of the bird.
  • Clinical examination of birds is usually possible with the bird under physical restraint. However, general anaesthesia may be indicated in order to prevent excessive stress to the bird, particularly during prolonged handling or treatment.
  • A net with a padded rim and opaque material or fine mesh netting should be available in case the bird escapes from the handler.
  • Goggles or similar eye protection must be worn whenever long billed or piscivorous (fish-eating) birds are being held for examination.
  • Gloves may be worn, however thick leather gauntlets, while providing protection, will also reduce sensitivity and dexterity, which may result in injury to the bird.
  • Control of the head is important when handling most birds.
  • Control of the feet is important, particularly for birds of prey, although the claws of many relatively small birds are sharp and can break the skin and cause pain to the handler.
  • Particular care must be taken when controlling the legs of long-legged birds to avoid damaging the bird.
  • Handling methods should minimise the stress on the patient and the potential for exacerbating existing injuries.
  • For most birds the first stage can be to drape a towel over the bird. This stops the bird being able to see the handlers and thereby reduces pecking, stabbing and clawing.
  • Once safely restrained through a towel, this can be removed if required, so long as the head, feet and wings are kept under control at all times.
  • Keeping the head covered during the examination may be useful in keeping the bird calm.
  • One foot or one wing at a time should be released from the grip of the holder for physical examination, except when comparison with the other limb is required.
  • Small birds may be held in one hand, the bird's head held between the first and second fingers, the other fingers and the thumb controlling the wings and legs.
  • Larger birds, particularly those with a strong bill and / or talons require one person to hold and a second to examine.
  • Care must be taken not to restrict the respiration of the bird during restraint. It is important to ensure that the sternum (keel) of the bird is able to move freely at all times.
  • Care must also be taken to prevent birds of prey from "taloning" themselves, that is grasping one foot with the other, penetrating the skin with the associated likelihood of developing Bumblefoot.
  • A bird which is having difficulty breathing (dyspnoea) (as indicated by open mouth breathing and/or exaggerated "tail bobbing" movements) must NEVER be placed on its back as this is likely to further compromise respiration and may be fatal.

(B118.5.w5, B156.15.w15, V.w5)


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Handling for Physical Examination - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Reptile Considerations

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Handling for Physical Examination - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Amphibian Considerations

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Weight & Body Condition

  • Weight should be compared with the normal bodyweight for that species, age and sex, taking into account seasonal variations.
  • Body condition may be just as useful as weight for assessment. As with weight, knowledge of normal species variation is important; for example a degree of keel prominence indicative of emaciation in most bird species may be normal in a heron (Ardea cinerea - Grey heron).

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Blood Sampling

Before taking blood samples it is always important to consider:
  • The reasons for the sample being taken:
    • Will taking and analysing a blood sample help to treat the animal and improve its chances of survival?
    • Will taking and analysing a blood sample help to protect the wild population through identifying the presence of individual disease agents and reducing the risk of disease spread?
    • What information do you hope to gain from the sample?
    • What tests will be needed?
    • What volume will be needed to run the tests?
  • Where the tests are to be done:
    • In-house or sent to a laboratory.
    • If blood is to be sent to a laboratory it is particularly important to check beforehand what volumes they require, whether that laboratory can do the particular tests wanted etc.
    • It is preferable to have checklists available in advance of which test can be run where, optimal and minimal volumes required, and the cost of the tests.
  • Special containers / anticoagulants which may be needed:
    • e.g. bacteriological media; blood containers; EDTA versus Heparin
    • Consideration of the risk of haemolysis of blood of some species in EDTA: corvidae, kingfishers, crowned cranes, chelonia (e.g. red-eared terrapin).
  • Differences which may affect the optimal time of day and sampling site:
    • e.g. for blood parasites where they only circulate during certain hours of the day
  • Safe volume to take: (see below)
    • Depending on size of animal;
    • Allowing for debility.
  • Stress to animal from restraint and taking blood.
  • Requirement for physical or chemical restraint, and the stress which this may involve.
  • Legal considerations:


  • Proper restraint during blood sampling is essential.
  • The minimum amount of blood required should be taken.
    • No more than 1% of the body weight of the individual should be taken at one time.
  • The needle size and sample site chosen should be appropriate for the species and the amount of blood being taken.
  • Common blood sampling sites include the jugular vein (neck), cephalic vein (foreleg), saphenous vein (hindleg).


  • Proper restraint during blood sampling is essential.
  • It has been reported on several occasions that birds have died due to blood loss into the subcutaneous tissues following venipuncture. (V.w6)
  • N.B. The minimum amount of blood required should be taken.
    • As a (conservative) rule, no more than one percent of the body weight of a bird should be taken at one time.(B36.6.w6)
    • N.B. in small birds this may be only a few drops of blood.
    • Example volumes: 0.5ml maximum in a 50g budgerigar, 2ml in a 250-400g African Grey or Amazon parrot).(B14, V.w6)
  • The needle size and sample site chosen should be appropriate for the species and the amount of blood being taken.
    • A 23-25 gauge, five-eighths inch hypodermic needle, slightly bent, may be used for small birds.
  • Blood is usually taken from the (right) jugular vein (neck), medial metatarsal (caudal tibial) vein (leg) or the brachial vein (wing) (See: Intravenous Injection of Birds).
  • In very small birds (e.g. weighing less than 10g) blood may be taken by clipping a claw and drawing the blood into a capillary (microhaematocrit) tube or allowing the blood to drip into the collection tube. After the sample has been collected, bleeding should be stopped by applying ferric sulphate, a silver nitrate pencil, etc. Nail-clipping does not always provide results which are as consistent as when using a syringe and needle. (V.w6)
  • Too great a pressure on the syringe plunger when taking blood may cause the vein to collapse, stopping the blood flow and may damage blood cells (particularly when using a small gauge needle).
  • N.B.
    • Care should be taken following blood sampling to ensure that the vein has stopped bleeding; pressure should be applied over the vein until this has occurred (See: Intravenous Injection of Birds).
    • EDTA is commonly used as an anticoagulant for avian blood, but is known to cause haemolysis of the erythrocytes (red blood cells) in some species (e.g. corvids (Corvidae), currasows, crowned cranes (Balearica spp.), hornbills, eagle owl, kingfishers). Heparin should be used as the anticoagulant for blood of these species.
  • Blood should be evaluated (e.g. haematology, biochemistry) by a laboratory that is familiar with avian blood characteristics.
  • If the standard requirements of the laboratory are not immediately known, they should be telephoned regarding the amount required, anticoagulant to be used etc. prior to any sample being collected.

(B14, B36.6.w6, V.w6)

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Criteria preventing Release

See: Wildlife Casualty Release

Whilst there are occasional reports of animals surviving and breeding in the wild with severe disabilities, in general, animals which are released with significant physical or behavioural disabilities are likely to be severely disadvantaged and have a greatly reduced chance of survival. The release of an animal with such a disability may be considered an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960.

Any of the following conditions are likely to preclude the release of the casualty back into the wild:

  • Blindness.
    • Depending on the species a partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes may prevent release.
  • Loss of, or significant reduction in, wing function.
  • Loss of, or significant reduction of, leg function.
    • This may be less important for some birds, particularly those of lower body weight.
  • Loss of a hind talon or two other digits on the same foot in raptors.
  • Inability to urinate or defaecate.
  • Permanent neurological disease.
  • Pelvic damage in a female mammal making normal parturition (birth) impossible.
  • Abnormal behaviour patterns.
    • Tame animals which may be a danger to the public.
    • Animals which lack natural behaviour patterns necessary to find food, escape predators etc.
  • Other criteria may apply depending on the species.

For example, Raptor Rescue has adopted as their official policy:

" Casualties for Euthanasia (in every case) 

a) Loss of wing or leg / foot
b) Suffering from terminal illness
c) Totally blind
d) Injured so severely it would be cruel to:

(i) attempt treatment initially or
(ii) sustain life in the light of subsequently identified injuries

e) Total permanent loss of flight

There are two options available for animals with permanent crippling injuries:

  • Euthanasia. See: Wildlife Casualty Euthanasia
    • This is probably the most practical and humane option in the majority of cases.
  • Retention in permanent care. See: Wildlife Casualty Long Term Care
    • This has a limited applicability, depending on the species, the type of injury and the temperament of the individual animal concerned.

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Human Health Consideration

  • The potential hazards to human health of carrying out ANY physical examination must be considered before undertaking examinations. (See: Wildlife Casualty Catching and Handling - Human Health Considerations)
  • Personnel undertaking or attending physical examinations must be made aware of the potential hazards to human health.
  • Protective articles such as goggles, gloves, towels etc. should be available and used as appropriate.
  • The use of chemical restraint (sedation or general anaesthesia) may be appropriate to reduce the risk of physical injury to handlers/examiners.
  • Good personal hygiene and the use of appropriate protective clothing (such as washing hands after handling/examining animals and wearing suitable gloves (e.g. latex for ringworm)) should reduce the risk of transmission of zoonoses.


  • The following risks should be considered and minimised:
    • physical injury to those handling the animal and carrying out the examination .
    • transmission of disease from animals to humans, particularly from mammals with respiratory or gastro-intestinal disease.
  • Important diseases to consider in dealing with wild mammals include Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis (Weil's Disease), Brucellosis, Hedgehog Ringworm, Lyme Disease and Tuberculosis.
  • 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.
  • External parasites may be transferred from the animal to the holder and/or to the person examining the animal.


  • Risk of physical injury, from the bill (particularly in psittacines and long-billed birds), talons (particularly in raptors and owls) and wings (large birds, particularly swans and geese). (See: Bird Handling and Movement - General).
  • N.B. consider the potential for transmission of zoonoses, particularly from birds with respiratory or gastro-intestinal disease, also diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors which may be present on the bird.
  • Important zoonotic diseases to consider in dealing with birds include Aspergillosis, Avian Tuberculosis, Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis, Erysipelothrix Infection, Salmonellosis and Yersiniosis.
  • Some people are allergic to birds.
  • External parasites may be transferred from the bird to the holder and/or to the person examining the bird.


  • Risk of bite from poisonous reptile. The only venomous reptile native to the UK is the adder (Vipera berus - Common viper).
  • Potential for transmission of zoonoses particularly Salmonellosis.


  • Some people can exhibit a skin reaction after handling amphibians (e.g. Bufo bufo - Common European toad).

(B11.2.w16, B36.6.w6, V.w5, V.w6)

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

(UK Contacts)

(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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