Pitfalls of dealing with wild creatures

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This last week has been one in which wildlife has featured significantly – swans, a seal, a fox cub, an avocet and a Pipistrelle bat have all passed through the surgery.

The most high-profile of these cases was a female swan shot through the neck with a crossbow bolt on the river Lyne and presented at the surgery by the RSPCA. Without exception, we were disgusted by the manner in which the swan had been injured, but she responded fantastically well to surgery and made an excellent recovery to the point at which she was released back to the river where her mate still waited for her.

Some of the cases unfortunately did not enjoy the happily-ever-after ending. A 28-gramme Pipistrelle bat had escaped the clutches of a cat only to die the next day of its injuries. An avocet, a black and white wading bird, was found dead and presented by the RSPB for an autopsy so no happy ending there. Most sad, however, was the case of a young cygnet that had swallowed a fishing line and hook discarded by an angler. The hook had been lodged in the lower part of the bird’s gullet for some time before an observant member of the public noticed the nylon lint trailing from the beak and brought it to the attention of local RSPCA officers.

Although the swan was stabilised on a drip and surgery performed to remove the hook and line, the little cygnet succumbed to an inhalation pneumonia caused by food refluxed up from where the hook and line were obstructing the gullet.

On a happier note, a young fox cub found caught up in a football net needed nothing more than a health check, her wounds cleaned and a treatment for parasites whilet a young common seal pup also tolerated tender ministrations before being transferred to a longer-term marine mammal rehabilitation centre. At only 10kg in weight, the seal pup was dehydrated, underweight and relatively compliant. After fluid therapy, stomach tubing with fish soup and assorted medications, the little pup was no longer dehydrated or underweight and was most definitely no longer compliant.

The outlook for the seal, the fox and the Lynemouth swan should all be excellent and should be viewed as great successes. The demise of the cygnet and bat, however, outline the pitfalls and complications associated with dealing with wildlife – animals that have probably been suffering an ailment for some time before being brought in, are invariably extremely stressed about being caught, transported and examined and when they are feeling better, do all they can to let you know what they really think of all the attention you have been showing them.

SAM PRESCOTT, Director