Taking a walk on the wild side

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WHILE the majority of our working week is spent tending to pets and horses and farming livestock, we often see several wildlife cases presented by charities or members of the public.

Over the years, we’ve treated songbirds, gulls, owls and birds of prey, otters, red squirrels, seals, deer, a porpoise, water fowl, badgers, bats, foxes, gannets and herons.

In each of these situations the only truly ideal outcome is effective treatment, as short a rehabilitation as possible and a successful release back into their natural habitat. There are, unfortunately, instances in which an animal is so badly injured that release will never be a possibility and euthanasia represents a kinder option than an inappropriate and stressful captivity.

We have, however, had a few notable successes.

We’ve had a couple of happy endings recently with a kestrel released after a fractured wing was pinned and a Peregrine treated for lead poisoning it was shot.

Last month the RSPCA presented us with a juvenile mute swan with two feet of fishing line hanging from its bill.

It was clear that the offending hook was anchored somewhere in the birds oesophagus (gullet). A peculiarity of birds’ anatomy – air-filled sacks within the body cavity – allowed us to anaesthetise the swan with gas fed through a tube directly into the abdomen, leaving the throat free for investigation.

A camera passed down the gullet confirmed the presence of not one but two triple-barbed hooks which required an operation to release and remove.

The swan was kept in the surgery for three days after the operation, initially being fed by stomach tube on a slurry of mashed-up rabbit pellets, before a successful and very satisfying release back onto its home lake.

On a related wildlife topic, we at Robson & Prescott would like to please remind everyone of the RSPCA’s ‘Leave them alone’ campaign.

Throughout the spring we are presented with innumerable baby rabbits and fledging birds by well-meaning members of the public concerned that they have been abandoned.

In almost all cases, these infants have not, in fact, been abandoned. But by the time they are presented to us it is all too often impossible to return them to the wild. While it can be very difficult to leave an infant animal in what seems a perilous environment, please do as the RSPCA advises and leave them alone.

Sam Prescott, Director and Senior Vet