Vets are periodically called upon to treat wildlife and because of our association with exotic animals, we at Robson and Prescott see, perhaps, more than our fair share.
Wildlife veterinary care provides different challenges to the clinician – simply easing discomfort or improving quality of life is not adequate. The aim must be to achieve a patient fit enough to survive in the wild.
Financial constraints often restrict options for diagnosis and treatment, as can the unsuitability of the patient to adapt to a hospitalised setting. Deer will not tolerate hospitalisation and a build up of stress hormones almost invariably leads to a breakdown of muscle tissue and terminal kidney failure.
However, working with extremely able charitable bodies, wildlife work can be very rewarding.
British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue plays an invaluable role in the rescue and rehabilitation of coastal wildlife. Whilst strandings of whales happen infrequently, BDMLR are often called to sick seal pups. Several times a year we will be presented with grey or common seal pups for assessment, stabilisation and treatment before BDMLR takes them for rehabilitation.
The Trewitley Owl Trust does a fantastic job with the rehabilitation of birds of prey – owls, kestrels, buzzards and falcons – and Friends of Red Kites recently presented us with Red Phillip, one of the first batch of red kites released in the Derwent Valley in 2004. He suffered a collision with a car. We stabilised him, he made a complete recovery and after nine days was returned to the Friends, who re-released him into his natural environment.
Another charity is the RSPCA. Large numbers of swans have been falling ill on the River Wear and Ashington’s QE2 lake. About 25 have been treated at the hospital. Tests indicate high levels of lead poisoning, but we have not ascertained the full picture. While our vets treat the birds, the RSPCA, Government and Environment Agency are investigating.
All of these charities are doing essential work for wildlife and deserve our support.
I end with a plea to heed another charity’s advice, that of the RSPB relating to fledgling birds – ‘leave them alone!’ People fear they are lost or abandoned, but in the vast majority of cases the parent bird is waiting nearby when the baby is removed.
Even if the fledglings can be reared, it is unlikely that they can be released back into the wild.
By SAM PRESCOTT, Director