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  • graemewilson17

Wildlife Rehab Tails

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

As well as being an ecologist and wildlife educator I am also an independent wildlife rehabilitator. It is not something I get paid for and is just something I kind of fell into over the years. During my early career I received training in wildlife first aid and from the late nineties until early teenies (is teenies what you call 2010-19?) I was involved with a wildlife rescue centre. In the noughties (that’s 2000-10, right?) I dealt with a few wildlife casualties but things really took off in 2010 when Soprano Pipistrelle Bats started getting stuck inside my, at that time, local village hall.

I quickly had to learn how to deal with grounded bats, including how to give them water and feed them mealworms. We never got to the bottom of how the bats were getting from the roost in the apex of roof into the main body of the hall but over several years I have saved dozens of bats from the hall, including a mother and her young pup.

I started to get a reputation as the person to contact locally about injured or grounded bats and also about other wildlife too. Sometimes the wildlife turned up on its own at my door. On two separate occasions I went out front door only to find wildlife in need of care, once a Pipistrelle clinging to doorframe and once a poorly Hedgehog snuffling about on doorstep. Sadly neither of them survived. I suspect the bat had been involved with a near miss with a car and had internal injuries and the Hedgehog was thin and dehydrated and did not survive long after being taken into care. That is the downside of wildlife rehab. If wildlife is in need of being taken into care then it is already in a bad way and faces an uphill struggle. In fact I’m told that less than 50% of wildlife taken into care survives to be released back into the wild. I can believe that. However the successes make it worthwhile!

Other wildlife I’ve had in care includes various species of birds including Tawny Owls, Buzzards and a Mute Swan. The Buzzards and the Mute Swan were transferred to wildlife rescue centres which were in a better position to give them the care they needed. One of the Tawny Owls also went to a centre where it was diagnosed with Trichomoniasis, a parasitical infection that is most common in finches and pigeons. It was put to sleep as chance of recovery was slim and it was in a lot of distress.

Three of the Tawny Owls and one of the Buzzards I was called about but I just happened to come across the Mute Swan and one Tawny and Buzzard when I was driving. Rescuing the Mute Swan involved my wrapping it in a duvet that was in back of car, whilst my daughter made a “nest” from pillows that were also in car. I whipped off my belt and used it to secure the duvet in place and took swan back to my house to wait on it being picked up for transfer to wildlife rescue centre.

Probably the strangest rescue I was involved in did not involve me being close to any wildlife. In fact the wildlife in need was on a different continent! A friend in India contacted me on Facebook for advice on what to do with a bat they had found floating in toilet. They had scooped it out but wanted to know what to do next. I talked them through drying it, putting it somewhere dry and quiet, giving it opportunity to have a drink and giving it chance to fly off when recovered. Which is exactly what happened.

Then there was the time my wife, our kids and I were invited for a meal and we were sitting at the dinner table and suddenly someone pointed up and said "There's a bat in the lightshade!" and sure enough there was. So as everyone else started on pudding I was balancing over table on a ladder

scooping out a Soprano Pipistrelle Bat from lightshade. Thankfully I rarely travel without my bat rescue equipment so I had my gloves and was able to give it some water before it flew off back to roost.

Last year I was called to my local primary school twice in one week. At the start of the week I was called about an injured Blue Tit and at the end of the week about a young Oystercatcher in school grounds that was being mobbed by crows and such. The Blue Tit had probably collided with a window and was just stunned. I took home, gave it a once over, left it in a quiet place to recover and took it back to school for successful release. The young Oystercatcher had fallen off the school roof where the parents nested so I had to juggle the juvenile bird and climb a ladder to get up on roof to reunite it with parents. Both of these featured in My Wildlife Year during 2021 and I made the two stories into a special Wildlife Rescue My Wildlife Year video which can be seen here.

Currently I have two fledgling Blackbirds in care. They came to me as Nestlings, along with three of their siblings, but one was very small and weak and died after a couple of days. Two others died the following day. I suspect they had suffered injuries when they fell over ten feet after high winds blew their nest to the ground. As they grew the injuries got worse and proved fatal. The two that have survived are doing well and I hope they survive to be released but speak to anyone involved in wildlife rehab and they are likely to tell you stories of wildlife seemingly doing really well only for it to keel over dead suddenly! Am praying that doesn’t happen with these two!

I did have another success story recently. My friend David Dodds of David Dodds Associates Ltd. brought me a Natterer’s Bat he had in care that was not eating. He was struggling to give it the time it needed so he dropped her off with me at 5.45am one Monday morning. It took a bit of coaxing but I soon had here eating a mealworm. She was with me for a week and a half and I got her eating well, with her gaining about 2.5g, and flying again. I have a very understanding wife who lets me test bats flying ability in our dining room! I then took her a 50 mile round trip to release her. I have to admit I got a bit emotional when I saw her fly off. I made a few videos of her stay with me for social media and brought them together in a compilation on YouTube which you can view here.

As I said I do my wildlife rehab work in a voluntary capacity and fund it myself including buying equipment, food such as live mealworms and cans of dogfood and travelling to pick up and release rescues. However I also have an Amazon Wildlife Rescue Wishlist, which can be found here, that people that want to support my work can buy something from. I try to include small items as well as slightly bigger so that no one feels obliged to spend a lot.

The stories above are just a few of the wildlife rehab and rescues I’ve been involved in. The work can be so rewarding but also heart breaking. It is not for everyone but if you know someone that’s involved in wildlife rehab work then give them an occasional word of encouragement to help them through the harder times. I assure you it will be appreciated!

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