Wildlife Rescue

logo: Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue

If you think working at a wildlife rescue centre involves shovelling shit and bunny hugging … on.

Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue runs one of the country’s busiest wildlife hospitals. More than 3000 casualties are admitted every year, and advice is given for many more wildlife incidents. Our team has a surprising variety of skills.

Andy examining a young deer in the hospital (Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue)
Andy examining a young deer in the hospital (Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue)

1   ID skills. Easy when it’s an adult bird in breeding plumage, but what about 3 day old mistle thrush chicks, or could they be finches? Is that a nestful of dippers, or could they be sand martins? It matters, because they will need different food, Neonate mammals can be tricky too. Badgers and foxes are no problem, but what about stoats and red squirrels, otters and mink?

2          Assessing the patient.     Does it need sub-cut fluids, or have a fracture that must be stabilized. Can it be treated at the centre, or must we call a vet?

3          Nursing.           Daily medical rounds, monitoring and assessments.

4          Wildlife knowledge is essential, informing us where and when to release our patients. We need to know what each species eats, how it behaves, where it sleeps. We aim to make treatment at Hessilhead as stress free as possible, and never forget we are dealing with wild creatures. Contact with local bat, bird and badger groups is extremely useful.

A rescued seal pup (Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue)
A rescued seal pup (Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue)

5          Rescues           Wildlife gets into some amazing predicaments. We are called out to rescue swans from roofs, deer from shafts, and once there was a badger stuck on a phone box! Problem solving skills are essential.

6          Dealing with the public   Tricky! Many people have an unrealistic idea of what can be fixed. Some would like us to amputate limbs, and offer permanent homes to disabled wildlife. We don’t believe this is a humane option, but try convincing caring people of that.

7          Volunteers        They contribute a lot to Hessilhead. Some help at the centre, others provide transport for casualties. Some have many years experience of rescuing wildlife, and on their ‘wildlife day’, like to discuss patients, rescues, and wildlife/conservation issues.

8          Education         Staff visit schools and give talks on the work of the centre. We run training days on First Aid for Wildlife, attended by countryside rangers, vets/vet nurses, wildlife crime officers as well as our volunteers and members.

Do you have or would you like to acquire these skills? Then a career in wildlife rescue could be for you.

Andy Christie, Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue, near Beith in North Ayrshire, Scotland

First published in CJS Focus on Wildlife in association with The Wildlife Trusts on 22 November 2010

More on: