Have you found a bird or animal that you think needs help? Here are the answers to some of the questions you might have.
Baby birds are best left to be brought up by their parents. Often people find a baby bird and take it to a rescue centre when it is simply a fledgling – ie, has rightly left the nest but is still being fed by its parents and may not be able to fly strongly. Such birds are too wild to rear easily in captivity and may well die if brought in and, besides, it is not in the best interest of the bird, its parents, or the rescue centre to take it in.
However, each case must be judged on its own circumstances, and many baby birds do need to come in for help. Please follow this checklist.
Is the baby bird injured? (eg by a cat) If so, it needs help.
Is it uninjured, up on its legs and able to walk or hop about? If so it is ready to be out so leave it.
Is it completely covered in feathers? If so it should be left out.
Is it only partially feathered, or not at all? If so it definitely needs help.
Was the bird in the road when you found it? If so, as long as it is feathered and hopping around, it should be placed as near to where you found it but in a safe place, eg a nearby garden. Its parents need to be in earshot, but it does not need to come in.
Adult birds are a different story. If an adult bird allows you to catch it then something is wrong. In this case please ring us or bring the bird to us.
Herring Gulls –Adult
Adult or juvenile herring gulls – the big white gulls with grey wings, or the juveniles with browny/grey speckles – frequently suffer broken wings from road traffic accidents. In these cases we can often mend the wing by strapping them up for a few weeks and then giving them time to be able to fly strongly in an aviary.
If the wing is completely smashed, with bone sticking out, the wing twisting right around, or loads of blood, then it will never mend. We feel it is not fair to keep the bird for maybe another 30 years unable to fly, so euthanasia is the only answer. If you are able to take the bird directly to your local vet it will be quicker for the bird to be out of its suffering.
Some gulls appear paralysed but otherwise have no signs of injury. This can be either botulism, or spinal injury. Botulism we can usually cure. The birds get food poisoning, especially in very hot weather, and get to the stage where they can’t even swallow for themselves. Intensive nursing will get them over this in a few weeks.
Spinal injuries, probably from car accidents, also paralyse the birds’ legs, but they can still eat and flap their wings. Typically, their legs are out behind them and they constantly flap to try and move along. The usual outcome of this is euthanasia, but if you are not sure then please bring it to us to check.
Herring Gulls – Babies
The following is for uninjured gulls – obviously if they are injured you will need to bring them to us.
Baby gulls are born from around the end of May and immediately we start getting calls about those that have fallen from roofs. At this age they are tennis ball sized and must go back on their nest if at all possible. They are too small to walk back and, contrary to many people’s belief, the parents cannot pick them up and carry them back. If the baby cannot be returned to the nest then it needs to come in for help as soon as possible.
Sorry, but we should only take them if the roof is several storeys high, has no balcony or window opening out onto it that you can put the bird through, and it is an absolute impossibility to put them back. Please ask neighbours or family to help you if you are unable to put them back yourself. We get upwards of 400 young gulls in a year, all within about 2 months. They soon become overcrowded and will be unhealthy if we do not spend all day, every day cleaning out and feeding. It makes a huge amount of work for the two of us, and is not in the best interest of the birds. Please make every effort to put the gull back, but feel free to call us if, after everything, the bird needs our help.
Middle sized gulls, those who are walking around and starting to get feathers, can be put on the edge of the roof and will walk back up to their nest if found on the ground. Again, please call us if there is no way of doing this, as a gull at this size left on the ground will not survive.
Later in the summer baby gulls are starting to take their first flights and often end up on the ground. At this stage we do not take them in unless they are injured. Ideally, the baby needs popping back up on the roof where its parents are. Second best would be a nearby roof – garage, shed or anything high to get it safely off the ground and give it a better chance of lift off, but please make sure you do not put it on another roof where a different pair of gulls are nesting. Third best is to put it out nearby on a more open piece of land to give it a better chance of taking off. The last resort is to leave it. It will go eventually. Baby gulls often sit around in gardens because they are being fed, or they are interested in what is there, or they are in too enclosed a space to fly out.
We will not take these older birds because: they do not need our help
they need their parents to help them fly away
they will be too overcrowded if we took them all.
Please remember, we are here to help you and the birds, but we cannot do it all. If we are to spend all our time caring for them, then we need you to help with putting them back if possible, and with bringing birds to us when you can instead of asking us to collect. You may be busy, but we just never stop!
Most important – from the moment a gull has started building a nest it is totally illegal to remove it or harm them unless you have a licence from DEFRA. All birds’ nests are protected. If you remove eggs or a nest or harm the parent birds then you could be reported to the police or RSPCA and may be prosecuted.
The time to stop gulls (and pigeons) nesting on your property is when they are not nesting. Companies like “Birds Brighton” will put up netting, spikes etc to prevent birds nesting and also undergo cleaning work. Please make sure that whichever company you use, they must fix it so birds do not get trapped and starve to death. Again, you could be prosecuted.
If you have to live with gulls nesting on your roof, try not to worry, flap at them or look suspicious! If you carry on your normal life and ignore them they will usually ignore you. It is usually only when you shout and wave things at them that they start to get defensive. Obviously if they are nesting right over your front door it can be disconcerting so if you are worried wear a hat and walk as you normally would so as not to arouse their attention.
If you have a racing pigeon feeding with your local pigeon flock, or find an injured one and are able to catch it, it is always a good idea to gently spread out the feathers on the wings. Many owners stamp their name and phone number on the wing feathers so you, or we, can contact them direct. Occasionally the phone number is on the ring on the bird’s leg. The bird should also have an identification number on its leg ring. It is possible to trace an owner with this number through racing pigeons associations.
If you cannot catch a racing pigeon it must be fit and well so it is best left. Eventually it will either return home on its own or join up with feral pigeons and live wild.
Birds Trapped Behind Chimneys
Sometimes birds fall down chimneys, especially wood pigeons and jackdaws. If you have a gas fire, you will need to contact the gas board as we cannot be responsible to removing and refitting a gas fire. Of course, if the bird needs help when free do call us, but normally it just needs letting out.
If your fireplace is boarded up it is helpful if you, or a friend, can release the bird yourself. Simply remove the board, let the bird out into the room, then open a window or door.
If this is not possible, or the bird is trapped or injured, then please call us. Sometimes a bird that has been trapped a while is very hungry and sooty so it is best to bring him in for convalescence.
Birds pecking windows
Some birds, particularly chaffinches, will peck away frantically at windows and doors. This is a cock bird trying desperately to chase away his reflection, thinking it is a rival. The best thing to do is to cover the glass, outside if possible, with a curtain, net or cardboard, until the bird gives up and goes away.
Birds trapped on aerials, under netting etc
We get calls about birds trapped under garden pond netting or netting put up to keep them off buildings, and also sometimes tied up in fishing line which, in itself, can cause injuries and suffering, but can also become entangled with aerials etc, like with this black headed gull.
If a bird is trapped please do call us, unless you are able to free it yourself. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are happy to help us with birds trapped in impossible places! Birds with fishing tackle in their wings, feet and beaks need careful untangling and maybe an operation to remove an internal hook. If you see fishing wire hanging from its beak please do not cut it, as it may be possible to use the end to remove the hook without an operation.
Birds flying into windows
If a bird hits your window but does not look injured, only stunned, put it somewhere dark and quiet in a box for an hour or two. Usually by then it is ready to release. If it is still unwell then please ring or bring it to us. If it keeps happening, perhaps consider getting some stickers from the RSPB to put in the window so birds can see the glass.
Foxes and Badgers
Adult foxes and badgers may be victims of road accidents. In this case, Roger is happy to be called out to help, as adult foxes and badgers are dangerous to handle. If you are able to stay with the animal it helps, especially in the dark! And if you are able to bring it to us, please take great care. Frightened, hurt animals can give a nasty bite.
Fox cubs will need hand rearing if they have lost their mother. However, many cubs appear “abandoned” when they have simply been left while their mother moves others to another den. She will return for the cub later. If the cub is barking incessantly, or is still in the same place some time later, then please call us.
Badger cubs are different. They would not normally come out of their sett until much older, so a baby badger found wandering above ground at a very young age normally needs help. It would suggest that something has happened to the mother and they are looking for her.
Foxes with mange
Sadly many foxes get this terrible disease. It is caused by hundreds of mites eating away at their skin and causes dreadful irritation and hair loss. Typically they lose the fur around their tail and hind quarters first, and later all over, along with conjunctivitis and nasty sores on their haunches. This mange can be treated.
We have a fox trap but do not like to use it in spring as it can catch vixens who need to return to their cubs. At any time of year it can catch the wrong fox, and even badgers and cats, before finally catching the right one. The best way to treat a fox with mange is to feed it regularly until it comes close for food. Then we can give you medicine to put in the food once a week for 4 weeks and he should be cured. In the meantime, put Vitapet skin and coat conditioner (cod liver oil) and garlic tablets in their food. It will help, but take a lot longer, but it doesn’t matter if the wrong fox gets it.
Alternatively, if you have a shed, garage etc that you can lure your mangy fox into and shut the door, we can come and catch him with a net and treat him here.
If you have a fox with mange, please phone us or contact us by email by clicking here to find out how we can help you treat it. We need you to collect the medication from us as we can only give it out as a single dose on meat. For more information if you cannot come to collect it please click here.
We are often asked about how to stop foxes nesting in your garden. The answer is to do something about it in the winter months, before they start to nest. Cubs are great to watch but can damage plants and garden ornaments when playing. We suggest you put stakes around plants to stop them rolling on them and squashing them. If foxes have nested in your garden, the time to block up holes is after they have gone, as anything that could trap them inside and cause suffering could have you liable to prosecution. We suggest you block up some holes, then put a twig across remaining holes and leave them a few days. If the twigs are not moved then no fox has passed through the holes and it is safe to block them up firmly.
However, please ask yourself why you want to deter the foxes
They do no harm to cats.
They will not hurt you or your children.
They will damage plants but this can be minimised.
They will bring in “toys” but these are easily cleared up.
Man has built on the countryside leaving them so little land to use, so they have had to adapt and move into towns. If you deter them, where else can they go?
They are beautiful creatures, and you could get a lot of pleasure from watching them.
Sadly you might find a dead fox or other creature in or near your garden, and we cannot deal with these. You need to put it in a sack and ring the council cleansing department (in Brighton the number is 01273 274674) and they will collect it.
Other baby animals
Any baby animal – hedgehog, rabbit, mouse etc, which still has its eyes closed, or is obviously still very young, will need to come in for help if found without its parents.
Other Injured Animals
If you find an injured animal then please contact us or bring the animal to us. Typical injuries are:
strimmer or road accidents for hedgehogs,
cat attacks for mice and baby rabbits.
Sorry but we don’t take wild rats and we don’t deal with pet animals
Rabbits and Myxomatosis
If you have found a rabbit, please read this very carefully. Myxomatosis is very contagious and almost always fatal. We once had a rabbit suffering from myxomatosis brought to our centre and all our pet rabbits caught it, despite being vaccinated. It was only the vaccination which made their symptoms less severe that saved their lives, but it took 5 months of total nursing care and a large vet bill to save them. If you suspect your rabbit has myxomatosis please do not bring it to our door. If you are able to ring ahead we will meet you outside and check it over. If the rabbit does have myxomatosis we will not take it in. The only thing for it is euthanasia, so please take it to the nearest vet where it can be put out of its terrible suffering as soon as possible.
How do you know if it has myxi?
A rabbit with myxi typically has closed and swollen eyes and lids. It may well be covered in scabs and scars and have swellings on other parts of its body – nose, ears and genitals. You may well see fleas on it – they carry the myxi and are the cause of it spreading.
We would suggest that if you have rabbits of your own, you wash thoroughly and change your clothes when you get home after handling a wild rabbit with myxi.
We strongly recommend you get your pet rabbits vaccinated against myxi and keep the vaccination up to date. It is a terrible disease, and no rabbit should have to suffer it.
More About Treating Mange in Foxes
Mange typically starts with a bald tail and back end, then sores on the haunches then crusty eyes and conjunctivitis. A fox totally covered in mange has crust all over its body and very little fur, plus sore, closed and crusty eyes. All the symptoms should clear up when the mange is treated. It is caused by mites.
We treat foxes with mange with a veterinary medication called Panomec which is ivomectin. It does work. After 2 doses you can see the mange lifting from the skin and after 4 it should be cured and the fur is starting to grow back in. Homeopathic remedies, including arsenica, can work but they take a long time so, if your fox is badly affected, it may die before the medicine works. Occasionally, when a fox is completely crusted with mange, even the veterinary medication doesn’t have time to work as the fox is affected internally.
We are lucky that our vets trust us to give out this medication to members of the public, so we are able to treat around 50 foxes a year in their own gardens by giving out medicated meat. This year we had treated over 50 by May!
As we are not vets we cannot send out bottles of the medication. We give it out one dose at a time on a slice of meat. Therefore we ask people to collect it from our gate once a week for four weeks. If you are able to come for doses we need your address and phone number please for the records we keep for the vets. If you ring us either the night before or in the morning of the day you are coming and we will leave it out for you at our gate in a labelled box. You need to come roughly the same day each week, but a day earlier or later will be ok. You can keep the box in the fridge to use the next day or two if the fox doesn’t come.
It is important that you can target the affected fox and don’t put the food down where dogs can get hold of it. Some dogs are allergic to the medicine. If you have several foxes affected we suggest we give you one dose a week but you carry on for longer, so in turn hopefully each fox will get enough doses to help it. The exception would be if you can target feed each separate fox and can be sure that you won’t let one fox get more than one dose.
We do suggest that you feed the fox each day during treatment to ensure it is likely to come on the days you have a dose. Foxes will eat anything meaty and any dog or cat food. On dose days, feed the dose first then put out other things if you wish, thus ensuring the fox takes the dose.
We are based in Brighton. We have started to get dozens of emails from people way out of our area, and obviously if you live a long way from us you can’t come for a dose. In this case we suggest that you take a photo of the fox to your local vet and try and ask for panomec from them. We give 8 drops on meat once a week for 4 weeks. Vets don’t like to give out medication without seeing an animal but they might do it from a photo if they know you.
Failing that, some people have managed to get Ivomec online for cows and it’s the same dose if you get 2.5 oral ivomec.
Lastly we do suggest a homeopathic approach. This can be used instead if you can’t get the panomec, or as well as it. Vitapet moult formula is a cod liver oil supplement for dogs, available from pet shops and online. It helps the fox’s coat and skin. You can put two teaspoons over the food each day. Dog garlic tablets, dose for a medium sized dog, will help ward off the mange mites. If you can start treating a fox soon enough this will help, as will arsenica from The Fox Project.
Finally, people often ask about their pets catching mange from foxes, and whether they will be stuck with a tame fox if they feed it for 4 weeks. Mange is very contagious, but it is caused by mites not fleas. Mites tend to crawl from one animal to another rather than hop into the grass, so usually dogs and cats would have to lay with a fox to catch it. It isn’t impossible, but it is unlikely. Foxes are opportunists, so will stay around while they are being fed but, if you stop when you have finished the treatment, they will soon learn to go somewhere else. Also, when they feel better, they are less likely to hang around and should return to normal behaviour. Mange will kill and spread if untreated so hopefully you will be happy to treat a poorly fox even if you are not in the habit of feeding them.
Thank you for caring....