Hard to diagnose animal in distress

What to do for the best? It’s often difficult to tell whether a wild animal is in distress and in need of help or it’s perfectly comfy, thank you very much.


One concerned caller phoned the trust recently to report a sighting of a pair of swans in a field on the Berwick to Cornhill road.

She’d seen the swans sitting in the same place for two weeks, one with its head tucked into its wing, and she was worried that something was wrong with them.

With the farmer’s permission, Kay was able to go into the field and approach the swans, who duly flew off to find a quieter spot where they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Kay said that at this time of year it’s quite common to see swans on farmland as there’s a shortage of food in the rivers.

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“They are generally fine if they’re just sitting down,” she said.

“If they’re actually lying down then they could be in trouble and people should contact the trust.

“If the swan is lying underneath power cables, it has possibly flown into them and will need urgent attention.”

Another situation where it can be hard to decide whether help is needed or not is when a seal pup is on the beach, seemingly all alone.

Most of the time, a lone pup is simply resting and its mother is probably just offshore, hidden by the waves.

It’s vital to stay well away from the seal and just watch from a distance; if you approach there’s a danger the parents will be scared away and abandon the pup.

At the trust we don’t have the facilities to deal with seals or seal pups, instead we refer callers to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), who have the training and expertise to assess what action is the most appropriate.

If you think a seal is sick, injured or really abandoned, you should phone the BDMLR for help, giving as precise a description of the location and condition of the animal as possible.

You can reach it on 01825 765546 (weekdays 9am to 5pm) or 07787 433412 (outside office hours).

If you’re on the beach regularly, you could add these numbers to your mobile phone contacts list so you always have them with you if they’re ever needed.

While you’re waiting for help to arrive, the BDMLR asks that you keep other people and their dogs away from the seal.

And it warns you not to get too close yourself as even a young pup can deliver a nasty bite.

Back at the Rollo Centre, the recent February ‘spring’ weather has fooled about half of the outdoor hedgehogs into coming out of hibernation, so tinned meaty pet food replaces the dry mix they have in the hutch for occasional winter snacks.

Donations of the loaf-type tinned meaty dog food (not fish) – which is easier for the hogs to eat than the chunky stuff – would be hugely appreciated, especially by the awakening hedgehogs.