1) The ultimate aim of any attempt to treat a wildlife casualty must be to return the patient to the wild in such a condition, at such a time
and in such a place as to give it the optimum chance of survival.
2) Before the release of any patient an assessment should be made of its ability to survive in the wild. This assessment must be based on
the condition and behaviour of the animal and an appreciation of its habits and natural history. The opinion of a suitably experienced
veterinary surgeon may often be helpful, especially in assessing patients which have received long term care.
In assessing a patient at the completion of treatment particular attention should be paid to the following:-
(i) Typical level of fitness and stamina comparable to wild counterparts to protect and defend itself and to perform sustained activity
required for survival in the wild, e.g. hunting, searching for food, evading predators, migration, etc.
(ii) Senses of sight, sound, smell and touch should be apparent to allow acute awareness of its environment e.g. binocular, wide
field vision, echo, olfactory and acoustic location etc.
(iii) Condition of the integument i.e. fur, feathers, scales and spines, should be comparable to wild counterparts and also the ability to
maintain it (grooming/preening), e.g. for thermal regulation, water proofing, protection, flight and control of ectoparasites etc.
(iv) Physically capable of reproduction.
(i) Ability to recognise its own species, e.g. mate selection.
(ii) Ability to recognise natural food resources without dependency on supplementary feeding.
(iii) Sufficient social skills to interact with, or avoid other animals.
(iv) Predator awareness including man. Any animal that has lost the fear of man should not be released; such animals pose
a danger to people and themselves.
3) As a general rule short term patients should preferably be returned to a safe position as close as possible to the site where they were
found. Long term patients present particular problems because, in many cases, their previous territory may have altered or been occupied
by the time of release. Their release into suitable habitat with sufficient food resources, minimum threat from predators (including man)
and from territorial aggression shown by members of their own species requires thorough investigation of suitable sites. Involving the
help of local naturalists and others with knowledge of any proposed release site is encouraged.
4. The method of release should ensure that the patient, especially if at the end of a prolonged period of captivity, has time to adjust to its new surroundings and possibly be provided with a source of supplementary feeding once released.
5) Permission and maybe co-operation should be obtained from land owners or managers to release casualties,
especially long term care patients, on their land.
6) Marking (under licence, wherever appropriate) and monitoring of released animals is beneficial in obtaining information
on the survival rates and movements of rehabilitated wildlife after release.
7) Where specific studies have been carried out on the fate of released animals of the species to be released, the findings should
be considered carefully with a view to ensuring that future releases are carried out with the greatest chance of success.