British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

Registered Charity No. 1157841



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:-

Physical condition

(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.

Mental condition

(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.

Legal Aspects

1. The release of any animal into the wild in a condition which would prejudice its chances of survival contravenes the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

2. Under Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act the release of non-indigenous species is prohibited without a licence from Natural England (Welsh Assembly Government in Wales, or Scottish Natural Heritage in Scotland). Non indigenous species are defined by the Act as
  (a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
  (b) is included in Part I of Schedule 9

3. Marking of released animals by tags, collars, leg rings etc. is controlled under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Badgers Act 1982 and licences must be obtained to run such schemes. Birds marked under the British Trust for Ornithology ringing scheme are handled by trained and licenced ringers.