When animals should be released

Before releasing an animal back in the wild you must fill in a wildlife report / application for release form.

Rehabilitated animals are ready for release when they meet all of the following criteria:

  • show recovery from the original injury or from any injuries in care
  • are no longer in need of medical care
  • show no signs of active disease
  • show an appropriate level of physical fitness
  • have movement skills needed for survival
  • can navigate in a complex environment
  • show a fight or flight response
  • show proper foraging behaviour - to recognise, source and harvest food
  • show normal species behaviour
  • be a correct age for independent survivial
  • be a correct weight for that sex, species, age and season
  • posses pelage, scales, skin or plumage that is adequate for that species to survive
  • demonstrate that waterproof pelage/plumage is sufficient.

If possible, a rehabilitated animal must be released where it was found, in the animal’s normal habitat and where those animals are found in the wild.

This minimises the unnatural spread of parasites, diseases and genetic material among wild populations and maximises the animal’s chance of survival.

If an animal’s injuries are minor, it should be returned to the wild as soon as possible.

After a few weeks in captivity, a rescued animal can adapt to human contact making it unable to survive in the wild if it’s released without the right rehabilitation.

Releasing long-term captive animals is rarely justified on conservation or animal welfare grounds. There’s little conservation value in releasing a common animal back to the wild, particularly if it’s behaviourally, physically or otherwise impaired.

The rehabilitation and release of a rescued animal must be planned and consider environmental factors and the animal’s suitability for release.

The animal’s survival is dependent on its physical health, behaviour and ability to adapt to the wild. An animal unlikely to survive must not be released.

When receiving an animal, a wildlife carer must assess if it’s likely to be suitable for release. This helps to create an appropriate treatment and care plan.

Last updated: 22 September 2020

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