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Death following me around

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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 11:10   #1
Darren Oakley-Martin
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Unhappy Death following me around

Whilst on a birding walk on saturday, I happened across 2 dead swans on the river, a dead fox by the side of the road, and then no more than 50 metres further, a small twitching bundle of feathers in the middle of the road. I investigated and found an injured Robin. Already feeling rather melancholy I cupped it in my hands and inspected. The poor thing, (I think) had internal injuries and/ or broken bones, and was breathing heavily but now not moving. My first thought was to put the poor thing out of it's misery, but when a suitable place and blunt instrument was found, I just couldn't do it, so I lay it down in a quiet spot where I hoped it wouldn't suffer the further ignominy of being pecked to death by a Magpie, (sorry Magpie- lovers, I don't like 'em). I felt ripped in two- here I was impeding the role of nature but wishing to be humane. In the end I failed in both. What should I have done?
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 11:17   #2
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I think its really a personal decision- i found a vole that really was in a bad state,maybe attacked by a cat....it couldnt move as both legs were broken or very badly injured. I thought ,what life would be like for the vole without legs, who pretty much depends on scuttling around. To put it bluntly, i dropped a large stone on him with great force......so to instantly put him out his misery. Sorry if its a bit gruesome.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 11:44   #3
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Are there no wildlife rehabbers in Britain?
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 11:54   #4
Elizabeth Bigg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seb_seb
I think its really a personal decision- i found a vole that really was in a bad state,maybe attacked by a cat....it couldnt move as both legs were broken or very badly injured. I thought ,what life would be like for the vole without legs, who pretty much depends on scuttling around. To put it bluntly, i dropped a large stone on him with great force......so to instantly put him out his misery. Sorry if its a bit gruesome.
I hope I would have the courage to do the same thing as you did - but I also hope this will never be necessary.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 12:33   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beverlybaynes
Are there no wildlife rehabbers in Britain?
I'm sure there are, Beverly, but unfortunately, in these cases, I think a) they were past rehabbing, and b) a robin and a vole wouldn't get much of a look-in.

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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 13:07   #6
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I have had no worries about killing animals up to the size of Hares if they are clearly suffering and beyond help. But some hopeless cases can surprise you at their ability to recover so it is always worth remembering the RSPCA helpline number - 0870 5555 999.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 13:49   #7
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Two dead swans? That is a bit worrying - is the water polluted, will it have an effect on other wildlife, had they been a victim of what some would call yobs? Maybe a bit more investigation is needed or at least the RSPCA informed of the swans demise.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 14:22   #8
Darren Oakley-Martin
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hello Colin, friday night/ saturday morning was bitterly cold and i assumed that temperatures were to blame. The Ouse in Bedford is pretty clean and from the swans 'posture', (head neatly on back) and floating in the river margins, i assumed they were victims of the cold snap, or maybe old birds. I think you are right though- I'll phone the RSPCA to be on the safe side.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 15:52   #9
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Unhappy

Quote:
Originally Posted by birdman
I'm sure there are, Beverly, but unfortunately, in these cases, I think a) they were past rehabbing, and b) a robin and a vole wouldn't get much of a look-in.
In the past I've taken injured birds to the Vale Wildlife Refuge (near Evesham). We had a robin that had been injured in the road (similar to yours Darrenom) and a goldfinch that was dropped by a cat on our drive. You get a case number and can ring and see how your patient is doing. The robin made it, the goldfinch didn't :-(

While we were there with the robin, there was a small child with a vole - they certainly took the vole from him and I assume cared for it or disposed of it humanely.

There is another refuge near the Hartpury College, Gloucestershire. They take in all sorts of birds and small animals.
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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 21:48   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darrenom
hello Colin, friday night/ saturday morning was bitterly cold and i assumed that temperatures were to blame. The Ouse in Bedford is pretty clean and from the swans 'posture', (head neatly on back) and floating in the river margins, i assumed they were victims of the cold snap, or maybe old birds. I think you are right though- I'll phone the RSPCA to be on the safe side.
I'd agree with Colin. Normally, it takes a sustained period of bitterly cold weather before a healthy bird the size of a swan succumbs. Wildfowl, in particular, seem to know when a really bad cold snap is on it's way and will migrate to warmer climates (this might simply mean relocating to the coast). To find two such birds in what, I assume, is a small area, seems suspicious. Personally, I have little faith in the RSPCA when dealing with wildlife, but they may be able to acertain the cause of death in this particular circumstance. Good luck!

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Old Monday 19th January 2004, 23:04   #11
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I appreciate knowing that rehabbing is done there.

I guess I'm pretty sensitive to it, as I'm fairly deeply involved with a local raptor rehab organization. I don't do the rehabbing (OK, I will feed the patients when the rehabber is out of town . . .) but serve on the board and as an officer. We do limit the work to raptors, but will always refer to others in the area who 'do' wildlife in general.

And I'm sure no one around here would take a second look at a vole, either -- but perhaps they would a robin, although songbirds are notoriously difficult to rehab.
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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 01:13   #12
Mike D
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darrenom
What should I have done?
Hi Darrenom,
Many years ago I was fortunate enough to meet the Rev. P.H.T. Hartley, something of an authority on thrushes. He gave me some guidance whilst I was going for my Duke of Edinburgh's Award silver.
I had a similar experience to you, I found a greenfinch with a broken wing. With telephone lines above where it lay I assumed they were the cause.

I called the Reverend out of sheer desparation, not knowing what else to do. His advice, which I pass on here, was to put it out of it's misery as quickly as possible. To do this he suggested I hold the bird in my hand and throw it onto a hard surface, e.g. road, as hard as I could. Don't try blunt instruments etc., there is no guarantee you will be able to despatch the bird in one go.

I have had to do this a few times in the following 40 years, usually with road casualties, but that first time is always with me. With road casualties, they do sometimes recover, as I experienced with a Blackcap. This bird was lying, apparently dead, at the side of the road. I picked it up and after a couple of minutes it's eyes opened. Five minutes later it flew away. So choose 'no-hopers' with care.

Better to cause a fraction of a second of fear than possibly hours of suffering. But the bad taste will linger . . . .
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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 09:23   #13
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I was gazing out of my office window recently as a few gulls were swooping down to pick up scraps on the road when a first winter Common Gull took a direct hit from a car. In fact there was a 'roadrunner' comedy moment when the bird was splayed across the front of the car for a split second. I went out and picked up the very still creature expecting to have to dispatch it but took it inside and placed in an empty rubbish bin where it proceeded to recover amazingly quickly. So quickly in fact that by the time I could run to the park at the back of the building to release it it had taken a couple of chunks out of my hand.

I have seen the same with House Sparrow and Kingfisher - both apparently dead window collision casualties - which have quite rapidly recovered and flown off strongly after a few minutes.
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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 10:07   #14
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When we lived in Norfolk, there was a voluntary wildlife rescue centre, run from a caravan in a field (somewhere between Lowestoft and Gt. Yarmouth, I think, can't quite remember now). We used to take casualties that, dare I say it, one of our cats sometimes brought in. We took various birds and the occasional vole. We always left a donation and rang back to see how the animal had fared. Mostly they survived with the appropriate treatment. He was able to give antibiotic injections, etc.
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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 10:07   #15
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I really wouldn't use the method recommended by the Reverend to dispatch birds - sorry Mike. To kill a bird the size of a greenfinch it would be better to hold the bird in one's hand, with the thumb at the back of it's head and push, swiftly breaking it's neck. If you push too hard it's head will come off - which might alarm you, but will also mean the bird is definately dead. If you don't want to do that - and for larger birds - it would be best to use a 'priest' (i.e. some sort of truncheon made of hard material to knock it on the head). Hold the bird so that you can clearly see it's head and give it a sharp tap, don't be scared to hit it too hard but there's no need to bludgeon the birds head to a pulp - it will carry on moving for some time after it's dead no matter how many times you hit it.

I'd kill a bird by breaking it's neck, but I wouldn't recommend this method unless you've seen it done correctly. Personally, I would never kill anything using the method described by Mike. Unless the bird hit the floor head first it would be unlikely to kill it outright IMO.

Again, sorry to disagree Mike.

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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 12:00   #16
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I've had to dispatch several road casualties in the past, definately not 'only stunned' or 'just restin' but damaged beyond all repair (FUBAR) I've used the neck breaking method as it's quick and absolute.

I really feel that it's kinder than to leave them to suffer a lingering death, but each time it has been a decision based on the severity of the injuries.

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Old Tuesday 20th January 2004, 23:12   #17
Mike D
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Hi Spar and Saluki,
Thanks for comments, and no need to apologise. The whole situation is a very distasteful one, and leaves a lasting mark on anyone who cares for wildlife.
I shall stick to the method I have used with total success (yuk!) in the past, I used to be a fast bowler.
Which ever method is chosen, as long as it is as humane as the executioner thinks is best, then that is the method to use.

Brian - be VERY careful when picking up a large bird. If it suddenly recovers it will probably immediately peck, and will aim for the first bright object it sees - your eyes. So always hold at arm's length.
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Old Wednesday 21st January 2004, 00:31   #18
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Well . . . If I came across an ostrich which was hit while it was flying across the road . . . why!? . . . I'd deal with it in the way I thought most fitting at the time (but only after I'd sobered up!)
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Old Wednesday 21st January 2004, 18:40   #19
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Overheard on a bus. A woman said "Well, he came home so upset. He'd seen two dead ferrets in the road." her friend commented, "Poor love. How upsetting for him."
So the first one said:

'Yes it was, but I told him, "You should have brought one home. I've never ever seen a ferret".'

Boom Boom

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Old Tuesday 27th January 2004, 12:21   #20
Darren Oakley-Martin
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I thought you may be interested to know that I reported the 2 dead swans, (not to the RSPCA, or the RSPB, or the Swan Sanctuary, but to Bedford County Council Civil Engineering Department)!

The swans have been recovered and I have just enquired of the cause of death. A very friendly lady at the council has told me that there were no suspicious circumstances and the cause of death was old age and/or the cold weather of a couple of weeks back.

Alarmingly, she then went on to tell me of a case a few years ago when a number of Bedford Swans 'were found with their heads neatly severed'. Christian or not, if I saw someone doing that, they'd have something else neatly severed.
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Old Tuesday 27th January 2004, 19:39   #21
Colin
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Hi Darrenom,
Thanks for letting us know of the outcome of the swans. It seems an amazing coincidence that these two should die on the same night given that down at Slimbridge and other places, the swans, ducks and geese sit out on the ice at night for hours at a time. I suppose if they were very old and both milar age then perhaps it was a combination of factors which caused them to succomb.
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Old Wednesday 28th January 2004, 13:31   #22
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I've just been reading thru this thread and have one point to add. I experience frequent window hits with the smaller birds. Last winter a red-bellied woodpecker was stunned by a window hit. I went out and picked him up and took him inside and sat and held him for 15 mins or so (fearing shock) He was blinking and finally scratching at my hands so I put him back outside on a table in the sun and watched him wake up for 2 hrs!!
I later contacted Audubon and their advice was to put the bird in a box with holes for air and close it up for 2 hrs. After that it will either be ready to fly or will have succumbed.
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Old Thursday 26th February 2004, 02:39   #23
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I've run across animals hit by cars, but not quite departed from this world. In those cases, I acted. Much more merciful than the lingering suffering, crippled flopping around, etc. I hate it, though, everytime it happens.

I did find a bird in park one morning that I thought might be rehabbed. I think a cat had got it sometime during the night. A robin. The poor guy was too injured to fly. So, he'd run a bit in the grass to get away from me and my dog.

I couldn't leave him there. I went home, got a box, and scooped him up. I found a wildlife rehabber willing to try and give him a hand. I dropped him off, left a donation, and waited.

The robin didn't make it. He died after a day or so, despite some antibiotics they gave to him. Cat saliva is highly infectious to birds, and often fatal in puncture wounds.

Too bad. I felt better that his last hours were spent in a warm and safe place, however, instead of being mangled by someone's dog or providing sport for children.
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