Swans, Britain’s Royal Birds, need our help and protection in order to prevent their numbers from rapidly declining. They are beautiful, majestic creatures and are the largest bird within the duck and goose family.

What should I feed to swans?

Feeding bread to swans and ducks is a fond pastime for many of us, reminiscent of happy childhood trips to the local park. But, did you know that there are healthier alternatives to bread which are much better for swans and the environment?
Our #BetterThanBread campaign raises awareness to the fact that bread is not the best thing to be feeding to swans or ducks and that there are many healthier alternatives including frozen peas, sweetcorn or lettuce leaves. Bread can make swans and ducks feel very bloated and therefore prevent them from eating other foods which provide a better source of nutrition. In addition to this, uneaten bread allows bacteria to breed and attracts rats and other vermin.

What if I find a baby swan on its own?

Swans are very alert parents and so a young baby swan, also known as a cygnet, found alone could mean that it is orphaned. As with many young creatures, baby swans are vulnerable. If you find one that you are sure is orphaned, put it safely into a cardboard box that contains a clean cloth.

You should then contact a reputable swan rescue agency who will provide you with advice on how to care for it until they can collect it.

Should I handle a sick or injured swan?

If you suspect that a swan is sick or you can see that it is injured, it is better to contact the RSPCA, SSPCA, USPCA or a reputable swan rescue agency, than to attempt to handle a distressed swan yourself.

Attracting ducks to your pond is a great way to keep nuisance bugs and slugs under control! By making a few simple additions and changes to your pond, you can make your pond more attractive to wild ducks.

The first simple way of making your space more attractive is by ensuring that the water is accessible and open. You can make your pond accessible by ensuring that it has gradual edges for ease of entry and exit for ducks. They will appreciate this!

Adding aquatic plants to your pond can also attract ducks. Some aquatic plants will provide food for certain species of duck. In addition to this, the aquatic plants can provide shelter for the duck and its nest from predators and inclement weather.

You can encourage mallards to nest in your garden by putting out nesting boxes or baskets. Placing a bowl of fresh water and duck food out in your garden, a good distance away from the nesting box, can also encourage mallards to stay around.

Allowing the grass around your pond to grow tall will also encourage wild ducks to stay. This is because they can hide from their predators within the long grass reeds so that they feel somewhat protected.

If you are struggling to attract any breed of ducks to your pond, try placing decoy ducks on your pond near to food in a natural looking way. This can help with attracting the attention of real ducks who will see the decoy ducks on the pond and presume there is a food source there.

Foxes are very intelligent animals. They have adapted to urban life to live happily alongside us in our ever-changing landscape. Whilst it is important to highlight the dangers wild animals can pose, there is a common misconception surrounding foxes, which are relatively docile animals.

We are accustomed to thinking the worst when we think about a fox in our garden. In reality, foxes pose little or no threat at all to humans, dogs or cats. If you have a small animal pet such as a rabbit or a guinea pig and suspect that a fox is visiting your garden, ensure that its hutch or run is safely secured and bolted to avoid any problems. That being said, foxes will more than likely leave your pets alone with no disturbances.

What are the signs of fox activity in your garden?

One key indicator that a fox has visited your garden could be that it has dug up part of your lawn. Foxes to do this to look for worms, or to mark their territory. A bin may also be overturned as a result of the fox looking for food such as fruits and vegetables to eat.
Another sign of fox activity in your garden is dug up flowerbeds and trampled plants, where foxes will be digging through soil and flowerbeds to try to find worms to eat.

More signs include:

  • A strong, musty smell
  • Droppings in noticeable places
  • Chewed up toys or shoes
  • Damage to fences, wire mesh or hosepipes

There are many ways in which you will be able to tell if a fox is visiting or has visited your garden. As they are not as vicious and unpleasant as they are made out to be, it would be great for you to learn how to co-exist with yet another version of a furry, four-legged visitor.

What should I do if I find a sick or injured hedgehog?

You should think carefully about deciding what to do next after coming across a hedgehog which you suspect is sick. Unless it is severely injured, you should not take a hedgehog too far away from where you originally discovered it. If severely injured, you should take it to a local hedgehog rescue centre or the vets in a sturdy, high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper. You should move it to a safe location nearby to where you found it if you find a hedgehog alive and in a dangerous place such as near a busy road.

How do I decide whether a hedgehog is sick or not?

If you suspect a hedgehog is sick, you should visually examine it in order to gage an understanding as to whether or not it may need medical attention. Things you can look out for are:

  1. Does the hedgehog look thin? It could be malnourished and will need a nutritious food source in order to build up its weight.
  2. Does its skin spring back when you pull up a couple of spines? If the skin appears to stay in place, the hedgehog could be dehydrated. Ensure the hedgehog has access to plenty of water if you suspect dehydration.
  3. Does the hedgehog have a funny smell? It could have an infection somewhere on its body, meaning it will more than likely need professional medical attention.

What steps can I take to care for a sick hedgehog?

If you are caring for a sick hedgehog, it is important that they have a good heat source from, for example, a heat lamp or well-wrapped hot water bottle (to avoid burning the hedgehog). The hedgehog will also need to be kept clean, meaning its ‘bedding’ (i.e. the towel, sheet or ripped up newspaper) will need to be changed daily.

Sick or injured hedgehogs are susceptible to hypothermia. You can look out for symptoms such as the hedgehog staggering around or ‘sunbathing’ (spreading themselves out on the floor in an attempt to quickly get some heat into their bodies). If you suspect that a hedgehog has hypothermia, again, take it inside placed in a high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper and ensure that the hog has heat by placing a well-wrapped hot water bottle inside the box. If you are placing a hot water bottle in the box, make sure that the hedgehog has enough room to move away from the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. It is vital to keep this hot water bottle warm, as letting it go cold will do more harm than good. Ensure that you check the temperature of the hot water bottle very frequently and change the water if necessary.

Once you have taken all of the advised steps stated above, you can contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 who will further assist you on next steps. If you think that the hedgehog needs urgent or professional medical attention, you can take it to your local veterinary practice or hedgehog rescue centre.

What is a badger’s sett?

A badger’s sett is essentially a badger’s den. Think of it as a hideout for multiple badgers with multiple passageways and multiple entrances. It is common for badgers to dig setts in parts of the ground which are not damp or marshy, as they need the land to be suitable for digging. A badger prefers to dig it’s sett on sloping land, rather than flat. This can include the slope of a hill, the side of a disused quarry or even a large hedgerow bank.

How do I identify a badgers set?

Unlike rabbit holes, which are usually round, a badger’s sett entrance is commonly found in a D shape and does not narrow inside the entrance. This is a major difference to look out for when trying to identify whether a hole is that of a rabbit or a badger.
There are also some key indicators to look out for when trying to decide whether a sett is active. Some of these include:

  • Signs of footprints in or around the sett entrance and down into the chamber
  • Around the entrance hole, there may be freshly excavated soil heaps
  • The soil around the sides of the sett may be ‘polished’ or smooth from frequent use
  • On some occasions, there will be signs of ‘bedding’ in the form of fresh grass around the sett entrance

Badgers will sometimes live in the same sett with their families for generations, some being highly complex with many tunnels and entrances. One badger sett was found in the Cotswolds with tunnels totalling around 310 metres in length!*