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Protecting Wildlife: Preventing Garden Injuries

Summer is the time of year when we start to see an increase in seasonal garden related wildlife casualties. We receive over a thousand admissions during the summer months - many require veterinary treatment, life saving care and rehabilitation to get fit for release. Gardens can provide valuable habitats for a wide array of wildlife, allowing them to thrive in urban and suburban environments. However, these green spaces can also pose risks to our furry and feathered friends. In this blog post, we will explore the types of injuries commonly experienced by UK wildlife in gardens and discuss practical measures we can take to prevent such accidents. By raising awareness and implementing simple steps, we can ensure that our gardens remain safe havens for wildlife.

Encountering Hazards:

While gardens offer a rich variety of food and shelter, they can also expose wildlife to various hazards. Common injuries include cuts, scrapes, and broken bones caused by sharp objects such as broken glass, discarded tools, or wire fences. Garden ponds and swimming pools present a drowning risk for small mammals and birds. Additionally, wildlife can get entangled in netting used for plants or play equipment.

Prevention tips:

  • Regularly inspect and clear your garden of potential hazards.

  • Store garden tools securely and dispose of broken glass safely.

  • Replace wire fences with wildlife-friendly alternatives.

  • Place a shallow ramp or platform in garden ponds to help animals escape.

  • Cover or remove unused netting to prevent entanglement.

Poisoning and Chemical Exposure:

Gardens often harbour chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which can be toxic to wildlife. Birds, small mammals, and insects are particularly vulnerable to ingesting or absorbing these substances. Eating poisoned insects or plants treated with pesticides can have devastating effects on their health and reproductive capabilities.

Prevention tips:

  • Limit the use of chemicals in your garden and opt for natural alternatives whenever possible.

  • If using pesticides or herbicides, follow the instructions carefully, applying them sparingly and only when necessary.

  • Create wildlife-friendly zones where no chemicals are used, providing a safe haven for creatures to feed and thrive.

Window Collisions:

Large glass windows and reflective surfaces in gardens can be deceptive to birds, causing them to fly into the glass, resulting in injuries or fatalities. These collisions often occur because birds perceive the reflection as open space or attempt to reach plants or feeders visible from the outside.

Prevention tips:

  • Apply window decals, stickers, or UV-reflective films to make glass more visible to birds.

  • Position bird feeders away from windows or use window-mounted feeders to minimize collisions.

  • Close blinds or curtains during the daytime to reduce reflections.

Improper Waste Disposal:

Improperly discarded waste, including plastic bags, food containers, and discarded fishing gear, can entangle and injure wildlife. Animals may mistake plastic for food, leading to digestive issues or even death. Additionally, discarded food waste can attract unwanted wildlife guest, potentially spreading diseases to both wildlife and humans.

Prevention tips:

  • Dispose of waste properly, ensuring bins are securely closed.

  • Cut or shred plastic rings and netting before discarding to prevent entanglement.

  • Avoid using single-use plastics and opt for reusable or biodegradable alternatives.

  • Reduce food waste by composting or using appropriate disposal methods.

Bonfires and Fire Hazards:

Bonfires can be a common occurrence in gardens, particularly during the autumn season. However, they can pose significant risks to wildlife. Animals such as hedgehogs and small mammals may seek refuge within piles of debris, including bonfire materials, and can unknowingly be burned or injured when the fire is lit. In addition to bonfires, unattended candles, fire pits, or lit cigarettes can also cause harm.

Prevention tips:

  • Before lighting a bonfire, thoroughly check the pile for any signs of wildlife and relocate them to a safe area.

  • Create designated wildlife shelters, such as log piles or hedgehog houses, where animals can find refuge away from fire hazards.

  • Never leave fires or lit candles unattended, and ensure they are fully extinguished before leaving the garden.

Lawnmower and Trimmer Accidents:

Wildlife, especially small mammals, reptiles, and ground-nesting birds, can be injured or killed during lawn mowing or trimming activities. These animals may hide in tall grass or vegetation and are difficult to detect before it's too late.

Prevention tips:

  • Inspect the area before mowing or trimming to look for signs of wildlife, nests, or burrows.

  • Create designated wildlife-friendly areas or leave unmowed patches to provide refuge.

  • Adjust cutting heights to avoid cutting grass too short, giving animals a chance to escape.

As responsible gardeners, it is crucial for us to create safe and nurturing environments for wildlife. By taking proactive measures to identify and address potential hazards, limiting the use of harmful chemicals, promoting coexistence, and being mindful of fire hazards, we can significantly reduce the risk of injuries to UK wildlife. Together, let's make our gardens a sanctuary where wildlife can thrive in harmony with nature.

By Asha Park

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