Adoptions – A Gift of Life

Our adoptions make great presents all year round…

…especially for those who are difficult to buy for. By adopting a wild animal, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else, you will be helping to ensure injured, sick and orphaned wildlife will be cared for and treated and given the best chance of being released back into the wild.

As the West Country’s foremost wildlife rescue service, Secret World Wildlife Rescue is the rescue centre most likely to be called when members of the public find wildlife in distress. Each year we provide treatment and care for over 5,000 animals in distress until they are ready to be returned to the wild. We not only rescue wildlife regionally but also receive casualties from all over the UK due to our well known expertise in wildlife rehabilitation.

Sign up today for an animal adoption from just £3 a month and as well as knowing that you are helping British wildlife, you’ll receive:

  • An adoption certificate
  • A small and cuddly soft toy
  • Chosen species fact sheet
  • A photograph of one of the animals helped at our centre
  • Two updates a year on our work via our newsletter

Please note that we are only able to send adoption packs to UK addresses.

Adoption packs are sent by courier; please allow 7-10 working days for delivery.

“You can make a real difference today, choose one of our animal adoptions below to find out more”

Adopt an Otter (Lutra Lutra)

The European or common otter, Lutra Lutra, belongs to the family Mustelidae which also includes weasels and badgers. They are one of the largest carnivores found in Britain and are an important predator. Their habit and food needs make them an important indicator species for the quality of the wetlands and waterways they rely on. Pesticides poisoning waterways were linked to a nationwide decline of otters from the 1960s and almost wiped out the otter population across Somerset. The banning of DDT and the declining use of organochlorines are aiding the otter’s recolonisation of the county’s rivers, streams and lakes. Otters can be found on land or at the coastline but if they live near the sea, they need fresh water nearby to wash the salt out of their coats which would affect their insulation.

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Otter pups rescued by Secret World Wildlife Rescue are generally due to them being orphaned by the mother being killed on the road. Otters spend about 80% of their time on land so, although their diet is primarily fish, they will take water birds, roosting birds in reeds and amphibians as food, as well as crustaceans. The pups are born all year round and will remain with the mother for up to 15-18 months.

We very rarely get adult otters brought into us but usually have otter pups most years. The youngest that we have ever had was the only time that we had three siblings in 2007. These were named Splish, Splash and Splosh and we were able, with the help of our supporters to build a dedicated enclosure for young otters with a large 4 metre pool. The pups were only about 6 weeks old and most pups coming in will be on milk feeds. They wean when they are approximately 8 weeks old and very quickly change from milk feeds to small troutlings. At this age they are very fluffy and unable to swim. The fluffy fur traps air in the fur so that if they fall in the water they will float for a while giving them the opportunity to climb out. If left in, the coat will eventually soak up the water and the cub will sadly drown.

Within the next couple of weeks our pups are introduced to water in the same way as the mother would take them down to water to learn how to swim. To start with they don’t like the water but slowly they learn to close their nostrils and their third eye protects their eyes when under water allowing them to see. Once they have learnt how to do this they can swim easily and will play with items in the water. Otters have very sharp teeth for catching fish. They have very sensitive whiskers that allow them to find fish easily. Their strong muscular tail, slender body and webbed feet make them excellent swimmers and divers. Otters have dense fur which means they can survive in the water at very low temperatures, their long outer guard hair keeping them warm and dry by trapping layers of air.

As soon as they are self-feeding, we stop as much human contact as possible. They now need water available to them all the time. When tiny, the pups are used to being dried with warm towels so, once in their new pens we give them blankets to rub themselves dry until they start to use the straw in their box. Once we are sure that they are managing on their own, they are moved to the otter enclosure with special insulated boxes to replace the holt that they would have as a home. The pups will be with us for 15 to 18 months which is the same amount of time that they would be with their mother before dispersing.

Our Wildlife Release Manager will have found a release site for each otter to go to. There needs to be a temporary pen which will be fenced with electric fence sited next to a waterway – a river or a rhine. A plastic tub is put inside to give them access to water. They are moved in the boxes that they usually sleep in so it is familiar to them in their new home. The landowner will feed them each day. By this time they are eating a large trout, 2 dead chicks and mince daily so otters are very expensive to look after. After a week, the electric fence is taken down. We try to monitor post release to see if they stay in the area, but they usually travel down the water course to find a new territory. But we have, in the past had good camera footage of released otters eating naturally in the streams which is great.

Your adoption will be helping our young otters every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these fascinating creatures.

Adopt a Badger

Badgers are easy to recognise and they are the emblem of all our wildlife trusts. They are nocturnal and usually black and white (melanistic) with a white striped head and white tips to their ears. Occasionally you can see an erythristic badger which is brown and white. We have also seen albino badgers at Secret World which are pure white with red eyes and pink noses and paws but they are very rare.

They are the largest carnivore in the UK but they are true omnivores eating insects, cereals, small mammals and birds. Badgers don’t hunt, they just follow the same territorial paths and eat what they come across. In wet weather they will eat up to 200 earthworms in a night. They are a member of the Mustilidae family which means they are related to the otter, pine marten, polecat, stoat and weasel.

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Adult badgers can come into us all year around due to road traffic accidents. They are a very strong animal and can survive impact from cars. At other times of the year when the males are defending their territories, they can often fight and if injured will often lay up in places where they can get disturbed, like stables or sheds. We take these animals in a treat them, but adult badgers must go back to where they came from. They can also get trapped in fences or drains.
Sadly, we also see badgers that have been persecuted in snares, shot or attacked by dogs. Although they have a reputation for fighting, they are very easy to handle in captivity but should always be looked after by experienced carers. Because they are nocturnal, if they recover, we always release badgers at night back to where their family is.

Badgers have delayed implantation which means that they can mate at any time of the year but the eggs implant when the female slows down in the winter. Therefore, most cubs are born between January and March. The cubs are born underground and do not wean until they are 10 – 12 weeks old and this is when they come up above ground. However dogs will sometimes go in to setts and take the cubs, the female may be disturbed while she is moving her cubs for some reason or cubs will come up above ground through hunger if the female doesn’t return to them because she has been killed or injured.

We have cared for cubs that have only been a day old, but they are very small and need to be kept in an incubator because they are unable to maintain their body temperature. The number of bottle feeds during the day (and even the night!) will depend on the age of the cub.

When the cubs come up above ground, they follow their mother’s feet and she will take care of them. Sometimes they get lost and again if the mother is killed, they are still too young to look after themselves and will be found starving and looking for help. These weaned cubs will not need as much care as the very young ones. If we are unable to get the cub back to its mother, they are cared for and allowed to put on weight and gain condition. They get tested for Bovine tb and if negative are grouped according to age and size. These ‘families’ of up to six cubs will go through a further two tests for Bovine tb and then be vaccinated. As a group, to start with they are kept in pens so that we can monitor them and ensure that they are all getting enough food. Then the badger cubs move out to grassed enclosures with little human contact. In these pens they can play, forage and behave naturally until the autumn when they will go to their new release site.

In the previous winter, our Wildlife Release Manager will be surveying sites on private land looking for land that is suitable for badgers but has a very low population of badgers. The site may have a deserted rabbit burrow or an empty badger sett. These would give the new cubs the opportunity to excavate and build their own sett. If there is nothing suitable on the land, then an artificial sett is built and allowed to settle and grow over ready for the cubs coming about 8 months later.

In the autumn the cubs are caught up and taken in cages to the new release site. There will be an enclosure of electric fencing around the sett to keep the cubs in until they have got used to their new environment. The landowner takes over the feeding of the badgers every night. After a couple of weeks, the electric fence is removed, and the badgers can start to explore their new home. The landowner will often give them food right the way through the winter until natural food becomes available to them in the spring.

Your adoption will be helping our adult badger casualties and each of those badger cubs every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these amazing animals.

Adopt an Owl

The most common owl that comes into Secret World Wildlife Rescue is the Tawny. This is because they are happy to live alongside people in parks and towns. They are the ones that make the hooting noise that we all recognise. They will happily nest in trees and out-buildings and being close the humans, if there is ever a problem people are around to notice. The owlets are very nosey too, so they sometimes fall out of trees. The owlets do have the talons to be able to climb back up but sometimes we have to take in to account that other people may pick them up before they are able to do that.

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Living in Somerset which is one of the strongholds for the Barn Owl, we also see quite a few of those.  The Barn Owl female lays her first egg and then starts to incubate straight away. She will lay another egg about four days later, probably laying four or five eggs in this way. It means that the chicks hatch out at different times. The first hatched will be quite a lot larger than the last chick to hatch out. This is done so that if there isn’t enough food for the youngsters, big chick will eat the smaller one in order to survive. The Barn Owl has silent flight because its feathers are incredibly soft, but this also means that they cannot fly in wet weather. This can sometimes make it very difficult to find enough food for the youngsters.

The Long Eared owl is found in our county as is the Short Eared but the population of those is quite small so they are infrequent casualties. Then there is the Little Owl which again is quite common, so we do see a lovely variety of owls at Secret World. A common problem is being caught in the up draught from traffic if they are foraging near to roads. This can cause wing and body damage. The youngsters are found when the parents have been unable to find enough food for them or the parent birds have been killed or died. Then the youngsters come out of the nest sites looking for food.

Adult owls come in either through trauma such as a road accident, if we experience high winds or long spells of wet weather, this can make hunting difficult for them and they become weak from hunger. They can get tangled in netting, fall down chimneys and even caught in kite string! Usually by giving them fluid therapy, keeping them warm and then making food available to them, they do soon recover. After a period of being confined, they will have lost muscle condition, so it is really important that we move them out to our aviaries to improve their condition. Once fully back to health, they will be returned to wherever they were found. It is important that they return to their home where they will know where to go for food, water, places of safety and maybe a partner to return to as well. They will be released just as it starts getting dark as they are nocturnal and will be more active then.

Owlets have to be fed on food that contains fur, bone and feather as they bring up a pellet every day of the indigestible matter as they swallow their food whole. Most owls will eat small mammals such as voles, mice, young rats, small birds and Little owls also eat a lot of insects. Very young owlets need to be hand fed small pieces of food that the female would normally tear up for them but after the first week they will start picking food items up for themselves. As with all young animals, it is important that they are put with their own kind to stop them from becoming imprinted. If they only see a human when being fed, they will believe that they are humans too.

Once grouped with others and feeding themselves we move them in to large aviaries to let them fly and build up the muscles in their wings. When we know that they can fly well and eat everything that they need, our Wildlife Release Manager will be taking our pop-up aviaries out to their release site which will be close to some woods. The aviaries will have perches of different sizes to exercise their feet and we usually cover the perches with astro turf. This stops the owls from problems with their feet such as bumble foot. The owls are then moved to their new home. The land-owner will continue feeding them and then will open a side of the aviary about a couple of weeks after their arrival. Even when the owls have the chance of freedom, they still return for food until they have managed to catch their own. They are supported all the way through until they become independent. We do all that we can to make sure that their release back in to the wild will be successful.

Your adoption will be helping our owl casualties and those owlets every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these beautiful creatures.

Adopt a Hedgehog

Everybody would love to have a hedgehog in their garden! Sadly, the numbers of hedgehogs have been dwindling mainly due to habitat loss. With sprays and coated seeds our fields of crops in the countryside have no insect life. Many hedges have been removed to make fields larger and easier to manage with large machinery so the typical home of a ‘hedge pig’ does not support them.

Now hedgehogs rely very much on our gardens and there are concerns as to the number of front gardens that are being changed into parking spaces. Hedges have been replaced with fences as they are easier to manage and if they have a cement base there is no way that the hedgehogs can move from one garden to the other. The increase use of artificial grass instead of lawns will have an effect on our wildlife.

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The hedgehog has been with us since the ice age and if we are to value them, we must make our gardens suitable for them. The hedgehog hasn’t changed very much since the beginning, having a soft brown belly that is completely protected by the spines that cover their backs. They have a nice long snout to grub around and search for insects and grubs. There is a circular muscle around the spines so that if they are frightened, they can pull the muscle up tight tucking legs and head inside leaving a ball of spines that are very difficult to handle! We probably care for about 700 hedgehogs every year.

Autumn is the time when we get a lot of hedgehogs brought in that haven’t reached their hibernation weight of 650 gms. Late hoglets will not usually have enough time to put on the weight and if that is the case, the mother will desert them as it is more important for her to put on weight and be alive the following year. When hedgehogs come in at this time of year, they usually have an infestation of worms and need treatment before they can start gaining weight. They can also suffer from ringworm, a fungal infection which again can compromise the animal. If we are able to get the hedgehogs up to weight through the winter months, we do release in mild spells as research has found that they do wake up from time to time and move their hibernaculum naturally. As long as they go back to where they came from, they will know where they can find shelter.

Coming out of hibernation from March onwards, the hedgehog will start to mate. The territory for a hedgehog is 1 to 2 km and they live solitary lives but share territories. Disturbed nests is very often the reason for little hoglets to be brought into care. It is always worth leaving them for a while (depending  on temperature and how young the hoglets are) to see if mum comes back for them.
When first born the hoglets are pink and have no spines, just bumps down the back. Within 2 to 3 hours soft white spines sprout through. The harder brown spines replace them as the hoglet grows. These very young hoglets need intensive care. An incubator to keep them warm and feeds every 3 hours through day and night to start with. It is important to find a teat/feeder that is small enough for them to suckle from. We mark each baby with white tippex so that we can keep a record of which one has been fed, how much they are taking etc. There will be no mark, then a white spot on the head, white middle, white rump, white left hand side and white right hand side.

Once they start to wean, they move into a brooder which gives them space to be able to walk around and grow their muscles. They will start to eat from tiny dishes and it’s quite a problem keeping them clean when they just walk all through the food! They will go from having soft fleeces to having hay and eventually go into an outside run. We then release them back to where they were found once independent. It is best if the juvenile hedgehogs can be enclosed for a short period of time to know that food will be found there and, once given freedom, they can come back until they are able to find their own food. Sometimes, after being handled, hedgehogs will self-anoint. This is where they throw spittle from their mouth on to their backs. It is usually instigated by a smell that they don’t recognise. No one seems to know why they do it and there is nothing in the spittle to create a substance with the spines.

Summertime is difficult for hedgehogs if there is a long period of dry weather as they are unable to find enough worms and insects. Food put out regularly will attract hedgehogs and if placed in an up -turned box with a pipe leading out of it that is about 9cms diameter, it will stop the cats from eating it before they can get there!
Other dangers to hedgehogs are ponds without sloping sides so that if they fall in, they can’t climb out. Terrible injuries can be caused by the use of strimmers – always walk the area first to make sure there is nothing that can be injured in the way. Bonfires too can be a danger to them, particularly around bonfire night as this is the time that hedgehogs are looking for somewhere to hibernate. It is best to move your wood/ rubbish from the pile to a new site during the day before you light the bonfire to make absolutely sure that nothing has decided to make it their home.  If we can prevent accidents – we save lives!

Your adoption will be helping our adult hedgehogs and those hoglets every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these incredible creatures.

Adopt a Fox

Each year we receive calls to help sick, injured and orphaned foxes. These beautiful, much misunderstood creatures come to us for many reasons. It maybe they have been in a road accident, have got caught in fences and suffering from mange. Sadly, they are also persecuted and can sometimes have been shot or caught in a snare. So often they are blamed for killing chickens but usually it is usually because the chicken house has not been secured or even closed at night-time. They do hunt but their main food is earthworms and field voles.

Foxes do get mange and this is a mite that burrows under their skin which causes their fur to fall out. The mites irritate the fox who will constantly try to scratch to get rid of them. When these foxes are reported to us, we try to cage trap them and then treat them as long as the mange is not too severe. It can sometimes mean that foxes can be chronically ill with this parasite and can sometimes be in a condition that is beyond our help. Usually though, we are able to get them back home and, in the past have treated a whole family, being able to put them back once they had all recovered.

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Long spells of hot weather make foraging difficult for foxes but as soon as the rain comes there is a glut of food as the worms come to the surface. Adult foxes will be kept on their own and receive veterinary care while they are with us. We care for approximately 30 adult foxes each year. Your adoption will help us with the cost of medication, food and care, The adult fox will eventually be returned their home where they will have been missed by the rest of their social group.

Fox cubs usually start to arrive at Secret World from January onwards. We can have as many as 40 fox cubs each year. Very young fox cubs are chocolate brown and are often mistaken for kittens or puppies. To start with they will be in incubators as they are unable to maintain their own body heat. By 3 weeks their coats will start to turn red and by then, they will be eating solids and will now be in a brooder with fleeces and toys! As soon as their eyes open at 10 days old we try to mix them with other cubs of the same size. It is important for them to be put with other fox cubs to know what they are. They become independent very quickly and will no longer need a carer to monitor their food and progress.

They then move into our casualty pens which gives them more room to play. Once they have had their full health checks and vaccinations the young fox cubs move out to our grassed enclosures. Here they can forage naturally although they are still support fed with food being thrown into them each night, leaving them to revert to being wild.
As we move to the autumn, which is when fox cubs naturally disperse, our Wildlife Release Manager will be checking the site that he has ready for their release.  The temporary fox enclosure will be erected at the release site and once complete, it will be ready to accept the first group of foxes leaving us. The juveniles will be transported in cages to their new home. We supply the landowner with the food for them for the next few weeks and they will monitor the foxes and feed them every night.

After a couple of weeks, once they have got used to their surroundings, the door will be opened allowing them to leave. Food will continue to be put in the pen until the foxes no longer return showing that they are now capable of finding their own food. Some move away straight away but many stay around even through to the following year.

Your adoption will be helping each of those fox cubs every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these amazing animals.

Adopt a Deer

In Somerset we mainly see Roe deer, although on the Quantocks there may be Red Deer and towards Gloucestershire, we will find Fallow. Muntjac also are occasionally seen and these can breed all year around. With the other species we can expect to see their young from May onwards. The young of the Red deer is called a calf, baby Roe and Muntjac are called kids and it is only the young of Fallow that are called fawns. But the word fawn is used all the time to describe a baby deer.

Adult deer will come to us mainly in the winter when there are long dark nights and road accidents frequently happen. If they survive the accident and are not too injured, we can bring them back to the centre for treatment. They often go blind through stress but their sight will return within a few days. It does give us the chance to treat injuries in this short period while they are easier to handle. In the summer we do still get road accidents but sadly dog attacks and shooting can also be the reason for them needing to come in to care. Deer do get caught in fences too when trying to jump over them. We always take the adult deer back to where they were found if they recover.

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It is perfectly natural when Roe have their young, for the mother to leave them curled up in the long grass for the first few days when they are not strong enough to follow them. People finding them all alone are tempted to pick them up as they seem so vulnerable. They will not usually run away as they know that they must remain in that place until the mother returns. So, unless the fawn is cold and crying the best thing to do is to leave it alone and come back maybe an hour or so later to see if it is still there and needing help.
When fawns are found next to their dead mothers on roads, or calling and lost, we will take them in but they are one of the most difficult youngsters to rear, being very nervous, They dislike being held in anyway (which is unnatural to them) and it is hard to get them used to the taste of a milk that is different from their mother’s. We try to keep the carers down to a minimum and usually it is shared between two people.

Red and Fallow fawns are much bigger and stronger. They are not as nervous as Roe fawns but still are difficult to get to feed. With all species we would make sure that they are warm after being assessed and then would leave feeding them until they start to call. If they are dehydrated then we would have to try and get them to take fluids as soon as possible. We offer our fawns grated apple and carrot and will always put a dish of earth as an optional feed. This is eaten to replace what they would consume when out in the fields. To start with they are kept in a shed with straw and browse is brought in for them to eat. Once they are feeding well and are strong, we can then let them have access to a grassed paddock.

Slowly they will start to drink the milk put out in a bowl but we keep small feeds with a bottle or syringe going as this allows us to monitor their health. We are still giving them browse and their solid food is still placed in the shed to make it easy to catch them up when it is time to move them to their new home.

During the winter, our Release manager is busy surveying and contacting people to find release sites for our orphans. A good release site for fawns is one where the species already exists and hopefully visits the land for food. In the autumn from September onwards the soft release pens will be erected with green screening to prevent the fawns from getting their legs caught in the fencing.

When the fawns are nearly six months old, it is time to move them.  It is a question of shutting them in the shed and then catching them. They are then put into separate wooden crates making them safe for their journey to their new home. Because it is dark in the crates they soon stay quiet for the journey. Once at their new home, the young deer are enclosed to give them chance to get used to their surroundings and to see the visiting deer. The Landowner will feed them each day and then approximately a month later, the fence is taken down enough to let them wander out. The juvenile deer can return if they don’t feel safe and still require food.

We often get reports of the young deer being around the next year and it makes all that hard work caring for them worthwhile. We have done everything we could to give them the best chance in the countryside.

Your adoption will be helping our adult deer casualties and each of those fawns every step of the way. We give the best care and endeavour to ensure that they will have every opportunity to have a second chance in the wild. Your help will be very much appreciated. From just £36 a year you can help these amazing animals.

You can choose from your favourite species and help both adult and orphaned animals.

Adults always go back to where they were found but orphans are much more labour intensive. Sometimes we are rearing them from new-born through to their release. When an orphan arrives, we will always find out as much information as possible as to where it has been found. This is because, on rare occasions, we are able to get them back with their mothers. Of course, reared in the wild with their own parents to teach them how to survive, they will always do much better.

However, in most cases, the baby will stay with us. It will be cared for by one carer unless the baby needs to be fed during the night, in which case the feeding is shared between people. This is because, if the carer is a member of staff, they will also have to work their shift at the centre as well. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have volunteers that are trained and able to look after the orphans at home until they are weaned. Once capable of feeding themselves they come back to our centre for rehabilitation.

We are very lucky to have an orphan creche so that staff coming into work can leave their babies in this room. This gives them a quiet room to return to in order to feed their orphans through the day. It means that the babies are kept away from any infection that maybe on site.

It is very important that once weaned, the orphans are given the chance to mix with their own kind. Formed as a group, they will be moved to large grassed enclosures/or aviary. This is to allow them to build up muscles ready for release. It will give them the chance to forage naturally and revert to being wild.

At the time when that particular species disperses, it will be released in to temporary pens at the site that will have been surveyed by our Wildlife Release Manager. He will ensure that the site is capable of supporting the juveniles. The animals will stay in their temporary pens for a couple of weeks to get used to their new surroundings with the landowner feeding them every day. Once the door of the pen is left open, food will still be continually placed in the pen so that the juveniles can return until they have learnt how to find food for themselves.

We have been able to make sure that our release programmes are successful as, whenever possible, we do post release monitoring by using trail cameras and micro-chip recording.

 

We endeavour to give each animal the best second chance of returning to the wild.