If you were to see an animal in distress, I’m sure the vast majority of us would agree that your first instinct would be to help them…and often our team here at the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust are the first port of call for many in gathering help and advice. Unfortunately, we are not able to rescue or rehabilitate injured or stranded wildlife, but we're here to explain why and offer some top tips on those best to call should you discover a furry, feathered or flustered friend in need.

Here at the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust we care for over 50% of the land across the archipelago, striving to manage these habitats for the benefit of both people and wildlife.  By definition, we are a conservation charity, and as such our remit is unable to extend to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.  Our team do not have the training, funding, capacity or facilities to assist with wildlife that is injured or in need of help, and unfortunately there is no “Wildlife Hospital” on the islands as you may find or be used to on the mainland.  However, there are a few local lovelies in our little island home happy to give a helping hand to wildlife that needs a little extra TLC!

Check out our top tips below for information on what best to do and who to contact in the event that you get a little closer to our wild friends than anticipated and suspect they may need some assistance!

Baby birds:

It is not uncommon to find baby birds alone and assume they have been abandoned and need rescuing, but this may not be the case!  Though your first instinct to help is well-meaning, it's not always the right thing for the bird that you get involved.  What to do depends on the maturity of the chick and whether or not they are injured.

Before you do anything, it's critical to determine whether you are looking at a nestling or fledgling:

- Nestling = no feathers or very few:

  • If it's obvious that the nestling has fallen from the nest, you are certain which nest they've fallen out of and the chick appears strong and healthy, then carefully (with clean hands or gloves) scoop them up and pop them back in the nest, taking care not to disturb other chicks in the nest.  However, if the nestling seems unwell or injured, they may well have been rejected from their nest and putting them back is not a good idea at all!  In this instance, place the chick in an aerated cardboard box lined with paper towels and take them to our island vet Heike.  Heike can be contacted on 01720 423667.  This also applies if you are unsure which nest the chick fell from.

- Fledgling = baby birds that are more or less fully feathered, but may be found on the ground, particularly in the warmer months. They may not be moving around all too much but still may not need your help:

  • Unless the fledgling is visibly injured, you are best to leave them well alone.  Often a fledgling will leave a crowded nest a day or two early and wait for their last few feathers to come through before spreading their wings...but Mum and Dad will continue feeding and keeping an eye on them, even if you can't spot them!  If you find a fledgling in a position that may pose danger to them, such as a road or path, gently pick them up and move them to a sheltered nearby spot.  If they are obviously injured or unwell, place them in an aerated cardboard box lined with paper towels and take them to our island vet Heike.  Heike can be contacted on 01720 423667

Blackbird fledgling (Turdus merula).  Photo: BareFoot Photographer.

Please don't attempt to raise a chick at home, as they require a very specialist diet and care in order to regain full health and get back out to where they should be...the wild!

Racing pigeons:

Though not technically wild, racing pigeons do sometimes turn up here in Scilly and need a little leg-up to get on their way home again!  These little guys often arrive on the islands looking a little dazed, confused, very tired and often in need of re-fuelling before the next leg of their journey.   Thankfully, Ellie Hale and co. are on-hand to kindly pamper these lucky pigeons at Sylina! 

Racing Pigeons are recognisable as they have numbered/lettered rings on their legs and are generally pretty friendly and easy to catch.  If fed corn and left to their own devices they may just need to re-fuel before they carry on their way after a couple of days.   However, if they hang around a little longer then they may need assistance as they do not know how to fend for themselves in the wild.

If you find a Racing Pigeon and you think it needs a little TLC then do get hold of Ellie for advice or assistance:


Racing pigeon.  Photo: BareFoot Photographer.


St Mary’s is home to some happy hogs, and a few not so happy ones who might need some help!  Hedgehogs were introduced to St Mary’s in the 1980s and in contrast to their mainland cousins, who are sadly in decline, our island hogs appear to be doing pretty well! 

However, on the odd occasion that they do need a little assistance, our hogs are lucky enough to have hedgehog Fairy Godmother Ro Bennett to the ready!  But how do you know if they need her help?

Signs that a Hedgehog is not well:

  • If you find a Hedgehog out and about during daylight hours it is likely to be unwell.  Hedgehogs are nocturnal and should not be seen active during the day.  
  • If you find a small Hedgehog in the run up to, or during, the colder winter months it is likely to need some assistance.  Hedgehogs hibernate, although it is not uncommon to find active Hedgehogs during the winter in Scilly due to our mild climate.  However, in order to survive the winter a Hedgehog needs to be a healthy size/weight.

If you find a Hedgehog and you think it needs a little TLC then do get hold of Ro for advice or assistance; you can also follow her prickly adventures through her Scilly Hedgehogs Facebook Page:

  • Telephone:  01720 422681
  • Mobile: 07979 861609

If you would like to know more information about these charismatic creatures then head on over to our "Scilly's Special Species" Page.

Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).  Photo: BareFoot Photographer.

Seal pups:

Seals do need to come ashore to rest and if they've been battling with big, heavy seas or are injured they will be tired and need a break.  That said, our number one top tip if you see a seal or pup on land is to leave it be – do not approach it or scare it back into the sea, especially if it has a fluffy white coat!

Atlantic grey seals spend just three weeks with their mother (during which time they boast this cute fluffy white coat) and then they’re out on their own in the big bad blue!  Often, mothers leave pups alone on the beach whilst she fishes just offshore.  By approaching a pup, Mum may be scared away by seeing you or even just smelling you, and this will cause her to abandon her pup.  Pup’s first few weeks with Mum is particularly important to get them ready for all they have to learn on their own so young in life, so it’s critical to avoid this happening!

If you are at all worried about a seal or pup on land and think it may need help, please call British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours) and they will be able to offer you advice and contact one of their other trained on Island medics to attend. 

Usual practice is to monitor seal pups for a period of about 24 hours (unless they are visibly injured and/or very underweight) to see whether their mothers return to them or not.  If after this time they look like they need to be looked after BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics or our island vet Heike will make the necessary arrangements.

Atlantic grey seal pup (Halichoerus grypus).  Photo: Lara Howe.

Other marine mammals:

BDMLR have a team of trained Marine Mammal Medics in Scilly that can respond to a live stranding.

If you see a live stranded marine animal on our coastline please call BDMLR for advice.

01825 765 546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (at other times)

Please note:

  • the location;
  • the state of the tide;
  • any injuries you can see without getting close.

For your own safety - and that of the animal - please adhere to the following:

  • keep people and dogs away;
  • do not attempt to put/or chase the animal back into the sea;
  • do not pour water over it (in the case of cetaceans this could enter the blowhole, the hole on top of its head through which it breathes and cause further harm);
  • do not touch the animal as it may carry diseases that you could catch;
  • avoid breathing in over the blowhole of cetaceans as an animals breath may contain harmful bacteria.

BDMLR Volunteer Medics are trained to assist Seals, Cetaceans (Whales & Dolphins) and Turtles, but can also help in other situations which involve live marine animals too.  If you are unsure whether BDMLR can assist, just give them a ring and speak to one of their team.

 BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics Training Course - Porthmellon, Isles of Scilly.  Photo: BareFoot Photographer.

Dead marine mammals:

Unfortunately, from time to time we do get dead marine life washing up on our shores.  If you find dead marine animals on our beaches please:

  • Call the Marine Strandings Network on 0345 201 2626 and report it - this is a 24 hour hotline;  
  • Don't assume it has already been reported (unless it has a visible tag already on it; however, re-reporting can be useful as animals often move with tides/currents and this information can be helpful); 
  • Do not touch or try to move the animal; animal carcasses can carry diseases and pose a risk of infection/illness (particularly to pregnant women).

Please note:

  • the location;
  • the state of the tide;
  • what the animal is, if you know;
  • any injuries you can see without getting close.

Dead razorbill (Alca torda).  Photo: BareFoot Photographer.

So there you have it...a brief 'what to do if...' guide for the wildlife of Scilly!  If you have any other further concerns or questions please contact us on [email protected] but please note this email is not monitored 24:7 or suitable for reporting time-sensitive incidents.  To report injured, stranded or vulnerable wildlife please report to the relevant organisation as detailed in this article.