Animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA has dished out advice on how humans can make life a little easier for the wild animals around us over the chilly winter months.
Cold conditions have hit particularly hard this week, with some parts of the north-east being covered by a Met Office yellow weather warning for snow since Monday and an amber warning since midnight last night.
Wild animals are used to being exposed to nasty weather, of course, but there are things we can do to make life a little easier – including by not trying to help directly at all.
Scottish SPCA National Wildlife Rescue Centre manager, Steven Gray, said, “Although wild animals are extremely hardy, even they can be caught off guard by sudden changes to the weather.
“Bad weather can blow birds off course, in January 2016 we ended up caring for over 100 little auks who ended up landing in areas up and down the east coast after stormy conditions.
“Strong waves and high winds can also lead to more seal pups becoming stranded or hauling out to seek shelter from poor weather. If you come across a seal pup and it has no visible signs of injury or illness, please monitor it from a distance and leave it well alone.
“Don’t ever attempt to chase a seal back in to the water as it may have hauled out for good reason and just need a rest.
“Snow and ice can make it difficult for birds and animals to find food or water. You can help feathered friends by leaving out bird food and clean water for drinking and bathing. Nuts will also be appreciated by any local squirrels too!
“Remember, during cold weather hedgehogs should be hibernating. If you see any of these spiky visitors to your garden, especially during daylight hours, then they probably need help and you should call our animal helpline.
“We often receive reports about swans stuck in ice during cold weather but this is rarely the case. swans are incredibly powerful birds and more than capable of breaking any ice that forms around them.
“Occasionally, if temperatures are unusually low and the water is very still, like that found in a pond, they may become stuck. However, this is very rare and normally the birds will simply break the ice themselves and fly off when they are ready to.
“We would ask that callers follow the advice given by our helpline operators and animal rescue officers when it comes to this issue and don’t attempt to take matters in to their own hands.
“We really must urge the public not to attempt to rescue any swans themselves, either by throwing items at the ice around the bird or venturing on to the ice themselves. This will cause the swan a massive amount of stress and you could injure the bird if you are throwing any kind of projectile to break the ice.
“Worse still, if you venture on to the ice yourself you could be putting your life in danger. Swans are perfectly adapted to survive in extremely cold water – humans are not!
“If you are concerned about any wild animal this winter please give our animal helpline a call on 03000 999 999.”