Why is wildife so stupid?

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After a roadside rescue of a bunch of toddler ducks, wildlife writer Jane Adams suggests that maybe it’s not the wildlife that’s the issue …

Ducklings in the road

The phone rings. It’s a friend, Mike, but I can hardly hear him: ‘Ducklings … A31 … down by the Coventry Arms… what do I do?” he asks.
I can hear traffic thundering past and I swiftly tell him I’m coming. I grab a cat carrier – the only thing I can think of that might be useful for holding ducklings.
Positioned between the River Stour and the A31, The Coventry Arms pub is on one of our busiest A-roads leading to the West Country. Mother duck must have nested in the fields opposite the pub, and when her brood hatched and she needed to get to the river – the road was in the way. As she quacked from the field edge, desperately trying to keep her family close, her 13 scared, fluffy toddlers must have bolted for the road.
Luckily, that was the moment Mike spotted them. He pulled over in his car, and rounded them up. When I arrive, the ducklings are in a laundry basket (borrowed from a nearby house). Ten minutes later, mum flies off and never returns.

The rescued ducklings, waiting for a new home that doesn’t include an A road

‘Why is wildlife so stupid?’ a friend says, when I tell her about the mallard and her brood. ‘Why did she nest on the opposite side of a busy road?’
Her question makes me think about other wildlife I’ve rescued in the past … the baby hedgehog – or hoglet – found wandering alone in the daylight; the jackdaw chick that got stuck behind our gas fire after falling down the chimney; the adult barn owl killed by a car while hunting for voles, leaving behind three orphaned chicks.
Were these animals stupid? Or was there something else at play? Were their struggles perhaps caused not by stupidity, but by excessive traffic, loss of natural habitats and the relentlessly expanding urban development?
I know what I think.
But how we address these problems, and ensure we protect the wildlife we do still have left, though – that’s a harder question to answer.
I ended up taking the ducklings to a wildlife rescue centre in Hampshire, 20 miles away, as all the local centres were full. They fed and watered them, and popped them into an incubator. They’re safe for the time being, but it’s an ongoing problem. Local rescue centres are overflowing with young goslings, ducks and swans, as well as every conceivable species of garden bird, hedgehogs, foxes and badger cubs. It’s a problem, I’m told, that is only getting worse.

What to do if you find wildlife in need of help

  • Check the Help Wildlife website
  • Search online for ‘Wildlife Rescue Centre Dorset’ (Please note, Dorset Wildlife Trust does not rehabilitate or rescue wild animals. It is a conservation organisation).
  • Go to your local village or town Facebook group and ask if residents know of a local wildlife rescue or rehabilitator. Stick their number on the fridge for future use and put it in your contacts on your mobile.
  • Phone your local vets. If all else fails, they should have the number for a local wildlife centre but are unlikely to take injured wildlife themselves (although you can ask).
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