THE number of wildlife casualties returned to their habitat by an animal welfare charity has increased by almost one-fifth since it opened a new rescue centre.
The Scottish SPCA released 2795 wild animals back into the wild last year, an 18% increase on 2011 when it returned 2364 creatures to their natural habitat.
It expects this year to be even busier and so far in 2014 has already cared for over 200 more wild animals than in the same period last year.
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Funded entirely by donations, the £3.5 million centre at Fishcross, near Alloa in Clackmannanshire, was opened on April 23, 2012.
Centre manager Colin Seddon said: "The significant rise is probably due to an increased awareness among the Scottish public about how we can help sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. This has resulted in more people calling our helpline when they come across a distressed wild animal. We've also invested significantly in our frontline staff, meaning we have more officers to respond than ever before. Releasing wild animals fit and healthy back to their natural habitats is always our aim wherever possible so this is incredibly encouraging."
The facility has on-site veterinary facilities which means creatures do not have to be moved once they arrive, keeping human interaction and stress to an absolute minimum. Among the animals cared for at the centre was Squirrelly, a one-week-old red squirrel kit who was found by a dog in Inverness woodland.
It was believed he may have fallen out of a tree. The orphan had to be syringe-fed every two to three hours until he was old enough to be moved on to solid food. Squirrelly was successfully released back into the wild at two months old.
The centre also rescued a female capercaillie found with a shoulder injury in Aberdeenshire, the first time the Scottish SPCA's wildlife team had dealt with the species. She made an "excellent" recovery after receiving treatment and was released back into the wild less than a week later.