Have you found an injured wild animal, or an orphaned wildlife baby? Take time to carefully assess his situation before moving him. Often, a bird who seems injured has merely been stunned by colliding with a window. A wildlife baby who seems alone may actually have a watchful parent nearby, but out of view. So you may not need to save a wild animal who appears injured or alone, but do keep children and pets away from the animal, giving it a chance to recover or for a parent to return. Below are tips for dealing with wildlife who are clearly injured and in need of help, and for preventing avoidable deaths and injuries to wildlife, as well as how to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or clinic.
Save a wild animal injured by vehicles…
Animals come onto roadways in search of salt from icy road treatments, to reach feeding areas or water, to follow their mother to safe cover, and to find mates, among other reasons. They may be preoccupied, or they may simply not see a car coming. Here’s how to help a wild animal injured by a vehicle:
- Do not attempt to move an adult wild animal yourself, nor enter the road to move an animal if you cannot do so without risk to your own life. A wild animal may strike out with talons, teeth, or hooves in a panic, and seriously harm you. Do not risk your own health and safety under any circumstance.
- Warn oncoming traffic using hazard lights and emergency road flares.
- Call the non-emergency local police department number to let them know of the location of the injured animal. Explain that the animal is a traffic hazard to hasten the arrival of help.
- If trying to move a young wild animal, use heavy gloves to minimize your chance of getting bitten or scratched. You can drape a piece of light fabric over a bird’s head to minimize her stress level. When bird’s eyes are covered, they “go quiet.”
- Using an implement like a trowel or wearing heavy gloves, place a young small, injured wild animal gently into a cardboard box or pet carrier to transport her to a wildlife rehabilitator, clinic, or veterinarian. Do not risk being bitten.
- If you cannot transport the animal right away, keep her in a quiet, warm, dark place to reduce her fear and stress until she can be placed in the care of a wildlife rehabilitator or clinic.
Protect wild animals from avoidable deaths and injuries on the road…
Help prevent wildlife deaths and injuries from vehicles by following these guidelines and sharing them with other drivers:
- Follow speed limits, and be especially watchful for wildlife at dawn, dusk, and for the first few hours after darkness falls.
- Use your high beams when not hazardous to oncoming traffic.
- Remember that one animal crossing may be followed by a male in pursuit or by young following their mother.
- Slow down to 45 mph or less on two-lane roads with woods or fields beside them, or where streams cross under a road.
- Never throw trash from your car—food-scented trash attracts wildlife onto the road.
- Increase your ability to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of an animal crossing the road, simply by lowering your dashboard lights a bit.
Safeguard wild animals from being killed or injured by pets…
Pets and wildlife are rarely a good mix. On the trail, keep your pet on leash, for his or her safely as well as for that of wildlife. Around home, dogs should be kept within a fenced yard or on leash with someone in close attendance. Cats, likewise, are safer when not allowed to roam. On average, the life expectancy of an indoor cat can exceed that of one outdoors by 10 to 12 years. Cats should be kept indoors unless they are on leash and accompanied or confined within an enclosure that keeps both them and small wildlife, like songbirds, safe. If your pet injures a wild animal, or if you find a wild animal who has been injured by another dog or cat, the best way to assist the animal is to keep pets and children away and find a wildlife rehabilitator who can provide the needed care.
Finding help for injured wildlife…
There is no single database for all wildlife rehabilitators, but you’ll be able to find someone who can help care for the animal through the resources below:
- To find a rehabilitator in your state go to “How to find a wildlife Rehabilitator.”
- Contact your local animal control agency, humane society, animal protection association, or veterinarian.
- Ask the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Central Office (NWRA) to help you locate an NWRA member in your area. Phone 320-230-9920.
- Contact your U.S. Fish and Game state wildlife agency.
Once you have found a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, keep the information handy for future reference and add the phone number to speed dial on your phone for any future wildlife emergencies.
Keeping an injured wild animal safe while awaiting help…
The instructions below will help you reduce the stress of an orphaned or injured wild animal while you are awaiting help from a wildlife rehabilitator:
- Use either a pet carrier or a box with air holes poked in it —before putting animal in— to shelter the animal. Place a smooth, clean cloth inside for comfort.
- Wear gloves when placing the animal inside, as he will likely be frightened and may bite or scratch.
- Cover the animal gently with a cloth to lift him into the carrier or box.
- Do not provide food or water while waiting to transfer the animal to the care of a wildlife rehabilitator; either can be harmful at this stage.
- Place a heating pad set on “low” under one end of the carrier or box for warmth. HotHands-2® hand warmers also work well.
- Do not handle the animal—even though your intention is only to comfort, it will further stress a wild animal. The only time most wild animals are touched is when a predator gets them! So being touched is very stressful to wildlife.
- Tape the box shut and keep the room dark and quiet.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Transport the animal to the rehabilitator as soon as possible. Do not allow yourself to be tempted into keeping the wild animal because it will have a tragic outcome—wild animals require specialized care and diets—only highly people can meet their needs. Remember, it is unlawful in most states to keep wild animals without a permit.
- Wash your hands again after delivering the wild animal to a rehabilitator, along with all items that were in contact with the animal.
If you have followed these steps as carefully as you can, you can rest assured that you have done your very best to save a wild animal.