Have you found an orphaned or injured wild animal you believe is in need of care? While your first thought may be to rush him to a wild animal shelter, or wildlife rehabilitator, unless there is no question that he’s in imminent danger, take time before intervening. Some situations can be misleading. Here are a few examples of animals who typically do not need to be rescued and brought to a rehabilitator:
- A bird who is feathered and hopping around on its own. Chances are a parent is nearby and will bring food to the baby as soon as you are out of the way. You can keep an eye out from a little distance to be sure a parent returns.
- A baby rabbit whose eyes are open and ears are up is ready to be on its own, even though she may be only four inches long.
- A fawn you find alone in tall grass has most likely not been abandoned by her mother. Fawns spend many hours alone, the mothers return to nurse them after foraging, which may be several hours later.
Orphaned and Injured Wildlife
If you’re certain that a very young wild animal has actually lost its parents—either because you witnessed an accident or can see that the animal is failing from lack of food—taking the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator is naturally the right choice; likewise, if a wild animal has sustained an injury for which care is needed.
There are several agencies you can contact to ask about what help for orphaned or injured wildlife is available near you:
- Local humane animal shelter
- Local animal control agency
- State wildlife agency
- Local veterinarian
- National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, phone: 320-230-9920
Don’t Do This at Home
Although you may want to care for the animal yourself, when wild animals need care, the right thing to do is to bring them to a wildlife rehabilitator. It is illegal to keep a wild animal without a permit. Those who provide care for wild animals must have a state license for doing so, and those who care for migratory birds must have a federal license for the rescue work they do.
The wildlife rehabilitator will do all he or she can to help the animal get well enough to return to the wild. Keep in mind that most rehabilitators are volunteers or are paid very little. They often spend their own money on food and supplies to care for the animals. If you bring an animal in for care, whatever donation you are able to make, large or small, will help the independent wildlife rehabilitator or the nonprofit wild animal shelter with the many costs associated with providing care for wildlife.