What Should You Do With Injured Wildlife?


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Most of us have come across injured or abandoned wildlife at some point in our lives, but do you know what to do? Should you leave it alone? Should you pick it up? Should you call someone? Since most people are unsure of what to do, today’s blog will discuss how and when to help injured or abandoned wildlife.

Before handling or disturbing wildlife, it is important to first determine if the animal really needs your help. It is usually easy to determine if an animal is sick or injured. If you notice an obvious injury, like a bird attacked by a cat or with a broken wing, the animal needs your help. However, it can be difficult to determine if an animal has been abandoned or orphaned. Before you move an animal, call a wildlife rehabilitator. If you come upon a baby bird that has fallen out of it’s nest, return the baby bird to its nest if you can safely reach it. It is a common misconception that a mother bird will reject her nestlings if you handle them. With few exceptions, birds do not have a good sense of smell and will not reject their young if they have been handled. Likewise, if you come upon a nest of bunnies, do not immediately assume that they have been abandoned. Baby bunnies are typically fed at dawn and dusk. Mother bunnies often leave their young alone during the day and return to them in the evening. If you are concerned, it is best to call a wildlife rehabilitator before taking a nest full of bunnies.

Once you have determined that an animal needs your help, how do you transport them? It may seem obvious, but never attempt to rescue dangerous wildlife by yourself. Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, racoons, skunks, rattlesnakes, and even deer can be dangerous if they are injured or scared. In general, avoid handling adult animals because of the risk of injury. Another reason why not to handle wildlife is the risk of rabies and other zoonotic infections. In the United States, bats are the most common source of rabies but it can also be found in racoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Because of the risk of rabies exposure, never handle a bat. Call your local wildlife rehabilitator or animal control officer for help. If the animal you are calling about is safe to handle, make sure you wear gloves before touching them to protect yourself against zoonotic infections. Gently transport the animal using a towel and carefully place them in a secure box lined with paper towels. Be sure the box has air holes already punched in it. Keep all wildlife warm, and in a dark and quiet place away from children and other animals. Do not attempt to feed the animal or rehabilitate the animal yourself. Not only could this harm the animal, but it is against the law in many areas. Instead, take the rescued animal to a wildlife center as soon as possible. In the event that you can not find a rehabilatation center, contact your local veterinarian for assistance.

For help locating a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, visit http://wildliferehabinfo.org/ContactList_MnPg.htm.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


How to Help an Injured Animal on the Highway

This beautiful vixen was recently spotted lying on the shoulder of a major highway in Chesapeake, Virginia. She wasn’t moving and didn’t show any obvious signs of life as cars whizzed by. But when a PETA staffer stopped to check on her, she made a horrifying discovery: The fox was still breathing.

Our staffer immediately called animal control, and an officer came out to put this injured animal quickly and humanely out of her misery. But what should you do if you find an animal in distress while on the road? Here’s a checklist that you can print out and keep in your glove box:

  • Note your exact location, including the closest exit number or mile marker if you’re on a highway.
  • Pull over as soon as you can and put your hazard lights on. If possible, choose the same side of the road that the animal is on to avoid having to cross busy lanes of traffic. Wait until there are no cars coming before opening your door and exiting the vehicle. If the animal is in the middle of traffic, pull over to the side of the road and call animal control or the police for assistance.
  • Determine if the animal is dead or alive. Is the animal stiff? This would mean that he or she has been dead for some time. Is the animal breathing? With furry animals, the wind can fool you, so look carefully. Injured animals often labor to breathe or breathe rapidly—observe the chest and abdominal area for movement. If an animal is still warm to the touch but you can’t see him or her breathing or any other signs of life, gently pinch a back toe to see if the animal pulls away. If it’s safe and feasible, you can also gently position your finger against the animal’s eye to test for a blink reflex.
  • If the animal is alive, call your local animal-control agency or police dispatch. (Program these numbers into your cell phone now so that you always have them with you.) If you can’t reach a live person, don’t hesitate to call 911. Calmly state your emergency: “I’m calling for an animal-control officer. I’ve just found an injured animal who has been hit (state your location) and is still alive. This animal is suffering very badly and needs help. Can you please send an animal control officer right away? I’m in a (describe the make and model of the car you’re in) and will stay with the animal until help arrives.” Check back in with dispatch if an officer doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.
  • Do not attempt to move injured animals without assistance from a trained individual. Injured animals may bite out of pain, fear, or shock. Some animals, including foxes and raccoons, may be rabid and could pose a danger to you (or your animal companions if they’re in the car with you).
  • Do not leave the scene. Stay with the animal until help arrives. This is vital to ensure that an officer is able to locate the scene and the animal gets help. Set out flares if you have them as an added safety measure while you wait.
  • If you’re having trouble getting assistance, call PETA at 757-622-PETA.

Always stop if there is any chance that an animal is still alive and in pain. Your intervention could help ensure that an animal doesn’t suffer for hours or days in agony.


How to help baby squirrels and chipmunks

Before picking up a young squirrel or chipmunk who appears to be orphaned, stand at a distance (so you don’t deter the mother from returning) for half an hour to an hour and look for the baby’s mother. She may reappear momentarily. Even if the mother does not reappear, you should leave the young squirrel or chipmunk alone if she appears lively, active, and not in any difficulty.

However, if the mother does not reappear after an hour and the baby runs toward you, appearing very oddly friendly, as if she is asking for something very insistently, she may have been separated from her mother and may be starving. In this case, the animal will need to be rescued. See the resource “Wildlife Animal Rescue: Safety Precautions and Other Considerations” for instructions, and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

If the baby appears clearly injured or very cold and still, then she definitely needs help right away. Call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.


Injured Wildlife: What Should You Do? - pets

Help for Injured Wildlife

Caring Rehab Gives Them a Second Chance

Margaret M Stewart/Shutterstock.com

S eeing lost, injured or orphaned animals is heartbreaking, but unless a wild animal is in immediate danger from prey or traffic, it’s best to wait and observe. Mothers forage for food and return to the babies intermittently. If in doubt, call a wildlife rehabber for advice.

“Rehabilitators are trained, tested, licensed, take continuing education courses and file annual reports. All care provided must meet government standards,” explains wildlife rehabilitator Regina Whitman, of Queen Creek, Arizona, via her Desert Cry Wildlife website. She rehabs rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, baby javelina and coyote pups.

The Dan & Dianne May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Lee’s-McRae College, in Banner Elk, North Carolina, is the only college program in the U.S. that allows students to work hands-on with veterinarians in the rehab center. “We see native species of reptiles, raptors, songbirds and mammals like eastern gray squirrels,” says Jenna Glaski, a program senior mentor. “When fawns and bobcats are orphaned, it’s usually because the mother has been hit by a car or shot.”

In the Georgetown area, South Carolina Coastal Animal Rescue and Educational Sanctuary (SC-CARES) rehabbers care for injured wildlife and other animals. Miss Belle—a doe that was trapped in fencing and temporarily paralyzed trying to get free—received physical therapy and is expected to make a full recovery.

Founded in 2004 by Kevin Barton and Linda Schrader, the Wildlife Center of Venice, serves Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Its five acres offers hutches, barns, habitats for squirrels and raccoons, an aviary and a pond for waterfowl. In 2015, volunteers rescued eight striped skunks. Because these mammals are slow and have poor eyesight, wide roads are especially hazardous as they move through diminishing habitat. Skunks eat insects, grubs, rodents, moles and snakes.

Paul and Gloria Halesworth specialize in hummingbirds at Wild Wing Rehab Hummers & Songbirds, in Ahwatukee, Arizona. “Hummingbird babies require a special formula we import from Europe. A body temperature of 105 degrees causes casual rescuers to think they’re overheated. They pant like dogs if too hot otherwise, they’re okay,” Paul says. If a nest is found on the ground, reaffix it in a tree. “Duct tape works,” he notes. “Mom will find them.” Released birds are taken to the Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix.

Rehabbing owls costs significantly more, up to $800 from hatchling to release. The Halesworths refer owls to another rehabber that annually cares for about 500 owls.
In Fort Gratiot, Michigan, Back 2 the Wild Rehab rescues all kinds of wild animals. In February, two geese were stuck in a frozen river. Firefighters freed the birds and rehabbers checked them for frostbite. One goose died, but the other was released after the next storm passed through. Visit Back2TheWildRehab.com for details.

The Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary, near McCall, Idaho, accepts orphaned bear cubs. Tapping into three decades of research reported by program supervisor Jeff Rohlman, they are vetted and put into a two-acre enclosure to learn to live in the wild until they are old enough for release. Most arrive undernourished and dehydrated if separated from their mother, they don’t know how to feed themselves or when to hibernate.

Barry and Maureen Genzlinger, founders of the Vermont Bat Center, in Milton, have rescued and released more than 125 bats since Barry became a licensed bat rehabilitator for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department in 2013. “We have one bat that lost 95 percent of the skin on a wing,” he says. “After three months, most of it has grown back. In two more months, it should be fine, just in time to hibernate.” Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour.

While some are considered a nuisance, each rescued animal has a place in the overall eco-system. Following the good Samaritan rule allows casual rescuers to keep an animal only long enough to safely transport it to a rehabilitator. Rescue operations always need volunteers to donate time or money to help the cause.

For creatures, staying with a healing friend can help but there’s no place like home.

Connect with freelance writer Sandra Murphy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This article appears in the East Michigan edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine


  • Find a suitable container such as a cardboard box, or pet carrier. Line it with a towel or cloth. For potentially difficult or hard-to-handle wildlife, try using a humane live trap. If you plan to use a trap, please call Saco River Wildlife Center for guidance. Use extra caution with mammals.
  • Otherwise, throw a towel or a sheet over the animal so he can’t see you, gently pick up the animal (wearing gloves/eye protection), and place in the container. You don’t need to remove the towel, but loosen it. Secure the container to make sure the animal cannot escape.
  • Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place away from people and pets. Do not give him food or water. Leave him alone. Please resist the urge to handle or take photos as this will cause stress, and resist the urge to feed baby animals. Most of what the Internet claims they can eat is not correct and will cause significant health issues.
  • Take the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible (see above on how to find one).

If you would like more information regarding the animal you find or if you are not sure what to do, call/text SRWC at (207) 420-7159.

Thank you for helping injured and orphaned wildlife!

ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES WHEN HANDLING ANY WILD ANIMAL. Get the animal in a cat/dog carrier or a secure box with breathing holes. Keep everything as dark and quiet as possible while you call for help- stress can kill! Go here to learn more.

Rabies is a deadly disease in mammals caused by a virus the most common method of transmission is through a bite wound. Any mammal (including humans) can contract rabies. In nearly all cases, rabies is fatal – prevention is the key.

Many wild animals, including spring and summer babies, are needlessly killed and tested for rabies because people handle them without protection. For your safety and for the life of the animal, always wear gloves when handling wildlife.

Touching a baby animal will NOT cause its parents to reject it. This is a myth!

Remember, it’s illegal to rehabilitate wildlife without a permit, and illegal to keep wild animals as pets.

Sick, injured, or orphaned bird? Try the Center for Wildlife (207-361-1400) or Avian Haven (207-382-6761).

If you’ve found a stranded marine mammal or seal pup along the coast, call the Marine Mammals of Maine Hotline at 1-800-532-9551. You can visit their website for more information here.


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