How to tell if animals are abandoned, injured or perfectly fine—and what to do if they need your help.
It's common to see baby wild animals outside during spring, as a new generation makes its way into the world. Baby wild animals might seem like they need our help, but unless the animal is truly abandoned or injured, there is no need to rescue them. These tips can help you decide whether to take action.
Signs that a wild animal needs your help
- The animal is brought to you by a cat or dog.
- There’s evidence of bleeding.
- The animal has an apparent or obvious broken limb.
- A bird is featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground.
- The animal is shivering.
- There’s a dead parent nearby.
- The animal is crying and wandering all day long.
If you see any of these signs, find help for the animal. If necessary, safely capture and transport them to the appropriate place for treatment.
Finding help for the animal
Once you're sure the animal needs your help, call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If you’re unable to locate a rehabilitator, try contacting an animal shelter, humane society, animal control agency, nature center, state wildlife agency or veterinarian.
Capturing and transporting the animal
Never handle a wild animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you've contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and their physical condition as accurately as possible.
Unless you are told otherwise, here's how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport while you're waiting for help to arrive
Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then put the animal in the box.
Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop them up gently and place them in the container.
Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause them to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock and force-feeding can kill them.
Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.
Transport the animal as soon as possible. Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or abandoned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.
Below is a national list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators. From this list you can locate a rehabilitator closest to you