Many of us who appreciate the outdoors have encountered wildlife – perhaps we see wild birds and mammals along park trails, in a backyard birdhouse or maybe in a tree outside the office window. Most wildlife creatures grow and venture out on their own, never needing the help of human beings. Some creatures, however, will not be as fortunate.
Throughout the year, wildlife rehabilitation centers receive desperate phone calls from people who have found a baby animal or other injured wildlife in need. These creatures may or may not survive, depending in part on what you do if you are the first person to encounter them.
Together with the help of Shelter of the Week recipient Sierra Wildlife Rescue, SPCA International has developed a checklist of information you should know and to which you should refer if you come across the path of what you think might be injured or orphaned wildlife:
- Is there a visible injury? Is the animal unable to walk or fly? Do you see blood? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, call your local wildlife facility or animal control for further information on caring for the animal;
- If no injury is apparent, make sure that the animal is truly alone. Many times a baby animal is not truly alone; the parent is usually not too far away. The parent may be afraid to approach the baby if they think there is any danger. Unless the baby is in some kind of imminent danger, it is best for you to step back and observe them for a while from a distance. In many cases, you will be relieved to see the mother return to care for her youngster;
- Do not remove a baby animal unless you know the mother is dead or the baby is in any immediate danger. Well-intentioned people often “kidnap” young animals. For example, mother rabbits only feed their babies a couple times a day. In between feedings they are off looking for food and going about their daily routine. During the mom’s absence the bunnies are fine, but if a person comes across a nest they may think they have been abandoned;
- If a baby bird has fallen from its nest, place it back in if you can do it safely. The mother bird will not reject it;
- If you have decided that the animal needs to be rescued, keep it away from children, pets and curious people. Unnecessary handling and observation can cause the animal to die from stress;
- Place small birds in a paper bag with tissue on the bottom. Put small mammals or large birds in a box lined with a towel or cloth. Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place, out of direct sunlight, until you get in touch with your local wildlife facility or animal control. Do not offer food or water as this could actually cause more harm than good;
- Do not handle medium and large mammals or raptors. They can injure you and some carry serious diseases. Instead, call your local wildlife facility or animal control as quickly as possible.
Taking time now to identify where you would call if you had a wildlife emergency could save the life of a bird or mammal you find in the future. Look in your local phone book and make note of any wildlife care resources in your community.
This SPCA International article is intended to help further your understanding of your animal's needs. We understand yourunique bond with your pet and it is our pleasure to help you look after its welfare. Thanks to your continued support, SPCA International is able to provide you and countless others with important news regarding the safety of your pets. Thank you again for your donations – every little bit helps!