5 First Steps for Rescuing a Wild Animal

by Dani Nicolson, licensed wildlife rehabilitator
rescued baby birdHave you found an injured or ill wild animal? What do you do now? The following 5 steps are some of the most important YOU can take to help an animal survive! Now, before we get into them, it is important to stay calm, don’t frighten the animal any more than they are,  so that you or the animal will not be harmed when rescuing them. Some things to consider – is the animal in the middle of a busy road? If you rush to get the animal – will it run or fly into a passing vehicle? What is the animal’s defense mechanism that can hurt you? For example, talons on a raptor, sharp beak of a Heron or Egret, teeth and jaws of a coyote, or, legs of a deer. We already know this, but at times, in our rush to save an animal, we forget! The few minutes it takes to be prepared, usually won’t make a difference in saving that animal so be calm and safe. Some animals really don’t need our help. They are exhibiting normal behavior for their species, such as fledging songbirds on the ground in spring and summer! If you are not sure, skip to #5.

1) Carefully pick up the animal using gloves, towel, sweatshirt, etc. and place it in an appropriately sized container. This is sometimes a challenge, just do your best. I’ve returned home or to a nearby business to get a box. Small birds can be put in a paper sack with air holes. ALWAYS PUT A TISSUE OR CLOTH IN THE BOTTOM OF BAG OR BOX so the animal doesn’t slip and further injure itself. Close the top! Make sure there is adequate ventilation by poking holes in the box.
2) Keep the environment calm and quiet. Please resist the temptation to continually peek at the animal. Stress could push the animal over the edge and kill it. If you have children, please do not allow them to
hold the animal – it is dangerous for the children because animals
can carry disease that can injure humans, and, they could be injured by it.
3) Place the box or bag in a warm place. I always say “warmth is magic”
because it is one of the crucial steps you can take to revive an animal who
is injured or ill. You don’t want the animal to be HOT, just warm. You can
accomplish this by a) putting the bag or box in a heated room (apart from people
and pets) and/or b) putting a heating pad on LOW with a towel on top of the heating pad, then put half of the box or bag on the heating pad, so that if the animal gets too hot they can move away from the heat. If the animal is unconscious, it is best to AVOID THIS METHOD. If it is a HOT day – you may put the bag or box in a cool space or adda fan to cool the ambient temperature. Do not face the fan directly at the animal.

4)Do not give food or water! This is one of the most common mistakes people make. In our desire to help, we may actually hurt. Just know that after many years of rehabilitation by myself and others, that going without a meal or water for a short while isn’t going to make a difference in the animal’s survival.

5) Find and call a Wildlife Rehabilitator ASAP. Why? First of all, it’s the law.
Wildlife Rehabilitators are licensed trained professionals who deal with hundreds if not thousands of different species of wildlife a year. We attend conferences to learn best practices. We speak with other rehabilitators to learn from their successes (and failures). We work with Veterinarians, Fish and Wildlife Departments, Biologists, Falconers, Birders and many more who help us in our quest to provide the best attainable care for the animals we passionately give our
lives to help. Try to give them as much information about where you found the
animal, and any information that will help them determine the injury. For example,
was the bird below powerline? It could have been electrocuted.

Click here for help finding a Wildlife Rehabilitator. Lastly, thank you for taking time to read this. You may have just saved an animal’s life!