When most people see an injured animal, they want to help. That is a very natural response; however, if the animal is wild, you need to take certain precautions. Wild animals are not like domesticated animals in that they do not wholeheartedly trust humans. Depending on the species, they can seriously hurt you if they feel threatened or scared. So, what should you do if you find an injured wild animal while out dog walking? Here we provide some expert tips.
What to do with injured wild animals?
Most animals in the world are wild. They will not naturally trust humans unless they have grown up with them. This fact requires that you take special care when handling or helping an injured wild animal. If you come across a wild animal that appears to need your help, adhere to the following steps:
Determine if the wild animal actually needs your help
Your first order of business is to determine if the animal actually needs your help. If there is a clear injury like a broken bone or cut, the wild animal needs help. If there is a clear injury, move on to the rest of this article. Dr Woodnutt, who is on the advisory board for All About Cats says, other signs that an adult wild animal needs your help are:
- There is obvious blood or broken limbs
- The animal is shivering
- If it is a bird, it has almost no feathers
- Your dog or – most likely – cat brings you a live animal
Abandoned or orphaned?
Sometimes people struggle to know whether a baby animal has been abandoned or orphaned. Just because you see a baby animal alone doesn’t mean that it needs your help. In fact, the following animals regularly leave their young for long periods of time:
Watch the young animal for as long as you can. You will likely see the mother come and nurse their child at irregular intervals. They do this to avoid predators. If the baby has been left for more than 24 hours, or if crying and wandering around all day, you should call a wildlife rehabilitator. In this case it may be likely that their parents have been killed.
It’s also important to note that squirrels, raccoons, and birds may have young that get away from their parents. A baby bird may be learning how to fly and fall out of a nest. A young squirrel could also fall out of the nest. In these instances, wait for the mother to come and claim their young. They will typically not abandon their young at this stage.
Placing the baby bird back in their nest or putting a basket over the baby raccoon will allow the mother access while keeping the baby safe. Most mothers will not reject their young because they have been handled by humans.
Safety is key
Once you have determined that the animal actually needs your help, you need to approach it with caution. Some animals, among them coyotes, wolves, or other predators, should never be approached as they carry easy-to-transmit household pests. Call in the professionals and let them help these animals. Any injured animal is capable of hurting you, but predators, especially, can inflict a lot of damage.
The best thing you can do is to call a wildlife rehabilitator. These professionals are discussed in more detail below. Otherwise, follow these steps as recommended by the RSPCA:
- Never approach a wild animal by yourself or without safety gear
- Do not handle or transport deer, seals, boars, otters, badgers, foxes, snakes, birds of prey, swans, geese, herons, or gulls. If you’re with your own dog out walking, these animals could pose a threat to you and your pooch
- Wear gloves at all times
- Do not approach the animal if you have not had a recent rabies vaccination
- Keep the animal far away from your face
- Wash your hands and arms after you have handled the animal
- Do not take wild animals out of snares or traps by yourself
Call a wildlife rehabilitator
If a wild animal needs your help, you should call a wildlife rehabilitator. These are people whose job is to provide care to wild animals with the goal of releasing them successfully back into the wild. Wildlife rehabilitators help keep wild animals in the wild. They are not there to create pets out of the injured animals.
Every state will have its own wildlife rehabilitators. You can find the ones nearest you through a quick Google search. If you live in Washington State call the PAWS Wildlife Center. We will help connect you with great wildlife rehabilitators in your area.
Wildlife rehabilitators are expertly trained in handling injured and/or young wild animals. They will be able to best tell you what to do with the injured animal you’ve come across. It is always best to work with a wildlife rehabilitator when you see an injured wild animal.
If the animal is not threatening, put it in a suitable container to transport it to the wildlife rehabilitator. When you call the rehabilitator near you, they will give you advice about the best way to store/transport the animal.
To wrap up
No one wants to see an animal hurt or injured. It is in our nature to try and help in these situations. However, the best thing that you can do is contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. You don’t want to do more harm than good – and usually through getting an expert to an injured animal’s care quickly can be life-saving.
So, if you see an abandoned baby, injured adult, or are unsure whether the animal needs your help, make sure to contact a wildlife rehabilitator today. They can help make sure the injured animal makes it back to the wild where they belong.