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Have you ever seen a hurt bird at the side of the road and wondered how you can help him? Did Whiskers bring in a mouse and you have no idea what you can do to help the little guy? We often pride ourselves on loving nature but when it comes to helping a wounded or sick wild animal, many of us don’t know where to start or how we can improve their chances of survival. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to bring them to a vet or wildlife rescue centre, but what if it’s the middle of the night, or you can’t get transport right away? It is important to know how to handle them and keep them calm – a frightened animal can hurt both himself and you, especially if he is in pain. Here are four tips for helping injured wildlife.

1. Assess the Situation and Use Common Sense

Sounds obvious, right? But so many people run headlong into panic mode when they find an animal they deem to be injured, orphaned, or otherwise in need of human intervention. The first thing you should do when finding an animal you suspect has been hurt is to gauge the severity of their wounds and decide whether they need you to step in or not. A fox cub who has got into a scrap with a cat and left with a slight scratch on his nose isn’t likely to need emergency rescuing – and chasing him down and grappling him into a crush cage isn’t going to be fun for either of you.

But that possum who is panting heavily at the side of the road, looking disorientated, and bleeding from the nostrils? That is your time to shine.

2.  Take Them to Your Nearest Veterinary Practice or, Ideally, a Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

These people are pros when it comes to healing injured animals, and can administer life-saving antibiotics, pain relief, and other treatments. Never try to keep the animal and treat him yourself unless you cannot get him help immediately due to the time of night you found him, or cannot otherwise get transport to the nearest clinic or hospital. Keeping a wounded animal overnight, for example, because you want to show your kids when they wake up is not only silly, but can cause serious complications such as a drop in body temperature or a serious infection, that can mean no amount of treatment will save him.

But what can you do if you have to step in yourself?

3. If You Are Able to Catch the Animal, Place Them Into a Well-Ventilated Box Lined With Towels or Newspaper

These supplies can even be stored in the trunk of your car if you want to be more prepared. A cat carrier or even just a sturdy box with several lines of holes punched in for ventilation can be used. For larger animals, a crate is useful for keeping the animal contained and allowing professionals to approach safely.

Line the box with old towels – you want them to be clean, but be prepared for blood or dirt to get on them – and keep a pair of gloves nearby to protect yourself from injury or germs when handling the animal. Draping an extra towel over the front of the carrier will also help keep the animal calm.

4.  Do Not Feed the Animal

This might sound detrimental to their health, but giving an injured animal food can actually make matters worse. Not only could the type of food provided be bad for them, but an animal in shock or with internal injuries could die if he eats and does not receive a check-up first to make sure it is safe for him in his current state. If he needs surgery, a full stomach can also complicate things. Never attempt to force feed an animal – and this goes for water too – as this can also result in suffocation, drowning, or similar scenarios that are dangerous and in some cases fatal for the animal you are trying to help.

Getting the Animal Safely to a Professional

Any injured animal you might find will be lucky to have you as their rescuer if you get clued up on their care. Being prepared and knowing just what to do in an emergency situation can mean the difference between life and death, but if you follow these tips you give your little friend a fighting chance of recovery and survival.

Remember, you should always try to contact a professional before stepping in, check out these hotlines for some that might help.

Lead image source: Bluenose Canoehead/Flickr