Gone are the days when wildlife encounters were sporadic. As cities and human population have increased in size and demographic range, wildlife encounters have also increased all over the world. The truth is that we share a habitat and sometimes humans actions can be detrimental to those animals that live on this planet with us. The Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) is one of many organizations that has worked to educate the general public about wildlife and has rescued thousands of animals. As a member of the board, I quickly learned that even well-intentioned people can sadly make decisions that will further distress or even lead to the death of an animal. Here are a few tips so you know what do to next time you may see wildlife in your neighborhood that you think needs help.

Before You Run Into Rescue Mode…

Be CERTAIN the animal is injured or orphaned. Moms and dads are just as protective of their babies as we are with our own.  They are trying to keep them safe. Watch and wait before taking any action. With species such as deer and rabbits, the mother may be nearby.  Mothers leave these babies for up to 12 hours between feedings. If it is a feathered young bird hopping on the ground, leave it alone…it is a fledgling. Mom is still watching out for it while it learns to fly. Do not kidnap it!   If a bird has fallen out of a nest and you can get it to the nest, pick up the bird carefully and put it in the nest. It is a myth that human scent will deter parents from feeding their young.  Go inside and leave the nest alone, mom and dad will only come around when they feel they are not leading predators to the nest.

If a bird hits a window, you need to wait two hours to determine if it needs help.  It may only be stunned, so put it in a box and wait for two hours.  At the end of that time, more often than not it will fly away.  If not, call the WRL hotline or your local shelter. Always handle birds and baby mammals with gloves and a thick towel or T-shirt (for birds) — this is for both your and their protection. Placing a towel over a bird will calm it, but the little claws will get tangled in the toweling and may break its bones. Birds and mammals may carry disease or parasites which can be transmitted to humans, but these handling techniques may prevent that. Remember, you are a large predator to these creatures — the baby is scared that you may eat it! If you see a baby squirrel, place it under a tree and wait at least 20 minutes. Mom is looking for the baby!  You need to go

Remember, you are a large predator to these creatures — the baby is scared that you may eat it! If you see a baby squirrel, place it under a tree and wait at least 20 minutes. Mom is looking for the baby!  You need to go in your house and get away from it so as to give mom the opportunity to retrieve her baby and carry it to the nest. Never attempt to capture an adult sick or injured mammal! Instead, search here for the proper contact number.

Quiet, Darkness and Warmth Are Key

Photographer thought this tiny baby squirrel was dead until he saw him twitch, see what he did next

Paul Williams/Flickr


1. Provide a quiet area to your temporary rescue, make sure that is away from predators (even your own pets are considered predators!) The barking of a dog can send an animal into stress almost immediately

2. Make sure that their box or cage is dark, you can keep the animal in a box, crate or a covered container as long as you provide plenty of air holes. Add a T-shirt so that your guest can nestle and hide

3. Provide some warmth for orphaned babies or animals in shock, eyes-closed babies cannot thermo-regulate (can’t keep their body at a constant temperature) and will need an external heat source. To create your heating source, fill a small sock with uncooked rice and microwave only to 100 degrees (warm to your touch – you hold it for 30 sec); or a water bottle/zip-lock bag/glove filled with hot water wrapped in a towel will do the trick too; double wrap the water in case of leaks, it will chill an animal almost instantaneously.

Call Your Local Rescue

By this time you have the situation temporarily under control, now you can call your local rescue and arrange a drop off.  In order to rehabilitate wildlife a person must show the proper credentials, do not keep your guest! It is illegal to keep wildlife in many states. While you wait for help, use your eyes to look over the baby, do not attempt care or handle them. Do you see parasites?  If so, alert the hotline staff for guidance. If you see clumps of white or yellow granules or sawdust like particles – these are fly eggs or maggots. They eat live flesh and can kill an animal within hours. Never give water or food to the animal you save; you need to let the rehabilitator do that. Never hydrate an unconscious animal, it could also lead to death. For birds and small mammals, do not give them food or water. Instead, get to a rehabilitator immediately. You will not know the species, and the wrong food could kill it and over hydrating may drown the baby.

You can help support the efforts of Wildlife Rescue League by visiting the website, here.

Image source: Nicholas Alexiy Moran