First – Does This Animal Actually Need Help?
Every year, well-intentioned humans “rescue” hundreds of wild animals – especially babies – which were actually doing just fine!
Being captured and relocated is very stressful even for healthy wildlife, so…
Before you pick up an animal, take a minute to observe:
1. What kind of animal is it?
2. Where is it currently located?
3. What is it doing?
4. What appears to be wrong with it?
5. Did you see it get injured or fall from a nest?
6. Is it in immediate danger (e.g., injured on a busy road)?
Once you’ve answered these questions, keep reading…
Yes, may need help!
- Visibly bleeding or limping
- Cannot run/fly away when you approach
- Tangled up (in fishing line, power cables, etc.)
- Very young, with no parents in sight
Time to step in! Call us at (541) 485-1320 to speak with staff.
No, probably fine
- Flying or walking normally
- Runs/flies away without difficulty when you approach
- Not visibly impaired
- A fawn alone (read more here)
- A very small opossum alone – Virginia opossums leave their parents at only 5 months old!
This osprey nestling is just a few days old, far too young to be out of the nest.
This adult crow is alert and walking around, and a common sight in urban areas – no need for alarm!
Okay, it looks like this animal could use a hand. Now what?
- CALL a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately and follow their instructions. (To find the nearest wildlife hospital, call your local Humane Society, veterinarian, or state wildlife agency such as the OR Dept. of Fish & Wildlife or Dept. of Natural Resources).
- Approach the animal with caution. Remember, it does not know you are trying to help and will likely try to escape.
- CONTAIN the animal in a clean, dry, covered box. Line the box with newspaper or an old towel (no holes or stringy edges). This will absorb any fluids and give the animal better footing.
- PROTECT the animal in a quiet, dark place, away from family or pets, preferably at a warm temperature (80°-90°). (Ways to keep animals gently warm: Adding a heat pack wrapped in a towel, placing half the box on a heating pad set to low, storing animal in a warm room. Be careful not to overheat animals in hot weather, especially birds!)
- Resist the urge to peek in the box! This only adds to the animal’s stress.
- TRANSPORT the animal to a rehabilitation center ASAP! Don’t wait a couple of days or a week until it is convenient. If you aren’t available to transport right away, enlist a friend to help!
- Offer food or fluids. This can kill the animal!
- Keep the animal any longer than is absolutely necessary. Get it to a wildlife hospital!
- Handle the animal after it is safely contained.
- Try to administer medical treatment (applying tourniquets, immobilizing fractures, etc.).
What is shock?
Shock occurs when not enough oxygen is being delivered to an organism’s tissues, usually because of insufficient blood flow. It is a common side effect of major physical trauma and can result in major organ failure or death if not treated promptly.
Symptoms of shock in animals
A wild animal that is content to sit on your finger or in your hand is not being friendly; it is usually in shock and/or paralyzed with fear. Other signs of shock may include rapid breathing, vomiting, shivering, dilated pupils, and skin that is cold to the touch.
Minimizing effects of shock
Eliminating unnecessary stressors is the single best thing you, as a rescuer, can do to help reduce shock in a wild animal. Handling, noise, and cold temperatures all contribute to an animal’s stress. Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet environment until you can safely transport it to a rehabilitation facility.
BE AWARE of environmental hazards when approaching an injured wild animal – traffic, uneven ground, live wires, etc. You don’t want to get yourself hurt while helping another!
APPROACH WITH CAUTION. Remember, the animal does not know you are trying to help it and may try to escape or defend itself. Take your time and watch the animal’s behavior closely. Often, trying to hurry a rescue only makes the rescue more difficult.
REMOVE ANIMALS FROM THE ROAD. If you find an animal that has been hit by a car, even if it is already dead, your first step should be to carefully remove it from the road. A roadkill carcass can cause traffic accidents or attract scavenger animals which are then struck by cars themselves.
MINIMIZE DIRECT PHYSICAL CONTACT with the animal – use gloves if you have them. If the animal is on the ground, toss a jacket or blanket over it and use this to gather it up. This will immobilize the animal, remove visual stressors, and help protect you from being scratched or bitten.
Note: Please do not risk your safety by trying to handle adult raccoons, herons, or large raptors. These are powerful animals that can cause serious injury without proper training and protective gear. Call your local rehabilitation center for assistance!
Capturing and transporting injured animals is not a process to be taken lightly. If you are uncertain of your ability to safely contain an animal, it is always best to call a rehabilitation facility first.
That said, sometimes you might find an animal hurt and be the only one available to help, especially in a remote location or at night. For these occasions, it may be useful to keep a few basic supplies in your car, including:
- Lightweight box or crate with lid (many pet stores sell inexpensive folding carriers made from corrugated cardboard or plastic that can be stored flat)
- Old sheets or towels
- Sturdy gloves
- Latex gloves
- Plug-in heating pad (with adapter for car if needed)
- Phone numbers for your local wildlife hospital, animal control department, animal shelter, and game agency