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San Diego Humane Society

What Should I Do if I Find an Injured Wild Animal?

Follow these basic rules and check below for special notes on certain animals, and if you’ve found a baby, either injured or orphaned, check our about baby-specific tips:

  1. Pick it up using a towel, cloth or gloves.
  2. Put it in an escape-proof box or container with air holes and a towel on the bottom.
  3. Keep in a quiet place away from children or other animals, and cover with a towel to keep dark if necessary.
  4. Do not attempt to feed or give water.
  5. Minimize handling to help animals be returned to their environment when they are ready.
  6. Provide a low heat source, such as a heating pad under half the box and set on low.
  7. Bring the animal into a licensed rehabber such as Project Wildlife as soon as possible. Here is a list of drop-off locations.
Rescue notes about certain animals:

Large birds: Remember, safety is the first priority. Have a box ready, and put on the thickest pair of gloves you have to give protection if a bird tries to bite or talon you. If the bird is not standing, it is in very bad shape and should not pose much of a threat. If the bird is standing, approach slowly, and then quickly cover the bird with the towel or blanket. You will have a few seconds to pick up the bird while it cannot see to strike out or escape. Hold the bird across the shoulders and body restraining the wings with your hands. ALWAYS hold the bird so the head is facing away from you. Try to place the bird in the box with its feet down or on its side, not on its back, and quickly close the box. Give the bird a short time to get situated and stand upright. If you fear the bird or are unsuccessful in your efforts to contain it, toss a laundry basket over the bird so that it cannot fly out of reach or run away. Then watch the bird and keep domestic pets away until someone can pick it up. Call animal control.

Raptors: Any raptor that remains on the ground is obviously debilitated in some way, but never forget that even a grounded raptor is a dangerous animal.

Seabirds: Cormorants, herons, egrets, loon, grebes and gulls can inflict serious injuries with their beaks. These species defend themselves by stabbing or biting with their beaks and aim at your face and eyes. Birds that cannot stand should have a foam pad, pillow or crumpled newspaper under the towel to provide a cushioning effect. If the bird starts open-mouthed breathing it may be too hot. Reduce heat if this occurs.

Adult squirrels: If the squirrel is alert, do not attempt to handle it. Cover it with a cardboard box with air holes where it is lying (or gently nudge it out of harm's way with the end of a broom). Weight the box down with a rock or something heavy, and call a rehabilitator. If the squirrel is not very alert or cannot move, attempt to nudge it into a box, bucket or carrier with the end of a broom, piece of cardboard or other similar object. Do not handle with your bare hands! Cover the container snugly (make sure there are air holes) and bring to a rehabilitator. 

Baby Hummingbirds: Baby hummingbirds have a complex diet. It is best to be on nature’s diet provided by their mothers. So please wait at least 2 hours to be sure the mother is not feeding the babies before you move them to a licensed rehabilitation center like Project Wildlife.

If you do see that the mother isn’t present, you can bring the babies into a licensed rehabilitator in their nest or line a plastic margarine cup or egg carton with dry tissue, paper towels, or a tight-knit fabric like a velour towel. Keep the baby warm to an outside temperature of 85 to 90 degrees (this is essential) by placing it under a gooseneck lamp about 5 inches away from the bulb.

Do not overheat the bird. If it starts open-mouth breathing or its neck is outstretched, it is too hot.

Animals should be transferred to a licensed rehabber as soon as possible so that they can be started on a properly balanced diet - and be given medical attention.

Hummingbird tip: Do not place hummingbird feeders near a window. The feeder is best placed far enough away from the window that there is not a clear reflection. The best location is at least two feet from the window and at six feet above the ground.

Animals you should NOT attempt to rescue:

Coyotes, Bobcats and Mountain Lions: Please contact Fund for Animals for assistance if you have found an injured, orphaned, or sick predator. Project Wildlife does not work with these species.

Deer/Fawns: Check a lone fawn 3-4 hours later, because it may not be orphaned. For a sick or injured deer, call San Diego Fawn Rescue (858-549-4149 or 858-603-0170) or Fish and Game (760-535-5735) and keep an eye on the animal until an agent or animal control officer arrives. Project Wildlife does not work with these animals.

Raccoons:  They can carry rabies and baylisascaris worms, both of which are contagious to you, and distemper, which can be transmitted to your pets. The best thing to do is contact animal control and keep an eye on the animal until an officer arrives. 

Skunks: This vector species is illegal to possess without a special permit in California and most states. Anyone who gets bitten while handling a skunk should notify their physician and public health department within 24 hours, and the skunk should held for testing and not handled. Any skunk with paralysis, unsteadiness, discharges from nose and eyes or unusual behavior may be suffering from distemper, encephalitis, rabies or other diseases. Contact your local department of animal control for advice about an injured and sick skunk.

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