I volunteer at a local wildlife hospital and am frequently amazed at how many compassionate people there are in the world, caring so much about other creatures they’re willing to pause their lives in order to help an injured animal.
People from all walks of life come into the hospital with the trademark cardboard box covered in a towel. Or specialist ambulance drivers pick the animals up from vets across the city, where people have taken them.
So if you haven’t experienced it before, what should you do if you find an injured animal?
Let me start by reiterating that I’m a volunteer – not an expert or trained professional. These tips are merely what I’ve picked up from a couple of years of exposure.
A baby bird
This is one animal that is often needlessly brought into the hospital by well-meaning people, thinking a baby bird on the ground has been abandoned and needs to be cared for.
Most often if a baby bird has fallen from a nest and isn’t yet able to fly, the parents will stay around to help – but they may not be immediately obvious to an onlooker.
Keep an eye on the baby, but try to wait at least a few hours before intervening – you may otherwise take a baby from its parents that didn’t need rescuing. It’s not easy – but the bird often has a better chance of survival if its parents are allowed to come back to it. Of course, if there is any threat – other animals, wild weather or anything that threatens the bird – gather it up, keep it warm and take it to a professional.
It’s not a bird…
If it’s not a baby bird, then consider whether the animal is dangerous.
If it’s a poisonous snake, for example, there are professionals you can call to come and manage the situation. Often the RSPCA is your best bet (in Qld, Australia the number is 1300 ANIMAL). You could also check your local directory or newspaper (they’re often hard to find online!) or check some of the below websites I found from a quick search (I haven’t used any of these so it’s not an endorsement!).
Don’t handle a dangerous animal!
If you do need to pick it up, even if it’s not traditionally dangerous, still consider your safety. Injured animals are obviously often in pain and won’t be happy about you coming close, despite your best intentions!
Wear hardware gloves if you can, and use thick towels to handle the animal. Move it into a box big enough to fit it and the towel. And of course, be as gentle as possible.
Close the box and put a towel over the top to block the strange sights around it. This will help keep it calm.
From here you can do one of the following:
– take it to your local wildlife hospital directly (if they accept animals from the public)
– call your local wildlife hospital to send an animal ambulance to pick it up
– take it to your local vet, who will assess the animal and send it to a wildlife hospital if necessary
I think it’s a beautiful thing that people go out of their way to care for wild animals – after all, it’s often human actions that have led to the injury, such as being hit by a car, cutting down a tree, or an unrestrained/ untrained dog. For what it’s worth, if you’ve done something to help an injured or distressed animal, I think you’re amazing.
So in summary,
- Reconsider the need to rescue a baby bird – wait a few hours before intervening
- Otherwise, assess whether the animal is dangerous/ poisonous – if so, call a local expert to come and handle the animal
- If you need to touch an injured animal, wear proper hardware gloves
- Use thick towels to protect yourself
- Get a box big enough to fit the animal and the towel
- Don’t feed or water the animal
- Take it to a hospital or vet, or call your wildlife hospital to come and get it
- Congratulate yourself for being a caring, compassionate, kind human!