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Wildlife emergency checklist

 

a Start By Assessing Whether the Wild Animal Really Needs Help


• A young wild animal that is alone is not necessarily cause for immediate alarm or rescue. Wild mothers regularly leave their offspring to go for food. Do not interfere if you see a young animal left alone unless it is obviously injured or at risk of danger, or
you have seen the mother animal dead. If you are concerned about a possible "orphan", watch from a distance for a minimum of several hours to make sure the mother is not in the area. A local rehabilitator can provide tips on how to determine if the animal needs rescue.


• Do not turn a desire to help these baby animals into kidnapping. Unnecessary rescues are a common problem with baby birds, rabbits, and fawns. Again, a wildlife rehabilitator can provide tips to help you decide if the animal needs to be rescued. If the wildlife baby is indeed orphaned or the animal is injured, call a local wildlife rehabilitator or the wildlife agency.


• Worried about baby bird? As mentioned before, the parents may just be away finding food. Young, small birds, such as robins, blue jays, finches, and sparrows may be in the nest without constant presence of a parent. If you are concerned that the parents are missing, watch carefully. In some cases, one of the parents may die and the baby birds are then fed by the remaining parent.


• If a nest with young birds has fallen down, the parents will often continue to raise the youngsters if the nest can be replaced close to its original location. If the nest was damaged, there are different ways to replace them. Some nests with young birds can be placed in a plastic berry basket or margarine tub (with holes punched in the bottom) and carefully attached back to the tree with wires or string. In other cases, other replacement methods may be needed. Check with a wildlife rehabilitator for suggestions.
It's good to get it fairly close to where the nest was originally, but it does not have to be in the exact same place. Exercise caution when replacing the nest. If the bird is cold, wet, bleeding, limp, or seems to have broken bones, it should be taken immediately to a wildlife rehabilitator. Minimize handling of the birds, but don't worry that the parents will reject them because of the smell of humans (birds actually don't smell very well).


• If a baby bird is on the ground, check to see if it has feathers. If it does not have feathers, it should not yet be on the ground. If the baby bird does not appear injured, and it is possible and safe to return it to the exact nest, it is usually okay to replace it in the nest. The parents will not abandon it because it has been touched by humans.


• Find a baby bird which is fully feathered and hopping around on the ground? It may just be learning to forage for food and fly. These young birds, called fledglings, usually just need practice, not rescue. Their parents will continue to watch over and feed them while they are on the ground. Try to keep cats, dogs, and children away so it can learn to fly, which could take up to two weeks. If the bird is obviously injured, it needs to go to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.


• Find a baby duck or goose alone? Called precocial birds, these hatch fully-feathered with their eyes open. They leave the nest hours after hatching to follow their parents. They rely on parents for warmth, supervision, and protection from predators. They cannot survive on their own. So if one is found alone, the best thing to do is to search for the parent and try to safely reunite them. Since ducks and geese are often found near water, this can be a serious safety risk. Do not attempt any reunion if there are any risks to humans, instead take the bird to a rehabilitator.

It is necessary to be sure the adult ducks or geese are the actual parents before putting ducklings or goslings on water. If it is not the true parent, three things could happen: 1. the mother adopts it anyway, 2. the parents and other babies attack it until it flees or dies, 3. they abandon it and it starves or dies of hypothermia because it is now out in the middle of the lake or hidden away in the reeds where rescuers cannot find or get to it. It should be fairly obvious which are the parents or else it could be a serious risk for the bird. If the parents are not obvious or can't be located, a wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted immediately.


• Wild parents rarely abandon their young just because a human has touched them. If the wild parents do not accept the young animal back, there could be another problem. Contact a rehabilitator for advice.


• Find an adult wild animal that seems hurt or sick? Contact a wildlife rehabilitator, the wildlife agency, or animal control officer immediately!


• If the wild animal is injured, bleeding, looks cold and/or wet, or is at risk from a domestic pet, vehicle, or something that could cause it harm, contact a rehabilitator immediately.


• Remember, there are risks in handling wild animals, even if they may appear to be young, small, or "safe". Contact a wildlife rehabilitator, the wildlife agency, or animal control officer for more information.
 


a What If I Think a Wild Animal Does Need Rescue?


• Check the list above to decide if the wild animal really does need rescue.


• Contact a wildlife rehabilitator, wildlife agency, animal control officer, or other expert for advice. They can help confirm whether the animal needs rescue or should be left alone. They can give you contact information about people who are trained and qualified to help. They can also describe risks, relevant laws, and generally helpful information. In some cases, the expert will rescue the animal.


• In many cases, it is not appropriate for a member of the public to capture and handle a wild animal. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator, wildlife agency, or animal control officer for recommendations.
 


a How Might a Wildlife Rehabilitator Rescue a Wild Animal?


• They would start by THINKING ABOUT SAFETY. They would exercise many safety precautions. They would avoid or minimize risks. They would keep children and domestic animals away from the wild animal(s). The rehabilitator may decide that in some cases that a rescue requires extra help or maybe should not be attempted. They would also consider the animal's safety and take actions to avoid any further harm to the animal.


• If a wildlife disease is suspected or there are other concerns, the rehabilitators may contact other experts for advice or help before taking action. They would not want the public involved with any capture or handling if the animal was considered high risk for causing injury or disease, or was exhibiting any symptoms of disease (i.e., rabies). They may bring in additional people, including wildlife officers, with special equipment, expertise, and licenses or permits for handling high-risk animals. They would advise the public to not pick up or handle a bat.


• Rehabilitators would wear gloves, use handling equipment, and have a container ready before approaching or capturing the animal. The container would be a little bit larger than the animal and have small air holes (if it was necessary to use a box instead of a animal carrier or cage, they would make small air holes before placing the animal in the container). The container would be of sturdy material and be able to be securely closed, even for young or unconscious animals (rehabilitators wouldn't want to take any chances on an animal reviving quickly and "escaping" in a vehicle or building).


• The rehabilitators would have a plan ready for contingencies. They would consider how to prevent further problems, such as the animal moving toward traffic, into deep water, or into an inaccessible place. They would have a plan about what to do if the animal attempts to attack. They would think about potential danger in advance since many animals can cause injury when threatened, including common animals that seem "safe" – like rabbits, squirrels, some birds, and turtles. This is especially important when considering rescuing animals that may carry the risk of serious disease (such as rabies, hanta virus, or plague), larger animals (such as herons, deer, coyotes), and predators (including owls, hawks, weasels).


• The rehabilitators would immediately transport the wild animal to the rehabilitation facility. They would keep the vehicle quiet and at a moderately warm temperature.


• The rehabilitator would emphasize the importance of not placing people at risk to rescue a wild animal.
 


a What If I Already Rescued the Wild Animal?


• Minimize handling! This reduces the risk to humans and to the animal. Exercise caution when handling any wild animal! This includes wearing gloves and avoiding any contact with the animal that could result in injury. Wild animals can injury with their teeth, beaks, claws, talons, and wings. They can also transmit diseases and parasites. Avoid handling the wild animal!


• Injured or orphaned wild animals should be kept in a secured container so they cannot harm people, be harmed by people or pets, or escape. The container should be a little bit larger than the animal and should have small air holes (if necessary, make the small air holes before placing the animal in the container). Containers of suitable materials should be securely closed, even with young or unconscious animals (too many rescuers have been surprised when an animal recovers faster than expected and then "escapes" in the car or building).


• Keep the container with the wild animal in a quiet, warm, and dark place. Injured or orphaned wild animals are often in shock, which can threaten survival. Standard treatment for shock includes quiet, warm, and dark. Keep away the container from people and pets.


• Do not feed a wild animal! Most wild animals that are admitted to rehabilitation are injured, dehydrated, or in shock. Feeding the wild animal in such conditions can cause further problems. Wrong diets or feeding techniques can harm or kill wild animals. Even giving them water can cause additional problems. If the water is hand-fed, aspiration can occur causing the animal to breathe the fluid into its lungs. If water is given in a bowl, an animal can often drown in the water depending on its age or injury. Another risk is that the animal can get into the water or spill it and once the animal is wet it can quickly become hypothermic. Plus, handling and feeding wild animals increases the risk to humans.


• Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately! Do not try to care for the animal yourself! Many people believe that they can provide appropriate care and that it would be interesting to help wildlife. Wildlife has many special needs, including diet, caging, and medical treatment. Rehabilitating wildlife also requires special permits and licenses. Contacting a rehabilitator immediately may make the difference between the wild animal's survival or death. It could also make a difference for you! If you still wonder why you should contact a rehabilitator immediately, read the next section.


• If there has been any injury from the wild animal, contact a physician immediately and get professional care! Do not delay in getting professional medical treatment for any injury related to a wildlife encounter. Hesitation or delay could have extremely serious and dangerous consequences! Many states require that the state health department be notified immediately of any wildlife bites, injuries, or disease exposures. The best way to prevent injury or exposure to health problems is to contact a wildlife rehabilitator or other wildlife professional for assistance immediately.
 


a Why Should I Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator?


• Wild animals are not like domestic animals. They need specialized care, including special capture and handling, diets, caging. Without such specialized care, wild animals often die.


• Rehabilitators have special training and knowledge to work with wildlife. They can help to prevent or resolve some wildlife problems without the animal needing to be brought into captivity. They know if, how, and when an animal needs rescue (see section above). Rehabilitators know the special dietary needs and feeding techniques for wild animals.


• Wild animals have the potential to transmit diseases and parasites to humans and other animals, such as pets. They can also inflict injury with teeth, beaks, claws, talons, legs, and wings. Rehabilitators are familiar with ways to minimize and manage risks.


• Wild animals require special supplies and facilities . Rehabilitators have special capture, handling, and feeding supplies. They also have special caging for wild animals of different ages and health conditions. They have the ability to keep wildlife separate from humans and domestic animals to meet quarantine requirements and reduce stress.


• Local, regional, and federal laws often prohibit possession of wildlife, even if you are well intentioned and plan to release the animal. Rehabilitators have the special permits and licenses that allow them to care for and then release wildlife.


• There are many injuries, health problems and diseases that wildlife may have that are difficult to notice. A wildlife rehabilitator is trained to identify subtle symptoms and is thus able to get veterinary treatment before the condition deteriorates.


• Wild animals need to be raised with their own species. This helps the animal relate to its own kind when it is recovered. Rehabilitators will be able to keep the animal with it's own species or arrange for it to be with others. If young wild animals do not learn to socialize with their own species or learn the appropriate survival skills, they may be unable to survive when released back to the wild.


• Most veterinarians have education and experience with companion animals or livestock, not wildlife. Most are unfamiliar with the specialized diets and care required for different wildlife species. Many veterinarians don't have the facilities to keep wildlife separate from domestic animals nor wildlife rehabilitation permits. Wildlife rehabilitators have the special training and knowledge, diets, facilities, and permits to care for these wild animals. A veterinarian can refer you to a wildlife rehabilitator. The rehabilitator will consult with veterinarians, experienced with wildlife, for medical treatment if the wild animals have health problems.


• If you are interested in rehabilitating wildlife, contact a trained, knowledgeable, and permitted rehabilitator. Trying to rehabilitate a wild animal without appropriate knowledge, skills, supplies, caging, and permits can place you, your family and friends, companion animals, and the wild animal at risk. Don't practice on the wild animal in need. Rather, take the wild animal to a rehabilitator, get a copy of the wildlife rehabilitation recruiting brochure and recruiting booklet (available through this website), and follow the suggestions about how to get started.
 


a How Do I Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator Nearby?


Possible contacts:
• State wildlife (or natural resource) agency
• Local humane society
• Veterinarians (especially emergency and exotic animal veterinarians)
• Local animal control agency or officer
• Law enforcement agencies: police, sheriff, or state patrol
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (for migratory bird rehabilitators)
• Cost Guard or Marine Patrol (for marine animal rehabilitators)
• Wildlife organizations: Audubon society, Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, etc.
• Local animal rescue organizations
• Stores selling feed and supplies for wild birds
 


a Tips for Preventing Human-Wildlife Conflicts and Problems


• Do not feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife is not good for them or you. Animals lose some of their "wildness" when they come to depend on artificial sources of food. It teaches them to associate food with humans and human buildings. Your neighbor might not be so understanding or forgiving. Also, animals need natural sources of food to maintain a healthy diet; many foods not in their natural diet can harm them (e.g., peanuts can cause bone problems for some species). On the other hand, wildlife benefits from having access to a clean water supply for drinking and bathing. Keep the containers clean and change water often to prevent disease.


• Feed your pet(s) indoors and refrain from leaving pet food outdoors. Feeding your pet(s) indoors ensures that no scraps will be left behind to attract wild animals. The odor remaining on an empty food dish can even attract wildlife.


• Keep domestic pets indoors or under control. Domestic dogs and cats are efficient predators and often injure or kill wildlife. Some government agencies give pet owners hefty fines if their animals chase, harm, or kill wildlife. Plus, roaming domestic pets can be targets of wild predators (loose pets can also be hit by cars or hurt by other domestic animals). "Invisible" fences are increasingly popular and may keep your animal in, but they certainly do not prevent wildlife or loose pets from entering.


• Restrict access to buildings by keeping doors or windows closed or screened. Leaving garages, storage sheds, attics, and basements open can be risky for wildlife that can damage contents or become trapped. Restrict access to these areas by keeping doors and windows screened or closed (including pet doors), particularly at night.


• Check for animal nests before cleaning the chimney or eaves or before trimming or felling trees. Cleaning, landscaping, gardening, or even mowing the lawn shouldn't have to result in displaced or injured baby birds or mammals. Check for nests first, and if someone else does your chimney cleaning or yard work for you, have them check too. Try to avoid disturbing nests. In most cases, the wildlife babies will grow up quickly and leave the nest. However, if you have concerns about this, or want to humanely encourage the mother to relocate them sooner, call a wildlife rehabilitator. After ensuring that the chimney is unoccupied, install an approved screen or cap on it to prevent further access and flying sparks.


• Some birds will fly at their reflection in windows and hurt themselves. To prevent this, a mesh pattern of vertical and horizontal tape or fabric strips or a light covering of soap (such as Bon Ami™) can be placed over the windows to alert the birds. Wonder what to do if a bird does hit the window? Bird rehabilitators often suggest cautiously placing it on some paper towels (for traction) in a paper bag or small box with a lid (with a few small holes already punched near the top) and then placing the bag or box in a quiet, dark, warm place where it can't fall (and is not extremely hot or sunny). After an hour or so, a careful peek may show that the bird has revived; at that point, the bag or box can be taken outside and opened for the bird to fly away. If the bird has not recovered, call a wildlife rehabilitator.


• Use wildlife proof garbage containers or barrels. Place garbage out the morning it is to be picked up. Wildlife can find garbage left out at night to be an easy food source. The same is true for bird feeders and BBQ grills. Keep them inside at night to avoid tempting wildlife with a midnight snack. Raiding garbage is a bad habit for wildlife and can result in the animals being destroyed.


• Don't worry if a wild mammal starts digging a den near your home. Just place a small amount of ammonia on a rag and place in the hole. Wild animals generally don't want to move into a "smelly" neighborhood and decide to move on. Killing the wild animal rarely solves the problem since another animal will move into the abandoned habitat; plus, if poison is used, non-target animals (e.g., pets and raptors) are often injured by, or die from secondary poisoning.


• Has a hole in the attic or roof become a door? Occasionally people find a hole in the attic that has allowed raccoons or squirrels to take up residence. Make the attic a less desirable residence: place some rags with ammonia in strategic places; put a loud radio turned on talk or heavy rock music in the attic; keep the lights bright. After a couple of days of this, at a time when the wild resident is out, "a one-way door" can be placed over the hole. It is critical to first check to make sure all babies are out before placing a one-way door. Wildlife rehabilitators can provide information on when different species have their young. See specific instructions for making the one-way door in Wild Neighbors (Hadidian, et al; Fulcrum Publishing). Again, poisoning or live-trapping and relocating rarely solves the problem for the reasons mentioned above.


• Dispose of all litter properly. Any string more than an inch long, including fishing line, should be picked up and disposed of properly. Cut up plastic 6-pack holders and plastic containers that wildlife can get caught in.


• Do not release balloons outside. Animals can choke on the balloon or get tangled in the string.


• Protect wildlife habitat. Avoid or minimize activities that harm wildlife habitat. Plant and encourage a variety of native vegetation. This reduces the risk of the new plants being eaten by wildlife (planting non-native plants is like offering a gourmet meal to wildlife). Placing wire mesh around new trees or spraying with homemade solutions (such as 1 egg white to 1 gallon water) may discourage nibbling, as do commercial repellants (such as Deer Off™) which are available at nurseries. Some homeowners have had some success with these products, but there are no guarantees, so it is often best just to plant native species and enjoy wildlife watching.


• Remember that woodpeckers, nuthatches, and flickers make their nests in dead wood. Since people have often removed many of the dead trees, these birds improvise by using buildings (often a large source of dead wood). They may be discouraged by hanging metallic strips or plastic bread bags that twist in the wind near the selected site. Another alternative is to place the appropriately sized birdhouse over the proposed "excavation site" and invite them to join the neighborhood. Any of these techniques should be used before eggs are laid. Note: if there are many small holes instead of a potential nest hole, the birds may be feeding on insects infesting the structure - a different problem!


• Concerned about beavers? The simplest way to avoid damage to the trees is to get some heavy gauge wire mesh (4' high with 2"x4" mesh squares) and wrap it around the tree, securing the two ends with wire so it is a freestanding cylinder. If you are concerned about beaver dams, there are some effective and humane techniques available, such as the "beaver baffler". Destroying beavers or their dams rarely solves the problem. If you have questions about beavers, the books Wild Neighbors (Hadidian) and Beavers: A Wildlife Handbook (Long) have more suggestions.


• Want to hire services to help with wildlife solutions, such as the one-way door or similar exclusion methods? Ask your local rehabilitator to identify and refer you to reputable and effective services that only use humane, non-lethal techniques. Be aware that some companies and individuals advertising "wildlife removal services" may use inhumane and lethal methods (ask your local rehabilitator even if the advertisements say the company is humane); such animal removal companies also may create orphan wildlife by destroying or relocating the mother animal.


• If you have more questions about wildlife problems, ask your local rehabilitators for help. The books Wild Neighbors (Hadidian) and Living with Wildlife (Stump) also offer excellent suggestions and are available at many bookstores.


• Check with local and state government agencies (law enforcement, animal control, etc.) for specific ordinances and regulations pertaining to wildlife. Some areas and agencies have strict policies about and penalties for "harassing" wildlife.

 

 

Rescue or kidnap?

Many young wild animals that are found do not need rescue.  Sometimes the mother animal is away feeding. Other times, an animal may have wandering from or fallen from the nest.  Most mammal mothers will retrieve their young.  For birds, sometimes young birds on the ground are just fledging.  Always assess whether a rescue is really needed!

If you do rescue an animal, contact a rehabilitator in your area immediately for advice and consultation.  Do not attempt to feed the animal or give it water.  Keep it in a warm, quiet and dark place. The highest chance of success for the animal is to get it to someone with the proper training, caging and diet for the animal.


 

 

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