Wildlives Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre

What to do if you find a wild animal that needs help

Does it really need help?

ALL animals will need direct and immediate help in the following circumstances:
When they have been attacked by a cat - Cats have poison in their teeth and claws, so that if an animal sustains even the tiniest scratch from a cat, it may die from blood poisoning. It is therefore absolutely essential that a creature rescued from a cat is taken into professional care, so that it can be placed on a course of antibiotics.
Where they have become tangled up in something - wire, netting, fishing tackle, or anything else. DO NOT attempt to remove the entanglement - you may end up doing more harm than good. Contain the animal where possible, or simply keep an eye on it whilst you seek help.
Where there are obvious injuries - blood, broken limbs, etc.
Where they are crawling with maggots, or attracting flies.
Where they are completely collapsed, and show no reaction to your approach
In addition to this, there are certain particular cases, where intervention may be required:
Hedgehogs out in the daylight. Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal. If you see a hedgehog out in the daylight, it needs professional help.
Underweight hedgehogs in October. Hedgehogs will start going into hibernation in winter, as it gets colder and becomes more difficult for them to find food. In order to survive the long sleep, they will need to weigh at least 600g. Unfortunately, some babies are born too late in the year to gain sufficient weight for hibernation. Other adult, hedgehogs, may have fallen on hard times and become too thin. If such tiny animals are left to hibernate, they will never wake up. If you see a small hedgehog after October therefore, it will need assistance.
Rabbits with myxamatosis. Myxamatosis is a painful and debilitating disease in rabbits. Rabbits afflicted with this disease may be seen sitting in the open, barely moving, with red, swollen eyes. There is no cure for myxamatosis; sadly, we can only euthanase them to relieve their suffering. Where the disease is more advanced, you will be able to walk right up to the rabbit and pick it up. Seek immediate professional help.
Oiled birds. During the autumn and winter months, seabirds often get caught up in oil slicks, and then washed ashore. If they do not receive immediate profession help, they will die a slow and painful death - as the caustic oil attacks not only their skin and feathers, but also their internal organs where they have tried to preen themselves and ingested it.
You should never try to clean an oiled bird yourself - for two main reasons. Firstly, dealing with the external contamination involves more than just removing the oil. Once the bird is clean, there is a long rehabilitation period to allow the bird to regain its waterproofing. This requires purpose-built facilities. If the waterproofing is not regained, the bird will simply drown when it is released.
Secondly, once oiled birds have been taken into care, the bigger killer is not the oil that coats the outside of the bird, but the associated poisoning. Oiled birds therefore require immediate help from those who are able to deal with both the internal and external pollution.
Fishing tackle. Water birds often become entangled in discarded fishing line, or swallow fish hooks. Where possible, contain the bird while you seek professional help. NEVER attempt to remove the fishing tackle yourself - you could end up making the problem worse.

Remember: if you think a wild animal needs help,
always phone Wildlives and ask.
01206 251174
It can be difficult to tell whether babies have in fact been prematurely abandoned by their parents and, unfortunately, Wildlives has often had to admit baby birds and animals which people have mistakenly thought to be orphaned, and brought to Wildlives to be cared for. By the time they arrive at Wildlives, it is usually too late to return them to where they were found. Very young wild animals will ALWAYS be better off being cared for by their natural parents, so it is important - if you find what you believe to be an orphaned animal - that you make absolutely sure of this before you intervene.
The best way to do this is, firstly to check to see if the animal is in any immediate danger. If its location is dangerous, pick it up and move it a short distance out of harm's way, before retreating again. Secondly, you should leave it for an hour or so, and then return to check on it. Usually, in such situations, the mother will be nearby and will come back to it if you go away. When you return, she will probably have retrieved her offspring.
If you accidentally uncover a hedgehog nest with babies, use gloves to cover them up again, as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. DO NOT touch them. Your smell may cause the mother to abandon the hoglets or even to eat them. If you suspect that they have been abandoned, leave them for an hour and then go back and, very quietly, check to see if the mother has returned. If she has not, you should seek professional help.
Often, young birds will be seen hopping around in the spring and summer. These are usually fledgelings that have grown their first feathers and left the nest, although their mothers may still be feeding them, and they may not yet be able to fly properly. They are however, very mobile, and will be able to escape most dangers. If you are a cat owner, you could keep your cat indoors for a couple of days. By that time, these little birds will probably have learned to fly, and will have a better chance of escaping the cat - which is one of the major predators of young birds.
However, you might also see unfledged birds about - tiny little birds that are bald or still fluffy with down. These may be unable to fend for themselves, and if they can be approached and picked up easily, will require professional assistance.
Fox Cubs
When a vixen is disturbed, she may move her cubs, one at a time, to a new earth. Sometimes, she might drop one en route, but she will come back for it. If you find a fox cub alone that is not obviously injured, move it out of immediate physical danger and check again after an hour. By this time, its mother will probably have reclaimed it. If you do intervene, handle the cub as little as possible, and take careful note of where you found it before calling for assistance. Also see
Fawns often stay in some quiet place, hidden by the undergrowth, while their mother is away feeding. She will return in due course to feed her baby, so provided it is uninjured and not in immediate physical danger, you should not intervene.
Deer are very resilient in the wild, but in captivity are nervous and exceedingly prone to stress. If therefore, the fawn is injured, or you know that something has happened to the mother, it is vital that you remain quiet and handle it as little as possible. You should seek professional help immediately.
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