Wildlife: Finding sick or injured animals
We are very happy to provide free emergency treatment for wildlife. Unfortunately we do not have the specialist facilities or equipment to hospitalise and provide ongoing treatment for wildlife. It is often not possible to spare nurses to transport injured wildlife to appropriate rescue centres for continued treatment and rehabilitation. We therefore would be grateful if you would be kind enough to transfer the animal to one of the centres below after we have examined the animal and provided the initial treatment.
The Wildlife Aid Foundation, Randalls Farmhouse, Randalls Road, Leatherhead, KT22 0AL, Phone: 09061 800132 (call charged at 50p/min to help with charity funding)
Riverside Animal Centre, Beddington Park, Church Road, Wallington, SM6 7NS, Phone: 020 8647 6230
If the orphan is obviously sick or injured, they will need help, but there are many times that we really should not intervene.The decision on whether to treat or to euthanase a wild animal is based not only on whether the condition is treatable but also on whether the animal will be able to make a full recovery and be able to fend for itself in the wild. There are many conditions that, though treatable in a pet, would prevent a wild animal from competing and acquiring food. If ever you are in any doubt at all about whether or not to intervene with a wild orphan, contact The Wildlife Aid Foundation or The London Wildcare Trust.
What to do if you think a wild animal is sick or injured:
1. Leave it alone and watch it….
Many wild animals that are brought in are neither sick nor injured. Young birds for example that have just left in the nest may look ill and will sit under bushes for 1-2 wks while learning to fly while the parents continue to feed them.
2. I still think the animal is ill or injured…..
If after observing it for some time you think that it is limping, has an obvious wound, or is very sleepy or very thin, it may need veterinary attention.
CARE !!!!!!!!! Many wild injured animals will bite when corned or threatened. Large predators like foxes and badgers can obviously cause very nasty injuries but you would be surprised how painful a mouse or a squirrel bite can be. If it is not a small garden bird you should phone the RSPCA for advice 0870 5555 999. A strong cardboard box that can be closed securely will usually suffice. Make numerous small air holes in the top by stabbing it with a sharp pencil.
4. I have caught the animal now what should I do?
If after catching the animal you no longer think it is sick or injured, just release it. If you do not think it is safe to do so then please take it to one of the centres above. If it is injured, phone the RSPCA on 0870 5555 999. They will either direct you to one of their centres or they will ask you to bring it to us. Ask for an incident number from them to give to us when you bring it in.
If you find an orphan and you are advised to bring them in, here are some very important things to remember (thanks to Wildlife Aid for the following information):
- Cover them with a fleece or blanket to help reduce their stress.
- Keep them warm. You can do this by using a covered hot water bottle or microwaving a sock filled with uncooked dry rice until it is warm.
- Put the baby somewhere quiet, dark and warm whilst you seek help. Wild animals are not calmed by us talking to them or stroking them.
- Never attempt to feed the baby without getting specific advice first. Please never feed with cow’s milk. Most orphan mammals cannot digest this at all and it can even kill them- you would be amazed at how many orphans are brought in to us every year that people have attempted to feed cow’s milk to, even baby birds!!!
If (and only if) you cannot get the baby to your local wildlife centre immediately, there are some things you can still do to help:
Once the baby is warm you can try to give it some fluids, following this recipe:
A homemade rehydration solution can be made by mixing:¼ teaspoon salt + ¼ tablespoon of sugar + 1 mug of warm water (pre-boiled from your kettle and allowed to cool to body temperature).
You can use a small syringe or pipette to feed the baby. If you don’t have anything like this handy you can just drip tiny drops of the solution into the baby’s mouth. You must try to feed the baby very carefully, with great care, very slowly, as babies can inhale the fluid easily and get pneumonia and die.
Only very small amounts, little and often, are needed and please only use this homemade solution until you can get the baby in to us, preferably as soon as you can (between 9am and 8pm). We will then start feeding them the correct food, depending on their species.
Here is some species specific information, but please do remember if you are in any doubt about whether or not to intervene, call us for advice.
Tree cut down with bird nest in it
If you have been pruning in your garden and accidently cut down a nest, please see if there is any way you can safely wedge the nest into a high part of a neighbouring tree to give the parents a chance to return. The parents will hear the babies and hopefully continue to feed them in this new location. If, after 1 hour of monitoring from a distance, you do not see the parents, then the babies will need to come in to the hospital, before they get too cold or hungry.
Naked baby birds on the ground
If the baby is warm, they can often be placed back in their nest if it can be located. If no nest is visible or the baby is really cold, please keep it warm and quiet and take it in to your local wildlife centre as soon as possible for feeding. We recommend not trying to feed or give it drink, because it is very easy to choke or drown baby birds if you are not experienced at feeding them.
Baby bird with feathers on the ground
Young birds will leave the nest when they are mostly feathered to give them space out of the nest to build their wing muscles up and learn to fly. They and are looked after on the ground by their parents for several days, until they can fly properly. For smaller birds, this is usually only a matter of hours, but for larger birds (such as Crows and Jackdaw) this process takes much longer, even up to a week sometimes.
If you are very worried, you can try lifting the bird up to as high a branch as you can reach and observe it from a distance, or try an open cardboard box wedged into a tree or hung from a washing line, especially if cats are prowling and you are worried! If the cat is your own cat, the best advice we can give is to keep your cat in until the baby has moved on.
Ducks usually have their young away from water, sometimes quite a long way away, and often in what seem to be inappropriate places:in back gardens, up trees and on balconies or roofs. Once the ducklings are a few days old the mother will then try to lead them back to the water. If this journey is impossible, due to roads or other obstacles, she may need assistance. Try not to interfere without calling for advice, as often the mother will get spooked and abandon the babies, so we will need to give advice specific to the circumstances for each time this happens.
If there is no sign of the mother, very young ducklings will certainly need help. They cannot maintain their own body temperature without huddling up to their mother. If you are really sure that the mother duck has definitely gone, then call us or another centre for advice. Duckling rescues are very tricky as they will dive under the water and hide silently in undergrowth, so it can make finding them very difficult if they become spooked. We advise to never attempt a duck or duckling rescue without calling us first.
Adult deer will often leave their babies hidden in undergrowth for anything up to eight hours at a time. These babies are frequently picked up in error. Please monitor from a fairly large distance to see if the mother returns. A fawn is definitely in trouble if it is lying on its side and unable to stand, so in these cases help must be sought immediately.
Fox cubs do not look at all like foxes when they are very young, they are dark brown and look very much like small kittens or puppies. Fox cubs are often moved about by their mothers to different safe areas, especially if their den has been disturbed. Sometimes the mother will also leave them alone while she goes off to hunt and feed. Don’t touch fox cubs without seeking advice first, as the mother could still return and the smell of humans may cause her to abandon them.
If the cub is restless and distressed it may have wandered away from its den in search of its mother because it is hungry. We will usually advise to monitor them until dusk, when the vixen should hopefully come back. Cubs are much more active as they get older and you may frequently see them playing alone in your garden, this is normal behaviour, so do not worry. Unless of course the cub is continually crying and distressed or the cub is actually physically injured, in these cases we will need to intervene.
If you find a dead badger on the road at this time of year, as sad as it is, we do recommend checking to see if they are a female with milk. If you are definitely sure that the badger is dead, turn it over onto its back and check the nipples. If there is milk, or the nipples are large, please call for advice! There could be starving cubs in the area and local badger groups may be able to help to locate a sett.
Finding a very small badger cub- the size of a cat or smaller- is very unusual and usually means there is a serious problem. Cubs this size don’t normally stray far from mum and the sett. If the cub is in danger, distressed or injured please don’t try to pick them up as they have a very nasty bite, even when that small. Always call The Wildlife Aid Foundation or another centre for advice, first.
Hare and Rabbits
Hare hide their nests in plain sight, often putting them in the open; for example, in the middle of the lawn, or in a patch of long grass. Hare are very similar to deer, in that the mother will often leave her young for very long periods of time. Many of these babies are not abandoned when they are brought in to us.
If you find a nest of baby rabbits, in most cases you should leave them where you found them. Wild rabbits do not need human help, unless the mother rabbit has been killed. Do not handle them unless absolutely necessary. If you are concerned that the mother has abandoned the babies, try taking two twigs and laying them in an "X" over the nest. When the mother rabbit comes to feed them, she will disturb the twigs, so you will see that she has visited.
Sadly, hand rearing Hare and Rabbits is very difficult, and many of them do not make it, so it is far better to leave them where they are, unless you are totally sure that the mother is dead.
If you disturb a nest of hedgehogs, please try not to handle the babies. It is better to wait and see if the mother returns to the nest. If a mother hog thinks her babies are threatened where they are, she may try to move them elsewhere. If, after several hours, the mother has still not returned, contact your local rescue centre who will tell you what to do next.
If you find a lone young hog out of its nest and it still has its eyes closed, it almost definitely needs help. Please keep it warm and bring it in as soon as you can. Any young hog found out in the daytime could be in trouble, so please call for advice.
Baby mice and rats
Again, please try not to handle the babies. The mother may already have another site to move the babies to and she needs time to do this. If, after several hours, the mother has still not returned, the babies will probably need to be brought to the hospital.
If you cut down a tree containing a squirrel drey with babies, please place the drey safely on the floor and watch to see if the mother returns. If the drey is destroyed, place the babies in an open cardboard box. Mother squirrels are fiercely loyal to their babies, and she has probably even seen you cut the tree down! If you retire to a safe distance they will almost always come to carry the babies to another location.
If you are concerned that the babies may be getting cold, please put a covered hot water bottle under the drey or box to keep them warm.
Another thing we often hear is people saying that baby squirrels run up to them in parks and gardens. If the baby is very small and runs up to you, this amazing creature is actually seeking help. Baby squirrels, when desperate for food, will run up to anything they think may be able to help them. These babies will definitely need to be brought into the hospital for specialist feeding.
Squirrels too young to leave the nest will also seek help in this way. If the mother has died and the babies are abandoned, you may frequently hear a high pitched squeal. If this does not bring the mother coming, the babies will actually hurl themselves out of the nest to get help. If you find a baby squirrel lying at the base of a tree, watch it for about 15 – 20 minutes to make sure it hasn’t just accidentally fallen and the mother is about to return it to safety. If not, then the baby certainly needs to be brought into the hospital.
Never take an animal from the wild unless you are certain it needs help. The Wildlife Aid emergency helpline is available 24 hours a day for advice, assistance or referral.