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How to SAFELY Rescue Injured Wildlife

Updated on March 14, 2012

What You'll Need

Leather work gloves are best, but garden gloves are a good substitute.
Leather work gloves are best, but garden gloves are a good substitute.
A box with an old, hole-free, sheet.  Don't forget the lid!
A box with an old, hole-free, sheet. Don't forget the lid!

Protection for You, Your Loved Ones, and the Animal

Rescuing wildlife is a tricky task. It is best left to professionals such as animal control and licensed wildlife rehabilitators, but they can't be everywhere at once. I'm a volunteer at a local wildlife center and a lot of our animals are brought in by the good hearted citizens who found them. Like I said though, it's a tricky task. Here are three things you need to keep in mind before you go out rescuing little, furry things: (1) protect yourself, (2) protect your family and pets, (3) protect the animal.

Protect yourself

Never, ever handle a wild animal with your bare hands. Animals can carry many diseases other than rabies like: cat scratch fever, swine flu, West Nile virus, the plague, along with various worms and parasites. If you have thick work gloves, put them on before handling the animal and hold the animal AWAY from you. Wild animals are not like dogs and cats, they do not like to be cuddled, they will attack. Once you get the animal in a container, immediately wash your clothes and take a shower. If you have been bitten or scratched, call your doctor!

Protect your family and pets

A lot of the precautions you take for your own safety are for the safety of your loved ones as well. Young children and unvaccinated pets are at higher risk for catching any diseases the animal might have. If possible, leave the injured animal outside your home. It is best to get the animal to a wild life rehabilitator as soon as possible, but if you must keep the animal over night leave it in the garage or out on the porch. Wash anything that has come in contact with the animal, such as blankets.

Protect the animal

Your first instinct is probably to give the animal food and water. I cannot iterate this enough- DON'T. While Google has plenty of results for 'squirrel diet' and 'opossum food', a lot of this information is false and/or unverified. The wrong diet can do a lot of damage to injured wildlife; leave feeding to the professionals. Until you can transport the animal to a rehabilitator, place the animal in a box with an old blanket or sheet. Avoid linens with holes or lots of loose threads. Birds and small mammals can get their feet tangled in these and further injure themselves. Shut the lid and place the animal in a quiet place until you can get it to a professional. Do not open it to check on it! Humans are terrifying to wild animals and your presence will only cause more stress!

External Resources:

Here is the site for National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, they are an excellent recourse for all things wildlife:

Here is a list of rehabilitators by state: If you can't find a rehabilitator here, try typing the species name followed by rescue.


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    • IzzGidget profile image

      IzzGidget 5 years ago from Atlanta

      Georgina - Thank you so much! :)

      Sherry - This is very true. My first day volunteering I watched an animal go into shock and die, it was quite the introduction.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Good advice. I think the most important part that most people don't realize is to leave the animal alone. If it's going into shock and you're freaking it out by handling it you may be killing it with kindness.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor

      Great hub on rescuing wildlife. I've rescued several creatures successfully over the years. Rating up and following you.