top of page

Most people have the best intentions when it comes to encountering wild animals in distress.  But are you helping or hurting by getting involved?

​The following guide outlines many of the scenarios you may come across and if the situation calls for an intervention or not. 

If you are unsure, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator to get specific guidance for your particular situation.  They may even be able to send a trained rescuer to capture the animal if deemed necessary.

Lone duckling


​Find out what to do if you come across an animal in need.

Locate a wildlife rehabber near you


Provide it with the
​best chance at survival.​

Accidental Kidnappings
​Unfortunately, each year, wildlife rehabilitators receive an influx of perfectly healthy babies, showing no signs of malnourishment, dehydration, hypothermia, injury, illness or parasites.  Almost always, this type of patient is an accidental kidnapping - a very unfortunate situation.  Babies require their parents.  They need the specialized attention, diet and training that only their parents can properly provide.  

​The most common kidnapping victims tend to be fawns, bunnies and fledgling birds.  Both fawn and bunny mothers hide their babies in grasses and brush in order to forage for food.  Neither species emit an odor, so predators are not attracted to them.  Multiple babies may be split up to prevent the whole nest or litter from being discovered.  Babies may roam briefly, though typically they won't go far unless disturbed.  A mother will never be far, unless there is a perceived threat to her babies nearby, in which case she may attempt to lure a predator away from the area.  She will return to check on, care for and feed them several times throughout the day.  Fledglings are young birds who are ready to learn to fly and may leave the nest before they can fully sustain flight.  They spend a few days on the ground or in low branches getting a feel for their feet and wings and exploring outside of the nest. Their parents will keep watch over them and bring them food during this time, though it is a dangerous time for them, this stage is crucial for their maturation.

A well-intentioned human finding a lone baby may misunderstand the situation and think it wise to intervene.  In most cases, this leads to an accidental kidnapping.  The result is a distraught mother that may spend hours or weeks woefully searching for her baby, putting herself at risk and endangering the safety of her other young.  The kidnapped baby, in the short-term, may suffer due to stress and lack of appropriate nutrition; in the long term, from a lack of socialization, experience and intuition.

Accidental Fawn Kidnapping
Accidental Fledgling Kidnapping
Accidental Bunny Kidnapping

​You should only ever attempt to rescue a baby wild animal if you are certain the animal:

  • Is clearly injured (bleeding, broken bones)

  • Is weak, lethargic, visibly malnourished and/or unable to stand

  • Is shivering or severely panting from heat

  • Is covered in ticks, maggots or swarmed by flies​

  • Has been crying for hours

  • Has not been visited by their mother for more than: 2 hours (fledglings), 6 hours (fawns), 12 hours (bunnies)

  • Is wandering in an unsafe location and you are unable to move it to a safer location nearby

  • Is being harassed by humans or domestic animals

DID YOU KNOW: it is a myth that a mother will reject her babies with human smell on them?  The reason you should not touch babies is because your human scent is what attracts predators to the babies.  ​

Nests and Hatchlings
Nests may fall for a variety of reasons, including tree pruning or removal and high winds or storms.  If you find a fallen nest, kindly attempt to return the nest to its previous location, or as close to it as possible.  You may require additional materials to secure it to the tree.  Monitor the nest for several hours to ensure the parents return to care for their young.  A hatchling is too young to care for itself outside of the nest.  If you find an uninjured hatchling on the ground and know where the nest is located and are able to safely access the nest, please gently place the baby bird back in the nest.  Keep an eye on it to make sure the parents come back to care for it. If the parents do not return to the nest after several hours, it is time to intervene.  These babies need help from a wildlife rehabilitator if they are to survive.

Nuisance Animals on your Property
Wild animals on your property may seek refuge from the elements, to hide from predators, to access food sources and to have their offspring. Nooks and crannies in sheds, under decks, window wells and open chimneys look like safe spaces to wildlife and can be easily modified to suit their needs.  In many cases, you won't even know they are there.  Sometimes, they are located in areas that are a danger to themselves, the public, pets or even houses and other infrastructure.  If a wild animal is denning or nesting on your property but not causing a problem, please consider letting them stay, knowing they will vacate the area once their babies are old enough, usually by mid-summer at the latest.  Access points can be closed off at this time.  However, if the animal is in a dangerous location or causing damage to your home or business, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator to get recommendations for humane pest removal services in your area.  Not all service providers care about the well-being of the animals being evicted and removal and/or relocation can often cause injury, leading to separated families and even death.  Look for a provider that is willing to work with your local wildlife rehabilitator to find an appropriate solution.

Trapped Animals
Animals get trapped in many places and things, especially during the spring season when animals are looking for safe nesting or denning sites, and during the fall when juvenile animals leave the safety of their parents.  Wildlife can get stuck in window wells, under decks and in fences.  They get trapped in garden netting, sticky pest traps, BBQ covers and improperly disposed containers.  If you are able to free the animal safely and it appears to be healthy and uninjured, please help them out of their situation.  An animal stuck to a sticky pest trap should be taken to a rehabber for removal and not attempted yourself.  If the animal is injured, or has not had access to food or water for more than 24 hours, it should be checked out by a wildlife rehabilitator.  Kindly check the area for nesting or denning sites to ensure families are not being split up.

Vehicle Collisions
Any animal that has been hit by a vehicle needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.  They may have broken bones, flight feathers or head/spinal trauma.

Wild Predation
The unfortunate reality of wildlife is that many animals survive by preying on other animals.  While it may be sad and sometimes gruesome, it is best to not interrupt a predation situation.  Wild predators become highly possessive and territorial of kills and injured prey animals may react unpredictably.  Getting involved may be a serious risk to your safety.

Window Strikes
Birds and glass don't mix well.  Any bird that is suspected of having hit a window and is found stunned on the ground needs to see a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.  Even if they "recover" and fly away shortly after, they may have broken bones or a life-threatening concussion that requires medical treatment.  Once they reach some form of safety, they may die of their injuries without intervention.


bottom of page