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When Wildlife Needs a Helping Hand

11 Aug. 2013 Posted by Center Director in News from the Center

We get many telephone calls every day wanting to know about helping wildlife in need.  Sometimes the animal does truly need help while other times what is observed is simply misunderstood normal behavior.  The goal of this article is to help you know the difference.

Cat attacks:  any wildlife animal that has come into contact with a cat needs assistance.  Cat bites are often very difficult to see, but they are deadly to wildlife as cats have many types of bacteria in their mouths.  If you know or suspect any wildlife animal has been bitten by a cat, it needs to be brought to a wildlife center or rehabilitator as quickly as possible.

Animals on the ground:  if they are cold, wet, obviously injured, or have ants or fly eggs/maggots on them, they need immediate attention.  Call us for help.

Injured/orphaned birds:  signs of obvious injury to birds would be adult birds that are on the ground, especially if one wing is drooping or they are holding one leg up.  If a bird is stuck on a glue trap, bring the bird and trap to a rehab center, or if that is not possible use corn or vegetable oil to try to loosen up the glue and then transport to help as soon as possible.  For birds that strike windows, they may be stunned and need several hours to recover.  You can place them in a shallow box in the shade outside and leave them to see if they fly off (or if it is late in the day, put in closed box and keep safe overnight, then try to release in the morning).  If after several hours (or overnight) the bird still does not fly off, it needs attention from a rehabber.  Baby birds are very often misunderstood, so here are some things to guide you.  If the bird has no feathers, is fuzzy, or just starting to get feathers (they look like toothpicks) and they are out of a nest or on the ground, they DO need help.  Call us for assistance as sometimes it is possible to re-nest them.  If the baby bird is fully feathered and is easily identified as the type of bird it is (i.e. “I just found a baby blue jay), it is a fledgling and SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE.  Many fledglings are found on the ground; this is normal as they leave the nest before they can fly.  They hop around on the ground and go from bush to bush while their parents are still feeding them and they are learning to fly.  This is completely normal behavior.  If they are in an unsafe location, you can pick them up and place them in a low bush or tree (the parents will not be put off by your scent and abandon them).  Cats can be kept away by placing a sprinkler on low.  Fledglings spend from two to several days learning to fly, so just be patient.

Injured birds of prey (owls, hawks, eagles, etc.):  Birds of prey are generally found down on the ground for several reasons; they have been struck by a vehicle and are injured; they have been poisoned or shot; or they are suffering from emaciation/malnutrition (especially during times of drought).  If they are on or close to a road, obviously suspect a vehicle collision.  Normal behavior for an injured bird of prey that cannot fly off is for it to throw itself on its back, talons up, as a last line of defense.  To safely capture them for transport to us, throw a towel, sheet, or light blanket over the bird and then bundle the bird and covering up and place the whole bundle in a box or pet carrier.  You need to be more cautious of the talons than the beak.  Wear gloves if possible.

Injured wading birds:  Common injuries are being caught up in fishing hooks and/or lines, broken wings (dog attacks), and emaciation/malnutrition.  Be very cautious when approaching any wading birds and wear eye protection (even sunglasses) as they will try to “go for your face” and their beaks are extremely sharp.   Use the same approach as above to capture these birds for transport, only use extra caution about beak instead of feet.

Orphaned baby mammals:  need immediate attention if they are cold, wet, attacked by domestic pets, or have ants, maggots, or fly eggs on them.   If none of these situations are present, please place the baby in a shallow box in the shade near where it was found and give mom a couple of hours to see if she will come back for it (exceptions are baby opossums; mom’s not coming back for them!).   If mom has not come back in a couple of hours, please call us.   In the meantime, keep the baby warm and do not feed anything or give any water (babies aspirate very easily, and if dehydrated feeding them any milk or formula can actually kill them).  For fawns that appear abandoned, please call us for help.  They are often left alone for many hours at a time; this is normal.

Injured adult mammals:  Please call us for guidance as they can be very dangerous.  If adult animals seem overly friendly, are stumbling around, or are dragging their back end, these symptoms can be signs of disease and Animal Control should be called.  For adult deer that are injured, please call Game Warden dispatch at 281-842-8100 or the Sheriff’s Department.

Our phones are monitored every day, 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.  If we don’t answer, please leave a message so we can call you back with help.  If it is after hours, keep the animal warm, quiet, and dark, and do not give it anything to eat or drink unless instructed to do so by a licensed rehabilitator.  Please keep our number handy for when you need us!  281-259-0039.