If you encounter injured wildlife in the field use these tips to be sure the situation is handled properly. Photo Credit: Skylands Visitor

How to Respond to Injured Wildlife

  Tyler Ridenour   ConservationFeatured   November 13, 2018

Wild animals sustaining injuries is simply part of nature. If you spend a lot of time bowhunting, you are bound to encounter an injured animal. So what should you do if this happens? A few key tips will keep you safe while you get the animal the help it needs.

What NOT to Do

If you determine the animal definitely needs help, call the proper professionals. Photo Credit: John Hafer

It’s human instinct to want to help an injured animal. But physically engaging with wildlife in trouble isn’t the right approach. According to Heather Teachey and Terri Brunjes at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Kentucky, you should not attempt to capture or move the animal, because you may make the situation worse. The team from Salato added that physically intervening might put you in danger and possibly ruin the animal’s chances for rehabilitation and recovery. Wild animals can carry diseases that most people aren’t vaccinated against, such as rabies and other human communicable diseases. Remember that sometimes the best thing to do is let nature run its course and leave the animal in its natural environment.

What you CAN do

When encountering an injured animal, simply view it from a distance. Teachey and Brunjes noted that often people will want to help young animals believed to be orphans, but this is often not the case. Young wildlife are regularly left alone by their mothers, who will most likely return once humans leave the area. In a true orphan situation, the animal will typically wander around while making calls or cries. If you find a young animal in this state, or any animal in apparent need of attention, contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitation center in your area or local conservation officer. To find contact information, visit your state game agency’s website or call for a referral.

Who to Call First

You may be instructed to help the animal yourself, but if the injuries are too serious, wait for help. Photo Credit: Red Creek Wildlife Center

If you contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitation center, professionals will help you determine if the situation requires intervention or if it’s best to leave the animal alone and leave the area. If you’re unable to contact a rehabilitation center, call your state game agency or non-emergency law enforcement for assistance or for a referral to another rehabilitation center.

Wildlife rehabilitators usually respond in a timely fashion to reports of injured animals. According to Teachey and Brunjes, the rehabilitator may instruct you on how to initially respond to the situation over the phone, but they’ll likely advise that the animal be left alone until they arrive.

What Happens Next

If an animal qualifies for rehabilitation, a rehabber will take it in. The team at Salato said the goal with rehabilitation is to help the animal recover so it can be released back into the wild. If an animal is deemed non-releasable due to the severity of its injury or an unlikely chance for survival in the wild, the rehabber can retain the animal for educational purposes. It is illegal for general members of the public to house or keep wildlife. You should not attempt to care for an animal yourself as it can be very dangerous. Further, do not take a wild animal to a vet clinic or shelter as this can expose the staff and domestic animals to disease.

The Fate of Animal with Permanent Injuries

Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave the animal alone. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Animals that meet certain criteria, such as sustaining permanent injuries that would inhibit survival in the wild, can be kept by rehabilitation centers for educational purposes. However, some injuries may leave no option other than euthanizing the animal.

If you find yourself in a situation with an injured wild animal, remember to leave the animal alone and get the advice of a professional. It’s critical to determine if the animal truly does need attention. The team at Salato Wildlife Education Center said sometimes the kindest thing you can do is leave the animal to pass in its natural environment without the added stress of human interaction.

When rehabilitation is possible and all the right actions are taken, the injured animal has the best chance to return to the wild.


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