Rescue Information

Assisting Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Babies

Unlike human babies, wild babies are not constantly watched by their parents and spend large amounts of time alone. In many cases, wild babies should be left alone.

In the event you do find a baby bird or mammal, unless you know that the parents have been killed or it is obvious that the baby is injured, observe the animal and the area from a distance to make absolutely sure the parents are not around before you intervene. Once the baby is removed from the area and transported to a local veterinarian, animal control or a rehabilitator, the resources available to us to return that baby, if he is healthy are limited.

It is our goal to keep the healthy babies with their parents which allows us to utilize our resources for the babies who really need our help.

RescueCapture & HandlingContainmentTransportingUrban WildlifeDead WildlifeRabies
 Does it need to be rescued? General rule: If you can approach the animal as though to make contact and the animal does not run away, then something is wrong. Very young birds and mammals cannot run away and those situations need to be  carefully assessed.

Situations that indicate animal rescue:
Flies, worms, mites, or maggot infestation* Take to rehabilitator immediately!
Caught by a cat**
Visible external unhealed injuries, or blood, drooping wing, limping
Parent known dead or separated and cannot be reunited
Re-nesting/reuniting was attempted and was unsuccessful
Severe trauma (collision with car, long fall)
Very cold
Very thin and/or very weak , lethargic
Caught by a dog Take to rehabilitatorunless carried gently in mouth only.For cottontails, see cottontail section.
Bird struck window Unless there is a visible injury, keep for two hoursin warm dark quiet place and attempt release.Take to rehabilitator if not successful.
Constant vocalizing Take to rehabilitator.

*If flies are seen around animals, check animals for fly (maggot) eggs. The eggs are pale yellow and are laid in clumps on the flesh or in the feathers. They look like rice or grain. If there are fly eggs, refer to a rehabilitator.

**Cats can cause invisible puncture wounds. Must be treated within 24 hours with antibiotics. Death rate of cat-caught birds over 90%.

All baby animals should be handled with at least thin latex gloves or garden gloves and adults with heavy duty gloves because of the possibility of the animal biting, parasites or diseases being transmitted. Although birds have no sense of smell, mammals have a keen sense of smell and it is wise to avoid human scent if re nesting is being attempted. Hands should always be washed after handling animals.

All animals, except young babies, will perceive the human rescuer as a predator and will suffer considerable stress during the rescue process. Keep talking and noise to a minimum while you are handling them. Small birds and mammals may be handled by gently cupping in your hands or throwing a light towel (hand or dishtowel) over them. If the bird is stressed by your approach, the towel can be held in front f you as a cover until it is thrown over the animal. Once the animal is in the dark and remains there, it will calm down.

If a baby is without feathers/fur, or is cold, provide it with immediate warmth by wrapping it loosely in some soft material (without strings) and placing it beside your throat near the collarbone or cupped in the palm of your hands until it is warmer. It can then be placed in a warm place (see containment instructions) until it can be taken to a rehabilitator.

Adult and juvenile mammals will bite if cornered. Care must be taken when capturing them, using a pool net or broom to gently guide them into a prepared carrier. For coyotes, bobcats or raccoons, keep a visual watch on their location and call the Hotline 805-498-2794, 805-581-3911, or your local animal control for assistance. To capture larger birds or Raptors, use a large heavy towel such as a beach towel folded double or triple, Blanket or a padded jacket tossed over the animal gently pick them up avoiding the talons (feet) and place into a prepared box or carrier. All of these animals will generally be calmed when placed in a dark environment.

  1. Place the animal in a box with air holes punched to allow the passage of air and for heat to escape or a plastic pet carrier sized so that the animal is comfortable but doesn’t have room to turn around or hurt itself. Line the box with a towel or paper towels to keep the animal from sliding. The box must be covered and the lid taped on if there is a rabbit or active animal inside. (A rabbit can jump, pushing the top off a box, and injure itself further or escape).Small birds can be carried in paper bags or boxes. Birds should never be placed in a metal bird cage, especially if they have a broken wing, because of the possibility of further wing injury or feather damage. If a bird cannot stand up, make a donut with a small towel and set the bird inside and then place in the box.Do not put water inside the box, particularly during transport, as the animal may fall into it and drown.
  2. Keep the animal warm, covered, and in dark quiet surroundings. Give a baby mammal several T-shirts, towels, or an old sheet to hide in. For an injured animal or a baby without feathers/fur, or a cold animal, place a small jar or ziplock bag filled with warm water and wrapped in several layers of socks inside the box, beside it. The layered materials will quickly create a warm environment. If a heating pad is used, it should be placed so that it is only half under the animal (so that if it overheats the animal can get away from the heat source).
  3. Handle the animal as little as possible. Do not disturb it or repeatedly uncover and check on it. If you must handle it, all movements should be performed slowly. Try to cover the animal before attempting to pick it up. Scoop up the animal; do not dangle the lower body.
  4. Keep children, cats, and dogs away. Do not give food or drink unless directed to by a rehabilitator. Animals may be in shock and food/water given when in shock can kill it. Food given to a dehydrated animal is also dangerous. Also, food and water given improperly to an animal or bird can choke it or give it pneumonia.

Transport First, locate your nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and contact them to describe your situation. Most rehabilitators, especially during spring and summer baby seasons, have their hands full with animal care and would appreciate your assistance in getting the animal to them if needed. If you cannot transport the animal yourself you may ask for help from a neighbor or friend.

Delays of more than 2 or 3 hours are not advisable.

Many of the calls we receive on our hotline are about conflict situations between humans and animals. Shrinking habitats force animals to use whatever is available to them for housing and food. The animals are adapting to living in such close proximity to people, but or them it is survival.

Homeowners can sometimes get very bad advice, which ends with tragic consequences for these animals, such as trapping, relocating and smoking the animals out of chimneys. During baby season, these actions will only cause baby animals to be orphaned, badly burned or suffer smoke asphyxiaation. Often products that are used to "humanely" repel pigeons and starlings end up killing birds and other wildlife quite inhumanely. Please call a rehabilitator if you have a wild animal issue.

Additional information topics described below.

General Principles in Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife
Preventative Measures to Avoid Nuisance Wildlife Issues
Cats and Wildlife
Why Not to Feed Wildlife
Living With Racoons
Dead wildlife is the responsibility of the property owner to dispose of (even deer). If the animal is a traffic hazard, the appropriate jurisdiction (City, County, Park Authority, or VDOT for State roads) should be called. Dead wildlife is supposed to be put in a plastic bag and taken to the animal shelter for disposal. It may also be buried at least 6 inches deep, out of public view, and away from trails, streets, ponds and streams. It should be handled carefully with gloves (discarded afterward) or a shovel. If you are concerned that the animal might have been rabid, please call your local animal control.

You should take special care in handling a dead snake. A snake’s body is capable of "biting" through reflex action up to several hours after death. If the snake is venomous, it can also inject venom after death.

How do you know if an animal is dead?
Obvious signs are rigor mortis (stiffening) and the eyes have an open stare. If the animal is still warm, check for signs of respiration. Possums can feign death when frightened and slow down their respiration. If there is any doubt, or a possibility the animal is just stunned, it should be placed in a covered box in a quiet place for 2 to 3 hours.

Reporting animal cruelty
If you are concerned about animal abuse you should contact the local animal shelter or Humane Society. Cases involving federally protected birds should also be reported to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rabies and Cause for Concern

When nocturnal animals (raccoons, skunks, opossums, and foxes) are seen in the daylight, many people believe that is a sign of rabies. However, in spring and early summer this is not unusual because mothers and juveniles who are searching for food will hunt whenever they have to. They may even tussle with household pets for food if it is left outside. Certain other habits, such as nesting in a chimney or attic, are also normal behavior.

Detecting Sick Behavior

  • Lethargy, stupor, falling over, walking around in circles, aimless wandering
  • Unexplained aggression or tameness toward pets or humans. Often times aggression is explainable because of hunger, being threatened or cornered by a pet.
  • Eye or nose discharge.
  • Partial or complete rear paralysis; often mistaken for an injured leg or hindquarters.

Moving Sick or Injured Animals

  • If the animal can be safely contained or is too sick to move, refer to rehabilitator.
  • If the animal is so mobile that it cannot be contained, it does not need rehabilitation. If you suspect illness, contact your local Animal Control agency.
  • Because of the risk of rabies, many Animal Control Agencies will euthanize such animals routinely. If you or your pet were bi5en by a rabies vector species seek medical/veterinary advice immediately.
  • If the animal is obviously injured, rather than sick, do not handle the animal directly. A shovel, box, trash can, live trap, or net can be used for containment, or it can be lured into the garage and contained there.

Read more about rabies in the General Rabies Info section.