What do I do if I find an injured or orphaned animal?
If you’ve found an injured bird on the ground, a nest of abandoned baby rabbits, or if your pet has injured a wild critter you may be wondering what to do and might be considering taking the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you have ducks in your swimming pool, a duck nest in your bushes or yard, a Canada Goose or goose nest in the street or parking lot, an injured goose or a goose with something attached to its leg, and ducks in a storm drain we also have information on how to take care of these issues on your own, along with a list of cat and dog rescue groups. We have created this page to try to assist you so you do not have to spend 3 hours on the phone calling countless people, while the animal dies in your presence.
Almost any situation has been covered below, including some ways to help determine if the animal even needs to be “rescued”, where to take them, their numbers and addresses. Please read through the below information, find the section on the species you have, read what it says, and then call a non-profit rehabber if their help is still needed.
Do not attempt to give the animal any food or water. If you are in need of a cat rescue, dog rescue, TNR program information and other cat and dog rescue information, please check this list for possible contacts who may be able to assist you.
The Skunk Whisperer®, and how we can legally help
The Skunk Whisperer cannot legally help with many injured and orphaned bird or wildlife situations. Although we are a no trap, no kill wildlife removal service that can get wildlife and pests out of your home and keep them out via proper repairs, the state of Oklahoma, for example, prefers that we kill most wildlife we come into contact with – of course, we do not feel the same way. Even though we have certified wildlife rehabilitators on staff, we are not allowed to have a rehabilitator permit or “rescue” animals without going through a time consuming process first. Even then, federally protected animals are often times taken care of by those with federal permits which we are not allowed to have.
YOU qualify as a good Samaritan!
YOU cannot get in trouble if you take a truly injured or orphaned animal directly to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Because of all of our permits, we allegedly “do not qualify as good Samaritans” in Oklahoma and can lose all of our permits assisting in many situations. Injured and orphaned wildlife can be contained easily with rehabber instructions and brought to them for care. You must speak to a rehabber, law enforcement or someone of authority to give permission for the animal to be caught, especially if it is a bird of prey. We don’t want anyone getting into trouble trying to help, so please seek authorization before capturing an animal that might create a legal problem for you. The Skunk Whisperer cannot give you this permission. Most people simply take animals to rehabbers without asking permission first under the protection of the good Samaritan act.
Wildlife rehabilitation and rescue basics
Rehabbers rehabilitate, the public typically delivers wildlife to them. Rarely do busy, non-profit rehabbers have the time, money or staff to pick up any animals. They are happy to do the work and try to find the funds to care for them, but they need help with transportation.
Rehabbers do not typically go into attics to retrieve wildlife. If your pet killed the mother, the right thing to do is deliver the injured and orphaned animal(s) to the rehabber’s door. Rehabbers are going to spend sleepless nights feeding your animal every three hours or so, and tend to wounds as well; all you have to do is deliver the wild animal.
Rehabbers are the most selfless people you will ever meet, yet wildlife rehabilitation is one of the most expensive and least supported forms of animal rescue. The state and Federal government does NOT pay for these services! Every year, tens of thousands of dollars are spent caring for animals that were injured or orphaned by a family dog or cat. These animals rarely come with donations and we ask that pet owners who’s animals hunt, consider providing funds for the would be prey. For example, a fawn can cost in excess of $1,000 to raise, a baby raccoon around $300 and much less for a bird or rabbit. If every animal was brought to a rehabber with a donation, they would worry less about funding and focus on the animals they care for. Please help them avoid ever turning anything away because of funding. They sacrifice their bank accounts, sleep, friends and everything else to save lives every day. Wildlife rehabilitators are our heroes, and our hats are off to them. Donations to rehabbers such as blankets, old fur coats, food and money are always welcome and helpful too. Be aware that if you are leaving an animal at a drop off point, you may want to make a donation via their website or a check in the mail so that you are certain that it gets to the right place. Thank you for your support!
What should I do if I find an injured or orphaned animal?
If you have found an infant mammal, bird or fawn, find a way to keep the baby calm and warm. Handling a wild animal creates stress. Use a small box, container or pet carrier with appropriate bedding, on a heat pad on low or under indirect light (baby is covered). Do not let children or pets have contact with the animal, it can spread germs and parasites both ways. Do not give milk, formula or water to an infant unless you know what you are doing. Giving improper milk or feeding anything to an animal who is not in stable physical condition to digest it (cold, stressed, dehydrated) can be fatal. Help rehabbers do their non-profit job properly by not creating a worse situation for the animal.
Is it really injured or orphaned?
Each year, thousands of animals are taken to rehabbers that should have been left alone. This takes money and time away from orphans that really did need help. Consult with a rehabber to see if you can figure troubleshoot to see if the animal really does need to be rescued. Those three fawns may be cute, but it will cost a rehabber about $3,000. to raise them. Those three young raccoons are cool and fun, but will cost about $900 to raise!
Spotting a baby animal by himself does not necessarily mean it is an orphan. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The mother is usually nearby and quite conscious of her young. Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.
How To Tell if an Animal Needs Your Help or Should be Left Alone
These animals likely need to be taken to a rehabber:
- Animals that are bleeding
- Have an obvious broken limb
- A wild animal brought to you by a cat or dog
- A shivering animal
- Young found with a dead parent nearby
- A fawn with its face covered in ticks
- A raptor, such as an owl or hawk, laying on its side or stuck in a fence
- A goose or duck with fishing twine on its leg so tight that the foot is swelling.
Many young animals may appear to be orphaned, but actually may be doing just fine on their own. Determining whether or not an animal is an orphan depends on the animal’s age and species, and how you may perceive their natural behaviors. Here’s more information on the young of species you may encounter, to help you decide whether or not they need to be rescued:
Baby deer or injured orphans
People frequently assume that a baby deer, (a fawn) is orphaned just because it was found alone. The mother deer, (the doe) is probably nearby and does not want to let predators know where her fawns are so she will only visit her fawn a few times a day. If you do not know the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone. Does are sensitive to human smells. Do not touch the fawns! If you did, rub a towel or rag in dirt and grass and rub the fawn with it to try and get rid of human scent. Be certain to leave the fawn exactly where you found it.
How to visually check to see if a fawn is a true orphan by sight: Check the ears. Note the difference in the two photos. See how the ear tips are bent in the photo on the right? You can click on the photos to view them full screen. The bent tips on a fawn’s ears are the easiest way to tell an orphan. For wildlife rehabbers, it takes twice as long to straighten them via proper nourishment as it does for them to bend due to lack of nourishment. The ears bend after missing 2 days of feedings, or about 8 feedings. Remember this saying – “ears are straight, fawn is great. Ears are curled, he’s alone in the world”.
Baby bird orphans or injured birds, hawks, eagles and raptors that fell out of the nest on the ground
If a featherless or nearly featherless bird (nestling) is on the ground and is alert, or baby birds have fallen from their nest, you can put them back. It is a wives tale that birds abandon their young if a person touches them. Birds are not sensitive to human scent.
If the mother bird can hear and see its young, they will typically continue to feed it/them. If you do not see the mother visiting it on the ground and if the nest is too high to reach, hang a small basket close to where the original nest was. You can pick up a cheap, shallow, woven basket at the store. You can also cut the top off a plastic gallon jug and tie it to the shady side of the tree with a rope. Be certain to cut many holes in the bottom of the jug or else it may fill up with rain! If mom does not return, take it to a rehabber.
Fledglings are the adolescent birds that are fully feathered with short tail feathers flopping on the ground and not flying well… it is part of nature. They are learning to fly. The fledglings may remain on the ground for a few days and the parent birds, will feed their fledglings a few times an hour. Do not rescue these birds if they do not need to be. Do not “rescue” them from your pet – bring your pet indoors!
One method of capturing an injured hawk, owl, eagle and other raptors is to simply throw a blanket over them and placing them in a pet carrier.
Mississippi Kite orphaned or injured
In 2011 and 2012, we received hundreds of calls about supposed hawks, falcons and other raptors that mostly ended up being Mississippi Kite orphans. Because of the horrible heat, mother Kites may die trying to feed their young enough food or are abandoning their nests in order to save their own lives. “Friendly” and totally docile fledgling Kites showing up in yards and on front porches may look to humans for help. These are federally protected birds. In a few cases, the mother may still be healthy enough and feeding the young on the ground. If no mother is seen, capture it by throwing a towel over it. Place it in an uncovered box or carrier with a towel or rag forming a nest shape. Like most other animals, you can place a shallow jar lid or measuring cup filled with water – do not try to directly feed it or give it water – leave that up to the rehabbers, please.
Baby squirrel orphans or squirrels injured that fell out of the tree on the ground
If a baby squirrel is uninjured, leave it where it is; leave, keep people and pets away and monitor from a distance. Squirrels are sensitive to human scent. Do not touch an uninjured baby squirrel with human scent if you have not waited for mom to return. If the baby is not taken by mom in several hours, contact a rehabber. A jumping and climbing squirrel with a full, fluffy tail is able to be on its own in most cases.
If you find a nest of uninjured baby rabbits, leave them alone. The mother will only visit their young 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators. To see if they truly are orphans, make an “X” with small sticks or thread over the nest to assess if the mother is returning. If the “X” is moved the next morning, the mother has returned. If the “X” remains undisturbed for 24 hours contact a wildlife rehabber.
If you have a nest in your yard, keep all pets out of the area or expect to be taking ½ dead bunnies to a rehabber. You should also not touch the nest or bunnies or get your human scent anywhere near it. A 4” rabbit with erect ears, open eyes and very little white on its head is able to be on its own.
Baby skunk orphan or injured
Skunks have horrible eyesight, so if you see a skunk running towards you, it does not mean it is rabid. Because of this, mom may lose sight of one or more babies (called kittens, AKA, little stinkers). From a distance, monitor the situation for an hour or so to see if their mother shows up. You can also try the milk crate and laundry basket method – place one over the kittens to see if mom comes back. If not, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Baby raccoon orphan or injured
Mother raccoons are quite protective and they supervise their young, so if you see one on its own, it may be an orphan. If it appears to be healthy, put a milk crate or laundry basket over it. If mom does not come within a few hours, take it to a rehabber. If you have raccoons in your attic or crawl space, you can leave them there, in the shade, and see if mom takes them overnight. Before doing this, talk to your rehabber – waiting may save that rehab clinic $300. If you need assistance with raccoons living in your attic, basement or crawl space, call us.
Baby opossum orphan or injured
Baby opossums are born as embryos, crawl into their mother’s pouch and spend about two months attached to her nipples. When they are about 3-4 inches long, they start to ride around on their mother’s back. Mother opossums do not easily notice if one falls off or gets left behind. Typically, if the opossum is less than 7 inches long, nose to rump, not including the tail, he is an orphan. When they are over 7 inches long, they are old enough to be on their own.
Bat orphan or injured on ground with babies
Do not touch a bat with bare hands or thin gloves. If you have found bats inside your living quarters, it is best to call a Wildlife Management Professional to help you with the proper removal and safety procedures for bats in the house or bats in the attic. If you want to get a bat out of the house on your own, do not wave brooms, tennis racquets or your arms around in the air at a bat. Bats are not aggressive, they are only curious when flying towards you. If you open all of your doors and windows, they will eventually follow the airflow and fly outdoors.
If you find a baby bat, (called a pup) on the ground or on your floor floor that is not able to fly, you can put it back where it came from if you know where that is, or call a bat rehabilitator. Not all rehabbers take care of bats. If the bat is an adult, you can set it at the base of a large tree in your yard and allow it to crawl up into the tree top. You can also “launch” it outdoors with a garden spade. If you launch it, be careful with the bat because its wings are two thin layers of skin that can be damaged very easily. Gently sweep the bat up into the shovel with a broom, and while standing on grass, gently but quickly launch the bat. Bats like to have at least fifteen feet of airspace to fly in most cases. If the bat is injured, it will usually not fly. If injured, the bat must be taken to a bat rehabilitator or be properly euthanized – without the use of CO2.
If the bat has several babies clinging to it and has a reddish tint to it, it will usually not be able to fly. The red tint may indicate that it is a Red Tree Bat. They live in trees. Mom simply could not fly with all the young pups and fell to the ground. Place it on a larger horizontal tree branch together with its young and they should be ok.
Baby fox orphan or injured
Sunbathing foxes are common. Just because they are out in the daylight does not mean something is wrong. Leave them alone if they seem energetic and healthy. It is totally normal to be able to get within a few feet of them – don’t. Leave them alone. Even though all foxes look scrawny and skinny, they do not typically eat small children!
Ducks in the swimming pool
The most common species of ducks that love to soil your swimming pool are Mallards. Of course, these ducks are federally protected. You can barely look cross-eyed at them without breaking the law. You cannot relocate the ducks that are in your swimming pool, we cannot and the state or federal agencies will not either. If you have a domestic species of ducks in your pool, they may be relocated to a private pond that wants them.
To get the ducks out of your pool, do not waste time trying to net them and place them on the pool deck, they will simply just jump back in. Take all of your chaise lounge chairs, lay them flat at the edge of the pool deck by the stairs. Set them half in the water and half out to form a ramp. Take the cushions off and do the same, using a weight to hold them on the edge of the pool deck. If you do not have cushions or chaise lounges, find a long board and make a ramp out of the board. The ducks should move on in a few days.
If you have a pool cover, put it on to deter the ducks. If you have a pool cleaner with the arms that flail around, plug it in and turn it on. Do not feed the ducks; if you do, they will stay longer. Another method to deter them from using your pool is below.
Ducks like to nest in bushes, around pool and in raised flower beds. Once they start making the nest, there is nothing that can legally be done to the nest. It cannot be destroyed or relocated. You are legally stuck with them until they hatch and walk off. Be aware that next year, they will likely return. Trim the bushes and be prepared next year. No state or federal agency will relocate or remove the nest or eggs. No company or wildlife rehabilitator can legally remove or relocate the nest, young, mother or eggs.
Check with your state wildlife department to see if it is legal to repel wild animals in this manner: Purchase a Havahart Spray Away This infrared, motion-detecting water sprayer will shoot water up to 30’ in a strong stream when hooked up to a charged garden hose. Have children put on a bathing suit and set up the perimeter that you want protected with it. This is a non-chemical solution for unwanted ducks and geese causing problems in your yard or swimming pool. If snakes, frogs, toads, ducklings and other animals are getting into your swimming pool, a Frog Log may also be helpful.
Canada Geese love taking up residence in parking lots, even right in the middle of busy shopping centers or office complexes, and right next to a busy street or intersection. Many times, geese are killed, people are attacked or fender benders occur because of where they make their nests. Resident Canada Geese, (not Canadian Geese) love grassy parking lot areas because they get the three things they are looking for there – food, water & shelter and they can see predators coming from a long distance away.
Sadly, store patrons and store owners typically inadvertently make the problem worse by ignoring the problem until a goose gets run over by a vehicle or attacks a human. We can assist with these situations, but, we will only speak with the property owner or store owner. We will not call them, they must call us. Every year, we receive hundreds upon hundreds of calls about geese in parking lots from the concerned public. We will help, if you have the store owner or property owner call us. Please have the owner look at this web page for more info on geese in parking lots.
If a goose is in the street, it is often because there is a nest nearby. Simply call the police or animal control and ask them to walk it back to the parking lot. Private companies cannot assist with this type of situation because the street is city, county or state owned.
We could spend all day, every day, every spring assisting with geese with fishing line or string attached to their legs, broken wings and other injuries. We will not get involved with wild goose chases until you have accomplished several things. First, the goose must be in the same place at the same time during normal business hours every day to allow for an easy capture. This can be accomplished by feeding corn or grain to them in the same place at the same time every day. Second, you must have the property owner, business, home owner association, state or county place it in writing that we have permission to access the property. Third, if it is a park or community pond, we insist that a no feeding waterfowl sign is erected. Fourth, we appreciate being able to take a donation to the wildlife rehabilitator who receives the animal.
You can do the capture, too. Some methods include throwing a blanket or net over the goose and placing it in a pet carrier. Some videos of capturing an injured Canada Goose can be seen here:
If a duck or goose is in the street quacking or honking into a storm drain, their goslings or ducklings may have fallen into the storm drain. As ridiculous as it sounds, private companies cannot assist with this type of situation because the street and storm drain is city, county or state owned. The last time Ned Bruha did this type of rescue was on film – after getting the city water works to remove the grate, in order to not get charged with trespassing, Bruha called the non-emergency police department number until they got tired of it and they gave him permission to jump into the drain. You will need the city, state or county to remove the drain cover. Simply jump in, place them all in a bucket and lay the bucket on its side letting them all go at once next to their mother. If mom is not around, take them to the nearest federally permitted rehabilitation center. If you cannot get into the drain to help the young, call the police or animal control.
Contacting a wildlife rescue or rehabilitator
If you cannot reach a wildlife rehabber immediately, leave them a message. If you have a wildlife emergency, continue to call. If it is truly not an emergency situation, email them, but understand they may not check email often or daily when busy.
Finding Wildlife rehabilitation and rescue help
If you have not taken care of the problem with the above situational solutions, you should immediately call a local rehabber for assistance.
If you live in Oklahoma and need a wildlife rehabilitator, please follow this link for list of names, numbers and the animal species each one works with.
If you are not in Oklahoma, please try this extensive listing: How To Locate A Wildlife Rehabilitator which lists wildlife rehabilitators across the United States.
Oklahoma City area wildlife rehabilitators:
In the Oklahoma City area, you can follow this link to find somebody close to you who takes care of the animal species you have.
The WildCare Foundation will likely be the closest rehabilitation clinic if you are in the OKC area. They are located at 7601 84th St. Noble, Oklahoma 405-872-9338
Wild animals in need of care should be brought to them. WildCare does pick up animals at 3PM each weekday at the OKC animal shelter, so they can also be dropped off at The Oklahoma City Animal Shelter 12PM to 3PM Monday-Friday at 2811 Southeast 29th Street Oklahoma City, OK 73129 The number to the animal shelter is (405) 297-3100
Tulsa, Oklahoma area wildlife rehabilitators
You can follow this link to find somebody close to you who takes care of the animal species you have.
From 7AM-6PM Monday-Friday and 7:30AM-noon on Saturday, you can also deliver injured and orphaned animals to Forest Trails Animal Hospital at 6528 East 101st Street Suite A Tulsa, OK (918) 299-8448
Claremore, Oklahoma area wildlife rehabilitators
Wild Heart Ranch was founded by Ned Bruha’s hero and hero for the animals, Annette King Tucker and Sandy Brooks back in 1996 as a state licensed rehab center for all wildlife and has since helped over 13,000 animals receive medical and supportive care until they could be released back into the wild. Wild Heart Ranch is located at 10491 S 4190 Road Claremore, Oklahoma 74017 Directions to WHR can be found here, and their number is 918-342-9453 They ask that non emergencies be handled by email to reduce interruptions by the phone in the clinic email@example.com
Wildlife Rehabilitation is one of the most expensive of all rescue efforts for animals. Your donations can help Wild Heart Ranch keep up the good work!
If you are thinking about being a wildlife rehabber, you must read the book The Road to Release by Annette King Tucker from Wild Heart Ranch in Oklahoma. This is a must read for all current and future rehabbers. Too many folks think that it would be “neat” and “fun”, but forget that their lives, and the lives of animals are at risk if their new “hobby” fails. Being a rehabber is NOT for everybody.
So you’ve raised a baby raccoon: …and now all the fun is over… Now you need a wildlife rehabber to rescue you? Read this!
Wildlife Laws: Why you CAN’T keep wildlife as a pet.
So You Want a Pet Raccoon: Thinking about a raccoon for a pet?
So You Want to Rehabilitate Wildlife: Thinking about getting your rehabilitator license?
Oseltamivir phosphate Treatment: Instructions on applying this new treatment to wildlife.
Please read this incredible article published by the IWRC on wildlife reunion methods. All wildlife rehabilitators and volunteers who answer clinic phones should read this article. The best mom is the real mom. Those three raccoons are cute, but they will cost a rehabber about $900 to raise!
Finding The Best Release Location For Recovered Wildlife
Relocated wildlife often has trouble adapting to new environments, however, being able to choose from a variety of relocation sites allows newly rehabilitated animals a better chance for survival. If you have a suitable environment for relocation after rehabilitation please fill out our site release application and send it in for future consideration. Application
Domestic animal rescues
Most rehabbers do not assist with domestic animals. In Oklahoma, the most comprehensive domestic rescue list can be found here: www.petfinder.com
If you want a pet raccoon, pet squirrel, pet skunk or other animal…
All wild animals can be dangerous, but the wild animal that is the most dangerous is one that is not afraid of people. If you currently have a pet wild animal that is getting out of hand or want to legally obtain one, talk to your local rehabbers. Many people dump unwanted wildlife pets on rehabbers because they did not do their research first. Instead of having a wild animal as a pet – how about volunteering at your local rehabilitation facility?
The Skunk Whisperer®, Inc. cannot operate without the assistance of wildlife rehabbers, but we also believe that if we have to bring orphaned wildlife to a rehabber, we have failed to keep wildlife in their best surroundings – the ecosystem that they are currently in.