First Aid for Wildlife

photo 4First Aid for Wildlife

Just as with humans, the first few hours after the injury are the most critical and the sooner the patient receives treatment the better chance there is for success. Something as simple as a warm, dark place to feel safe and the administration of fluids can mean the difference between life and death.

Injured or orphaned wildlife needs to go to a permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility. Please call PWRC at 204-510-1855 for further information or have questions not answered on this page. If you wish to care for a wild animal and think you are capable please keep the following things in mind:

  • It is illegal for the public to have wildlife in their possession unless they are taking it to a permitted care facility.
  • If you really care you will want to see the patient get professional attention.
  • Even if it’s small and cute now it could grow into something that may become dangerous when its natural instincts develop or at the very least become large and messy.
  • Incorrect food may keep the animal alive but not healthy.
  • Even if you plan to release it in the future, raising wildlife in captivity will not give them the chance to learn the survival skills they would learn from a natural parent and may permanently impair them from living successfully in the wild.
  • Wildlife deserve to be free and raised by a natural parent.
  • You can be involved with the rehabilitation process at PWRC by keeping in contact with your patient’s progress and being present at the release.

Often well meaning members of the public pick up what they perceive to be orphaned wildlife when in fact they are simply normal young needing to be left with their parents. The following are common cases of mistaken orphans:

  • Fawns found curled up and alone in the grass or side of the road. Adult deer do not abandon healthy fawns so if you find one and cannot see a doe please remember that it is normal and she is within the area. The doe stays at a distance from the fawn to keep predators away and only meets back with the fawn at dusk. If the fawn is on the side of the road pick it up gently and place it in the grass or trees nearby. Your scent will not cause any problems. If a fawn is found wandering aimlessly and calling loudly, found injured or found near a dead doe it is in need of help.
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  • Songbirds such as Robins, Crows, Magpies, Blue Jays and several species of sparrows seen hopping on the ground, unable to fly are likely not in trouble. Birds such as Bluebirds are able to fly shortly after leaving the nest but the species mentioned previously are not and may take over a week to learn to fly after leaving the nest. As long as the parents are in the area and the young are not in immediate danger, the best thing is to let the parents do their job and leave the young alone.
  • Young hares (White-tailed Jackrabbits and Snowshoe Hares) are born fully haired, eyes open and eating grass. They may be tiny and look helpless but Mother Nature has provided them with a fur coat and an instinct to stay still and camouflaged. The mother only joins up with the young at dusk and dawn to nurse them and the family go their separate ways once again. Hares taken into captivity almost always die from the stress so leaving them with their very capable mother is always best.

If you believe you may have an orphan wild creature please call and discuss it with a wildlife centre before taking an action.

Injured Wildlife
When attempting to aid an injured wild animal or bird always remember your safety. In most cases the following procedure is the best.

  • Cover the patient with a towel, coat or blanket
  • Transfer them, towel and all, to a cardboard box with no air holes and close the lid
  • Keep the animal warm, dark and quiet
  • Never feed an injured patient until you’ve talked to a wildlife hospital
  • Contact a wildlife hospital for further instructions as soon as possible as delays may cause further illness or death in your patient
  • If you are unsure or fearful to approach a wild patient or the patient is a larger or more aggressive species please stay with it and call a wildlife hospital for help.

The following are a few common injuries and how to deal with them:

Window StrikesDSCF2723
PWRC’s protocol when a bird hits a window is to put it immediately into a small cardboard box with a towel for support. Put the box in a warm, quiet place for approximately 1 hour. If the bird is active and flies away strongly when the lid is opened, then it was merely stunned. If it is unable to fly after the rest period, the impact may have caused internal bleeding or broken a small bone in the shoulder. Further treatment will be needed.

Oiled or Dirty Wildlife
Oiled or dirty wildlife is best wrapped in a towel with only their head protruding so they cannot preen and end up ingesting whatever product is on their feathers or fur. Pack them securely into a cardboard box so they cannot move, cover the box, keep in a quiet, warm place and call a wildlife hospital where they will receive proper washing and treatment.

Orphaned ducklings can easily be placed with other duck families but in most cases they must be placed with the same species of duck. Medicine River specializes in fostering orphaned waterfowl and can relocate the orphans for you. Orphaned ducklings are extremely “stressy” and must not be handled or played with. Keep them in a small box with a towel and a heat source to snuggle into. Never give them a large pan of water to swim in. When they are stressed they may lose their waterproofing if put in water and when they get wet and cold, death is very likely.

Cat Caught Birds
Even a small puncture from a cat’s claws can introduce bacteria that can kill a small songbird in as little as 48 hours. Keep the bird warm, dark and quiet and transport to PWRC to begin treatment with antibiotics as soon as possible. Shock from the cat maul is also of serious concern.

Carriers for Wildlifeduck in box
It is extremely important to crate the patient carefully.

  • A dark, well-padded, small container is the best. Never use wire caging.
  • Tiny patients such as bats can squeeze out of very small spaces. Put them first in a sock or cloth drawstring bag and tie shut before putting them in a box.
  • Chewing mammals such as muskrats can chew out of cardboard very quickly so always put them in a non-chewable container.
  • Patients in large boxes can thrash around and damage themselves even more than they already are, so keeping the box to a size slightly larger than the animal will be the safest.
  • Holes do not need to be put in cardboard boxes as cardboard is not airtight and a wild animal will see the hole as an escape route and attempt to get out. This may result in an escape or further damage to the animal.
  • Bedding, such as dry straw, paper towel, a blanket or towel is advised. Cardboard is slippery and an already injured patient can do more damage if they slip around during transport.

We would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the animal you just found. Please call the office at 204-510-1855.