Sick, Injured, or Orphaned Wildlife
Not all sick, injured, or orphaned animals require human intervention or rehabilitation.
It is important to minimize human impacts on animal populations. This often includes limiting human intervention during natural causes of animal injury or death (depredation, disease, storms, etc.). Interrupting food-web dynamics may result in cascading impacts on wildlife communities and ecosystem health. Dead or dying animals provide an important food source for many species of wildlife. While it is sometimes difficult to witness life and death in nature, a good phrase to keep in mind is, "If you care, leave it there."
- Find more information about what to do if you find a sick or injured wild animal.
- Find more information about what to do if you find an orphaned wild animal.
- Find more information about the facts of wildlife rehabilitation and release.
- Find more information on becoming a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.
NOTE: An unlicensed citizen may NOT attempt to rehabilitate an animal on their own. It is also unlawful to possess or transport injured wildlife for greater than 24 hours unless permitted to do so. Citizens should volunteer or partner with rehabilitation permit holders in order to transport orphaned, sick, or injured wild animal(s) (Rule 6244.0400). Find out more about permitting requirements.
NOTE: It is unlawful to release non-native animals in Minnesota! Red-eared Slider Turtles, European Starlings, Pigeons (Rock Doves), Mute Swans, and House Sparrows are some examples of animals non-native to Minnesota. Bullfrogs are also non-native outside of Fillmore and Houston counties in Minnesota. Learn more about invasive species.
Unfortunately, the MN DNR's Nongame Wildlife and Wildlife programs do not have the staff or resources to respond to every injured or distressed wildlife report. At present, the Nongame Wildlife Program does not rehabilitate wildlife, however they do administer the required permits for those interested in doing so. The public is encouraged to directly contact local rehabilitation clinics or rehab professionals, or let nature take its course when an injured, sick, or orphaned animal is encountered. If you have questions or concerns that are not met by these resources, please contact your local DNR wildlife staff (MN DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program or area Wildlife Managers).
Minnesota's wildlife and a changing landscape.
It is probably no surprise to Minnesotans that our landscape looks very different today than it did even 25 to 50 years ago. Much of the wildlife habitat in our state is now more fragmented and urbanized. This increased fragmentation and reduction of habitat leads to an increase in human-wildlife interactions, some of which result in injury or death to wildlife.
Although we may enjoy seeing wildlife in our backyards, many human-wildlife interactions in the modern landscape have negative outcomes (death or injury). Through changes in food-web dynamics (the decrease and elimination of large predators) many populations of herbivorous animals such as deer, rabbit, and squirrel have undergone population expansions and thrive in our altered landscape! Likewise, many species of medium-sized predator such as raccoon, striped skunk, and coyote have experienced similar increases in abundance, due in-part to this increase in prey species and their superb ability to exploit human waste. These herbivores and predators do play valuable roles in natural, healthy ecosystems; however, large population increases in either can increase incidence of disease and impact sensitive habitats and/or species.
Human-wildlife interactions - how to help.
Be wildlife aware. Keep your eyes on the road! Road mortality is a serious threat to many wildlife populations, especially long-lived species such as turtles (including our state threatened Blanding's Turtle and endangered Wood Turtle). Learn more about what to do if you find a turtle in the middle of the road.
Help protect native wildlife. Every year free-ranging domestic and feral cats injure and kill millions of wild animals, especially song birds. Please consider keeping cats indoors. Cats kept indoors live longer, they are less likely to contract disease and parasites, they are protected from traffic, and they are protected from urban coyotes that will catch, kill, and eat cats. Learn more about turning an outdoor cat into an indoor cat!
Keep pet food indoors. Do you put dog food or cat food bowls out for your pet in the backyard? Think again. Pet food placed outdoors can attract skunks, raccoons, opossums, foxes, and coyotes at night. These wild animals can carry rabies, distemper, and mange, and they can infect your pets with these sometimes fatal diseases. Do yourself and your pets a favor. Place dog and cat food bowls indoors or in an enclosed location that is not accessible to wild animals. One incidental benefit of this practice is that it does not concentrate these wild predators in your neighborhood where some neighbors may perceive these animals as nuisances and kill them as they roam through their yards.
Be a good host. Moldy birdseed and unclean bird feeders can cause birds to become sick. In wet weather, it is common for mold or bacteria to form on wet birdseed in the feeder or on the ground. Mold can cause fatal avian diseases. Keep birds healthy by regularly cleaning bird feeders!
Do not feed waterfowl. While many people enjoy feeding waterfowl, supplemental or artificial feeding of waterfowl can create conditions that are detrimental to waterfowl health. Waterfowl need a diverse diet in order to survive and supplemental feeding may reduce the intake of high-quality natural foods. In addition, increases in waterfowl density may result in contamination of feeding areas and increase bird-to-bird transmission of disease. To learn more about this issue, visit New York's Stop Feeding Waterfowl webpage.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle wisely. Always remember to cut plastics used to hold 6-pack beverages and other products to prevent entanglement and wildlife injury or death. Do not discard old or unused fishing line, sinkers, hooks, or other materials at your favorite fishing spot. These items can also entangle or poison wildlife and are frequently the underlying cause of injured wildlife reports. Always follow all local and state laws regarding waste disposal, things like used compact florescent light bulbs, batteries (including small commonly used AAA and AA batteries), automobile fluids, etc. are not safe to put in your regular trash. Please find a local household hazardous waste facility near you to dispose of the items properly. In addition, use only wildlife-friendly erosion control products on your property to prevent entanglement.
Wildlife-friendly ammunition and fishing tackle. Lead shotgun shot and rifle ammunition is toxic to wildlife when ingested (directly or in gut piles of field-dressed game). Since 1987, the M.N. Dept. of Natural Resources banned the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting. In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited the use of lead shot on all WPAs in Minnesota. Fortunately, there are many effective and affordable alternatives. To learn more, see the DNR's Nontoxic Shot Advisory Committee Report.
In addition, there is cause for concern regarding the use of lead fishing tackle. The M.N. DNR's Get the Lead Out Project hopes to educate the public about the risks lead tackle pose for wildlife. Each year, hundreds of birds are killed by lead poisoning. Some of the most common reported species impacted by lead poisoning include Trumpeter Swans, Common Loons, and Bald Eagles.
PLEASE REPORT: If you observe multiple dead, dying, or sick wildlife found in close proximity, please contact local DNR staff (Nongame Wildlife Program, area Wildlife Managers, or area Fisheries Managers) as this might be related to larger-scale disease outbreaks or poisoning.