Sick, Injured, or Orphaned Wildlife

 

Not all sick, injured, or orphaned animals require human intervention or rehabilitation.

Blanding's Turtle showing an injury caused by a car impact.

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. Your desire to “rescue” them might be strong, however there is no animal worth risking your life or the lives of those who might have to rescue you. 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."

What to do...and whom to contact

If you observe any of the following, please review what to do on our avian influenza page
  • Five or more dead wild birds of any kind found in one location during the same timeframe
  • One or more raptor or waterfowl found alive exhibiting signs of sickness
  • One or more dead raptors or waterfowl with no apparent cause of death
Sick or injured wild animal

Who to contact if you find a sick or injured wild animal:

Contact local rehabilitation clinics or rehab professionals, or let nature take its course. Note: The Minnesota DNR does not have the staff or resources to respond to every injured or distressed wildlife report.

What to do if you find a sick or injured wild animal:Injured Blanding's Turtle

  • Examine the situation carefully - is the animal really sick or injured? Some animal species will behave oddly at different times of year or different times of their lives. Often letting some time pass will reveal a healthy animal that was doing something unexpected.
  • Examine the environment carefully; is it possible and safe for anyone to attempt to rescue an animal? If the animal is in a dangerous to access location, leave them there. No animal is worth risking your life or the lives of those who might have to rescue you. Sometimes, despite the best effort and intentions, an injured animal is just not accessible and unfortunately nothing can be done for them.
    • Also take note of how much the animal is still capable of movement. If an animal is still moving around vigorously and is able to flee when approached by a human (especially flying or swimming wildlife) it is best to leave the animal alone. A prolonged struggle or chase will often put both animal and human rescuers at greater risk.
  • Contact a permitted rehabilitator or rehabilitation center before attempting to handle the animal if possible.  They will be able to give you the best advice on what to do and what not to do if you decide to attempt rescue. Please see the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota's FAQ page for more information. Sick or injured wild animals may bite and scratch and pose a risk to humans (physical injury and/or exposure to disease). Use caution and never put yourself in a situation that you are uncomfortable with. 
  • When contacting local rehabilitation services, take careful note of where the animal was found, either to direct retrieval personnel or to tell the clinic when you drop off the animal. Animals should be returned to where they were found, or as close as possible. Often, rehabilitators require you to voluntarily bring in the animal.
  • A good phrase to keep in mind is, “If you care, leave it there” before you decide to rescue an injured animal. Keep in mind that rehabilitation can be difficult, expensive, and has varying degrees of success. Nearly all rehabbers rely on donations to support rehab costs. Issues of disease must be carefully considered.

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.

Orphaned wild animal

If you care, leave it there.

 

What to do if you find an orphaned wild animal:

  • Examine the situation carefully, is the animal really orphaned? Many animal species will leave their young unattended for long periods of time (several hours). Often letting some time pass will reveal that the parents have returned after a short foray to gather food or other important materials.
    • YOUNG BIRDS are commonly encountered on the ground or in shrubs in the spring or early summer while trying to fledge. This is normal! The parents are typically close by and will continue to feed and protect the fledgling bird until it is ready to be on its own.
    • YOUNG RABBITS are also often found left unattended. This is also normal! The mother rabbit often makes trips away from the nest to forage for food, sometimes leaving the young for several hours.
    • YOUNG SQUIRRELS are often thought to be abandoned but most are in the process of being moved by the adults. Squirrels usually have three to four nests and move their young from one nest to another frequently.
    • YOUNG DEER (fawns) should be left where found, in most cases, the mother deer (doe) will be nearby, even if she is out of sight. Young deer may be left alone for as long as three days. A doe with fawns may be aggressively protective - stay away from them for your own safety, and keep your pets away, too.
    • YOUNG TURTLES should be left where found; they are capable of finding their way to preferred habitat. Not all hatchling turtles overwinter in water! Learn more about helping turtles.
  • Suffering wildlife is difficult to observe. Consider that rarely does an animal carcass go to waste. Many species of wildlife rely on sick or injured animals to feed themselves and their young.
  • If you are certain an animal is orphaned, please contact a local rehabilitation center or licensed professional before attempting to handle the animal. Wildlife Rehabilitators will be able to give you the best advice on what to do and what not to do with a sick or injured animal. Please see the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota's FAQ page for more information.
  • Sick or injured wild animals may bite and scratch and pose a risk to humans (physical injury and/or exposure to disease). Use caution and never put yourself in a situation that you are uncomfortable with.
  • When contracting local rehabilitation services, record the location or address of where the animal was found. Wildlife rehabilitators will need to know where to rescue the animal and where to return it to once it has recovered and can be released back to the wild.
  • A good phrase to keep in mind is, "If you care, leave it there" before you decide to initiate rescue of an injured animal. Nearly all rehabbers rely on donations to support costs, so consider a donation to help them in their cause.

Rehabilitation services

  • 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 animals.
Permitted wildlife rehabilitators

Wildlife rehabilitation involves acquiring and caring for orphaned, sick and injured wild animals, primarily birds and mammals, for the purpose of releasing such animals back to the wild. The purpose of wildlife rehabilitation is for the release of animals back to the wild. Wildlife rehabilitators are not required to accept animals from the public. If a rehabilitator does not have an address, phone number, or email address listed, they do not accept animals from the public. Please do not attempt to contact them.

Permitted wildlife rehabilitators

Wildlife rehabilitation clinics

Chipmunk.

Minnesota

Minnesota Wildlife Assistance Cooperative (MWAC)
P.O. Box 13054
Roseville, MN 55113

MWAC is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation. MWAC provides outreach packets to graduating veterinarians and conservation officers. Since 1981, MWAC has been providing information, training, resources, and networking to help wildlife rehabilitators improve animal care and public education efforts. MWAC courses meet USFWS and the Minnesota DNR educational requirements for permit issuance, renewal, and upgrade. MWAC supported and assisted the Minnesota DNR in developing a wildlife rehabilitation licensing system which ensures highly trained rehabilitators and better care for distressed wildlife.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
2530 Dale St
Roseville, MN 55113
(phone: 651-486-9410)
www.wrcmn.org

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release, Inc. (WRR)
P.O. Box 28127
Crystal, MN 55428
(phone: 612-822-7058)

WRR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife and to public education. WRR's goal is to provide support (in the form of supplies and education) to hands-on licensed rehabilitators. WRR is committed to higher standards of excellence in rehabilitation with the main focus being hands-on animal care.

National/International

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA)
2625 Clearwater Road, suite 110
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Phone: 320-230-9920
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.nwrawildlife.org

The NWRA is a nonprofit international membership organization committed to promoting and improving the integrity and professionalism of wildlife rehabilitation and contributing to the preservation of natural ecosystems.

International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC)
4437 Central Place, Suite B-4
Suisun, CA 94585
Phone: 707-864-1761
Fax: 707-864-3106
E-mail: [email protected]
Home page: www.iwrc-online.org

The IWRC is a non-profit, international membership-sponsored organization with a commitment to preserving our native wildlife and its habitat.

Human-wildlife interactions
Blanding's Turtle with car impact injury.

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.

Minnesota wildlife laws

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.

It is unlawful to release non-native animals in Minnesota! Red-eared Slider Turtles, European Starlings, Rock 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.

Raccoon.

DNR's role

Unfortunately, the 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 (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.