What to do if you find a sick or injured wild animal:
- 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? 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.
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: Unfortunately, the MN DNR does not have the staff or resources to respond to every injured or distressed wildlife report. The public is encouraged to contact local rehabilitation clinics or rehab professionals, or let nature take its course.
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.