If you love being outside, it’s bound to happen. On a walk or a bike ride, or even doing work in your own yard, you spot an animal that seems to be in distress. Of course, you want to help but aren’t sure what to do. You don’t want to try to help an injured animal and injure them further… or put yourself in danger. You also don’t want to disturb a baby animal that may just be waiting for a parent to return. So what do you do?
We’ve put together this guide for our fellow wildlife lovers who haven’t been in this situation before. We’re going to let you know how to spot if an animal truly needs your help and share some resources to get that animal the help it needs. Keep reading to learn more about what to do if you find injured wildlife near Oakland, California.
how to tell if an animal is in distress
I once had a neighbor who found an opossum lying in her yard. After observing it for about an hour, she determined that it was dead and went to remove it from her yard… only to have it come back to life spectacularly, traumatizing both of them in the process. The point of this anecdote is that you can’t always tell upon a glance if an animal is truly distressed or injured… especially if it senses an intruder nearby.
Before taking any steps, take a minute to truly evaluate the situation. Do not disturb the animal, but look for signs of obvious injury. The most obvious would be blood, open wounds, and severely broken bones. More subtle signs are that the animal doesn’t try to get away from you, rapid breathing (although this can also be due to fear), sunken eyes, or a ragged appearance. All these signs point to an injury or illness.
If you stumble across baby animals, don’t immediately assume they’re on their own. Many animals, like deer and rabbits, leave their young in an area they consider safe while they forage or to keep predators away from the nest. If you find very young animals, before assuming they’re orphans, take a few steps to determine if the parents have returned to the nest. How do the babies look? If they seem well fed and groomed, the parent may just be away for the day. You can place rocks or sticks around the nest in a way that will require disruption if the parent returns. You will have to wait and check the next day to see if the markers have been moved. If the babies appear to be malnourished and distressed, you can more safely assume they need help.
what to do if wildlife needs help
You’ve assessed the situation and have determined that the animal does need your help. So what now? Don’t take matters into your own hands. Call a wildlife rehabilitation center near you. If there is no rehabilitation center, call a veterinarian, or your local Humane Society. We are fortunate in the Oakland area to have many resources for sick and injured wildlife (see below for a full list).
The rehab center will give you directions on how to safely approach and transport the animal. Do not attempt to give them food or water. It may seem like the right thing to do, but the animal could be in shock and might choke. Handle the animal as little as possible. It’s already hurt and confused, and dealing with a human handling it is adding to their stress level. Once you have it secured in a box or a carrier, get it to the rehabilitator or veterinarian as quickly as possible.
wildlife rehabilitation resources in oakland
At Fur and Feather Pet Care, we often get calls about injured wildlife. To get you the help you need as quickly as possible, we've put together this list of local wildlife rehabilitation resources.
This amazing organization is dedicated to rehabilitating orphaned and injured wildlife living in urban city centers around the San Francisco Bay area. They also serve to educate the public on cohabitating with wildlife, when to recognize signs of distress, and how to help an animal in need. They are 100% volunteer-run and donation-funded and an organization that is so near and dear to Fur and Feather Pet Care!
Lindsay Wildlife Experience accepts and treats all native California wildlife; note that there are a few exceptions listed on their website. While they can not come to you and transport a sick or injured animal, they will gladly treat an animal brought to them. They respond to after hours calls, which makes them an excellent resource in an emergency situation. Check out their website to learn more about their organization and advice they have on dealing with sick or injured wildlife.
WildCare is a wildlife-specific hospital that also provides educational programs. Their hotline is available from 9am-5pm, and for emergency care during business hours, they are an excellent resource. Check out their website for a thorough guide on safely transporting a wild animal.
Due to avian flu, if you find sick or injured avians of any species, you may be told to take them directly to the International Bird Rescue. They specialize in the care of waterfowl and sea birds, but they also treat muskrats, raccoons, beavers, and reptiles. In addition to caring for sick and injured birds, and working with animals affected by oil spills, the International Bird Rescue also provides conservation education. Check out their bird cams to see some of the birds that are currently residents of the center.
Although they do not specifically handle wildlife, if there is an emergency situation, the San Ramon Veterinary Emergency Group can provide emergency care and triage. They are not a rehabilitation center, but they can provide care until the animal can be taken to a wildlife facility.
Maybe you haven’t found an animal in need, but you DO want to help. There are other ways you can help our local wildlife. The majority of wildlife rehabilitations and rescues are volunteer based. If you are interested in helping wildlife, take a look at their websites to learn more about what it takes to be a volunteer. Volunteer opportunities range in time commitment and skills required, so you’re bound to find a good fit.
And finally, if you know of other wildlife rehabilitation resources in the Oakland area, be sure to share them in the comments below so that we can all do our part to help the beautiful wildlife in our community!