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When to Aid Birds or Wildlife

Pet Allies is unable to help with Wildlife or baby bird situations. Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed by the State and strictly regulated.

Below see information provided by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, that should be able to answer your questions on whether or not the animal or bird you have found needs assistance as well as how to find a place for them.

Rescue vs. kidnap

Many times a wild animal's life can be saved by not interfering. I work at a center as a rehabber and we get so many unnecessary animals which cause us time away from our really critical cases. I know that education to children (that is what I do as well) is so important so they understand terms such as fledgling, and the difference between animals in need and animals taking their first steps. Consider leaving animals alone (in 75% or more of the cases depending on the state and the situation), which is usually the best advice. 

To kidnap or not to kidnap. that is the question.

Sometimes this can be a very tricky question. But it is definitely one that needs a lot of attention. And a little extra knowledge can go a long way toward keeping otherwise healthy animals with their natural parents.

Now, just to make this clear, I am not referring to injured animals. If there is any sign of injury (sorry to be graphic, but blood dripping, limbs dangling, animals trapped in something, etc.) always bring the animal to a rehabber as fast as you can.

I know it sounds like such any easy assessment to make, but every year rehab centers are swamped with what we refer to as "kidnap" victims. When in doubt it is always better to bring them in for us to assess. These are usually animals who are still dependent on their parents for survival, but are starting to learn how to do a few things for themselves. like fly. As young birds fledge, they inevitably hit a stage where nature seems to be hindering them and their wings grew in faster than their tail. They are just starting to get adventurous, and wham. they are stuck on the ground for a few days.

This is usually how long it takes for the tail feathers to catch up. It makes no sense from a survival standpoint but it is just something evolution seems to have done to them. These birds are still being cared for by their parents and usually will manage to hop into low shrubs for protection. But many times people find them sitting in the middle of the yard looking completely lost. One of the easiest way to assess whether or not the parent is still there is to go anywhere near this goofy little fledgling. Usually this will result in very loud chastising from the parents who are avidly watching what you are doing. Sometimes you may even get "dive bombed". What I suggest if this happens is to just make sure the fledgling is safe (no dogs, cats, people can bother it). And the parents will generally encourage the baby to move away from you, as in their eyes, you are a very large predator they narrowly escaped from the first time.

To make these assessments as easy as possible a very nice rehabber named Shannon Jacobs has developed flow charts that walk you through the questions you need to ask yourself before stepping in to help any animal out. Below is a link to these charts.

Dog or cat "playing" with wild critters

What should I do if my cat or dog catches something? If it looks okay, is it alright to let it go?

Anytime an animal is caught by a predator (and that is what your dog/cat is) they need to be brought to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately (see attached links below to find a rehabber in your area). Many times these animals will just look a little wet or look like there are no injuries at all. And people make the (albeit well-intentioned) mistake of thinking they are okay and letting them back out into the yard. Unfortunately these animals will likely not survive. If your cat catches something and there is any chance that saliva from your cat has touched the animal (and this is hard to avoid when they have them in their mouths) the bacteria in your cat's mouth will cause an infection that the much smaller animal will be unable to overcome on their own.

If you can get the animal to a rehabber shortly after the incident, the animal can be treated with antibiotics and the recovery rate is generally 100%. Even if it has been a while there is still a very good chance they will respond to antibiotics.

The same holds true for dog-caught animals. It is not a question of bacteria in the saliva (dogs have cleaner mouths than we do) with dogs, though. It is a problem of squishing. Their mouths are just so huge and so strong that they usually cause a lot of stress to the internal anatomy. But quick action on your part bringing them to a rehabber followed by supportive care and appropriate treatments will greatly improve their chances of getting back out into the wild.

Below are links to websites that will help you find your local rehabbers: