NOTE: In Minnesota, 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.
The first thing you should think about when you’re considering rescuing any wild animal, is that these animals will be terrified at the prospect of not only being handled by a human, but just the simple act of you looking at it in the eye and approaching it. It’s the animal’s instict (as well as life experiences) that allows them to know that preditors look them in the eye and watch their movements as they approach. All wild animals will react in self defence and try to flee if they are able. If you have a wild animal that appears calm or unafraid, this is not because they like you, it is pure terror or shock causing this behavior. Try to imagine how you would feel if Godzilla approached you when you were sick or injured. That’s exactly how they feel.
The Second thing to do is ask yourself, “Does it REALLY NEED TO BE RESCUED?” Is it injured, malnurished, behaving strangely? If the answer is yes, then you need to act. If the animals is just young and without a parent, this could be ablsolutely normal. At least 75% of the calls that came in last year were about animals believed to be abandoned or orphaned when in fact, they were not. In some cases the caller agreed to watch from afar for a few hours and they discovered the infant had parents looking out for it. In some cases, the animal was brought to us only to be released right back where they were found. Sadly, in many other cases, the animals were kept away long enough for the parent to have given up looking for it so it had to be raised in care. Animals raised on replacement formula and in the care of humans, never have the success rate that those raised in their natural habitiat do. An example of this is how friequently infant cottontail rabbits die while in care just from shock and fear. If you aren’t sure if the animal needs help, PLEASE use the flow chart or CALL US. We can try to help. The best option for all wild animals is to be raised by their parent in their natural habitat.
We understand how tempting it may be to care for a wild animal yourself but there are several reasons that you shouldn’t. A huge reason is it’s against both federal and state laws for anyone that does not have the proper permits to possess a wild animal for more than 24 hours. In the state of Minnesota all rehabilitators are licensed only after proper training and testing that proves we are capable of recognizing the various conditions that would lead native species to need our care. Some of which can cause illness in domestic pets and even humans. We are also trained to know special formulas for feeding and medicating that are much different than what domestic animals require. Something that isn’t taught in many veteranary medicine classes. All too often the best intentions of an untrained person has caused serious illness or death to a wild animal. The leading cause of death to the orphaned animals brought into our care has been the damage done from the time of discovery to the time it arrived at our door and this is most often caused my the incorrect information found all over the internet. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED ANY WILD ANIMAL WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING A PROFESSIONAL.
REMEBER-YOUR SAFETY COMES FIRST!! and after that the second thing to remember is that these animals WILL try to protect themselves and YOUR SAFTEY COMES FIRST! OK, now that you know that…the next thing to know is DO NOT TRY TO HANDLE an adult raccoon, opossum, deer, or ANY heron or large bird of prey without help. Call animal control or your local conservation officer first. If you still think that you need to handle such an animal for its safety, use extreme caution. Just consider that a heron will go straight for the eyes and can blind or kill you with its sharp, powerful beak; the talons of a large bird of prey can go through your hand and you might not be able to get it to let go; a raccoon, even one which looks very weak, can break a finger; a deer can break a rib or cause even more damage if it kicks you. (These animals are in extreme pain and terrified and will do anything they can to protect themselves from you. They are not trying to be aggressive, they are being defensive). The best suggestion in these circumstances is to get a box or blanket over the animal, being certain it can still breath, and leave someone with it while you call for experienced help.
You should always assume that an animal you find is in shock, both from the original cause of its injury or trauma as well as from the fear of you. The important thing to remember here is SHOCK IS DEADLY. If a wild animal appears calm or friendly, THIS IS SHOCK. If it appears to be resting comfortably THIS IS SHOCK and if it isn’t resisting you, THIS IS SHOCK. Wild animals don’t think or understand that you’re trying to help, they are terrified and when in shock, things can go from bad to worse very fast if not addressed. The first thing you MUST do is eliminate any extra stressors as soon as possible. One of the things that happens with shock is body temperature starts to drop so it is very important that any animal which can be handled safely, should be kept warm. To do this, place it in a covered box that has paper towels or an old clean cloth (without raveled edges) on the bottom. Newspapers also work but can often times cause more stress as it doesn’t give the animal secure footing so they slide around when the box is being transported. Place a heating pad set on low under half of the box (this allows the animal to move away if it gets too warm) or try a hot water bottle or even an old soda bottle filled with hot water, wrapped in a towel placed inside (don’t do this if it’s a hot day, overheating is a risk for animals, particularly birds, during warm weather.). Then place the animal in a quiet, warm place (80 to 90 degrees is ideal) that is away from family and pets. Congratulations, this is exactly what we do for the animals when they come into our care! You may have just saved it’s life. Please don’t try to feed it because it is deadly to feed an animal while it is in shock. At this time, contact a rehabilitator near you and make arrangements for the animal you have just helped stabilize. If there are no obvious injuries, try to have as little contact as possible. If there are injurues, see the section below. I try to imagine how it would feel if I were just picked up by Godzilla and he kept peeking in on me. This is how the animal feels. DO NOT FEED
There are some things for basic care of an injured animal that you can do while waiting to transport it to a trained proffessional. If the animal is bleeding, stopping the bleeding is critical. Gentle pressure at the wound site, or styptic powder or even corn starch combined with gentle pressure should be sufficient. Tourniquets are NOT a good idea unless you are trained: you can cause irreparable damage by not knowing when to let up on the pressure. Do not try to immobilize fractures except by wrapping the whole animal securely in a towel.
DO NOT OFFER FOOD: it also could kill.
DO NOT FEED sick, injured or orphaned wild animals!! We naturally think that giving food and water will make these animals feel better but in fact, well intentioned feeding by the public is often incorrect food, formula, given while in shock or poorly administered had caused more deaths of animals brought into care then any other illness or injury combined. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED! We understand that there are many things on the internet that tell you what and how to feed various wild animals, but unfortunately many of these are incorrect and some commercially available products have changed their formulas over the years and something that may have worked a couple of years ago, may not have the proper calium or protien for a specific animal and could cause death this year. Part of our responsibilities as rehabilitators is to keep up with our training and understand what works best for the species around us.
* Sometimes, if there is a delay before an animal can get proper care, a rehabilitator may instruct you on what and how to administer fluids to hydrate the animal. This could be very dangerous for the animal because it is easy to get fluids into the animals lungs. Aspirating fluids can cause drowning or pneumonia which quickly leads to death. Follow the proffessionals advice to the letter!
Wildlife rehabilitators are like veteraniarians, we care for animals, and just like veteranarians, WE DO NOT CATCH OR TRANSPORT them, we do’t have the staff or resources to do this at this. Some facilities may have volunteers that offer their time and vehicles for transportation, at this time CMWR does not have such volunteers (if you would like to volunteer, PLEASE let us know!).
Once you locate the nearest rehabilitator, try to transport the animal to them as soon as possible. While transporting remember to keep the vehicle warm (if outdoor temperatures are under 80 degrees), but do not place the animal in a box at the back of a hot SUV or car where it can become overheated causing death. Keep hot tap water in any tightly closed container wrapped in a towel in the box for extra warmth. Be sure that the container can not roll around during transport causing more injuries or stress. Keep the box closed and flat on the seat or floor to help it remain as still as possible. Keep voices quiet and low and refrain from turning on the radio. Try to remember that this animal is frightened and human interaction is something it fears. Voices cause more stress and even the softest voice is terrifying to it. Do you think Godzilla could sound calming when you were afraid?
* To find the nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife care center, call your local animal control, humane society, veterinarian, Department of Natural Resources, or whatever your state agency is called that deals with wildlife. Some of these contacts are listed on our Related Links page. There is also a list of rehabilitators by county posted on the DNR website