How to help injured wildlife

Getting proper care for disabled animals and birds. Caution: Do not approach a fully grown wild mammal or a bird of prey such as a hawk or owl. It may attack you or harm itself further by trying to flee. Also avoid a mammal that behaves abnormally or one that seems tame and is not wary of your presence. It may have rabies. Never handle prairie dogs or ground squirrels; their fleas can carry plague.

When you spot an injured animal, stop and analyze the source of its distress. Is a leg or wing broken? Does it have an open wound? Or is it lying on the roadside apparently hit by a car?

Then, even if the animal appears safe to handle, report its condition and location to your local wildlife office. In most areas, wildlife protection laws allow only professionals to capture and care for many species.

With your report on the animal’s condition, a wildlife officer will be able to respond with the appropriate help-or advise you what to do. You can get the wildlife office’s number readily from the police, the ASPCA, or your neighborhood veterinarian.

You may be asked to bring in a disabled bird. If you do, don’t use a cage; a wild bird can hurt itself by crashing against the bars. Carry the bird in a cardboard box or a sturdy paper bag with air holes punched in the sides.

If you find a healthy but apparently abandoned baby animal or bird, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. The mother will probably come to its rescue. Even if a well-meaning person has removed it from its natural habitat, the mother is likely to find it if you return it within a day or so.

If you spot a featherless, newly hatched bird on the ground, find its nest and slip it back in. A fully plumed fledgling may become temporarily stranded on the ground during a test flight. If one is in danger from cats or dogs, put it on a nearby branch.