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Helping Injured or Sick Wildlife

If you find wildlife that you think needs help, please call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for wildlife advice if needed. We are here to help evaluate and care for wild animals so that they can be returned to their natural habitats.

Remember wildlife are wild animals and can be dangerous. Here are some pointers to follow, if you come across injured, sick or orphaned wildlife.


[Infant Bird (pink, without feathers)]

Particularly common on a windy day in spring or summer, infant birds (pink, and/or with minimal feather development) will fall from their nest. These babies should be placed back in the nest if possible - you need only look up into the nearest tree as these helpless birds cannot travel far. If the nest is too high up, a substitute nest can be constructed out of a margarine container (with holes in the bottom for drainage), lined with twigs and grass. This nest should be placed as close to the original nest as possible. Parent birds will feed from two nests. Also don't be afraid to touch the infant birds as their parents have a very poor sense of smell. The nest should be monitored, and if the infant is pushed out again, this could indicate intentional brood reduction. If the babies are pushed out more than twice they should be brought to the centre immediately.

Nestlings are very difficult to raise in captivity, as they must be fed every 15 minutes during daylight hours. Missed feedings are critical, and they may develop deformities or feather abnormalities. The intensive care these birds require greatly restricts the number of nestlings Wildlife Haven can care for at a given time. It is important to note that the animal will have a much better chance for survival if it is placed with its parents.

[Fledglings (juveniles, can't fly)]

This is the "juvenile" stage for a growing bird. Before they can actually fly, young, feathered birds jump out of the nest and spend a few days on the ground. These birds look like their adult counterparts, but their tails are much shorter (one inch or less). This is the time for them to sharpen their foraging skills, and practice take-offs from the ground. Fledglings are often mistaken as adult birds with wing injuries because of the failed attempts. Please be assured that this is a perfectly normal stage of development, and the fledgling only needs help if there is visible sign of injury (one wing droopy, blood, problems standing). Also note that the parents are in the area and will swoop down approximately once an hour with some food. This is a very quick exchange and you would likely need to watch carefully, without looking away, for several hours to be convinced that this bird has been orphaned. The Wildlife Haven realizes that you are concerned with the dangerous environment that the fledgling is in (i.e., pets in the area) but keep in mind that the bird has a better chance of surviving, and living a normal life in the wild, even with all the neighborhood dangers. After all, humans cannot teach these birds how to sing or recognize an alarm call - only their parents can do that. If you want to help the bird, keep your pets indoors or leashed and encourage others to do the same.

[Crow on the ground]

From early June until mid-July, it is very common to find fledgling crows on the ground and this is quite normal. Crows will often leave the nest before they can fly but the parents will continue to feed and protect them on the ground. Fledgling crows are often mistaken for an injured adult crow because they are very awkward on the ground and may appear to have injured legs or wings but in almost all cases they are just fine. You can identify a fledgling crow by looking at its tail, it will be very short, 2 inches or less. You may also notice a blue eye color but the best test is that when you approach it you will likely hear its parents cawing at you from up in the trees. These birds need to be left alone unless an injury is apparent.

[Ducklings and mom]

ONLY IF IN DANGER (i.e. on busy road), escort to nearest water source; as a last resort if water is not accessible, put young in open box and carry on top of head in view of mom, to nearest water source.

[Many ducklings and no mom]

Place in open box with a shallow pan of water, and place in safe open area for the mom to find for 2 hours (max ½ hour on hot day). If this is not successful, please bring to the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

[1-4 ducklings and no mom]

Unless you can the find parent and siblings, bring to Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre as soon as possible.

[Birds of prey]

Birds of prey are considered dangerous due to their beaks and talons. Please call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for assistance.

[Animal involved in a cat attack]

Any bird or mammal attacked by a cat (signs of injury or not) MUST come to Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for treatment. Cat’s saliva carries bacteria that can be fatal to animals if not treated with antibiotics.

[Animal hit by a vehicle]

Any animal hit by a vehicle should come to the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre as soon as possible.

[Bird involved in window collisions]

Every year (particularly during spring and fall migration), Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre is flooded with birds suffering for injuries due to window collisions. If you find a bird that has hit a window, place it in a small box (shoe boxes work well for small species), with a non-fraying towel at the bottom, and air holes poked from the inside-out. Do not place any food or water with the animals, as they may drown. Place the box in a warm, quiet, dark area for a couple of hours at which point you can take the lid off the box. Often the bird will fly away beautifully, however, if the bird does not attempt to fly, or cannot fly far, it should be transported to the centre as soon as possible. To prevent window strikes from occuring there are several things you can do, including: windsocks, sheered garbage bags, wind chimes, and falcon silhouettes.

[Nest of rabbits smaller than a softball]

People often encounter nests of baby rabbits when raking or mowing their lawn. Eastern Cottontails commonly nest in urban areas, in a shallow depression in the ground, lined with fur. If the nest has not been damaged, or the babies are not injured, they should simply be left alone. People are often concerned because they have not seen a parent associating with the nest. This is normal, mothers only briefly feed their babies twice a day, usually at dawn and dusk. Otherwise, mother stays away from the nest, so as not to attract predators (newborns do not have scent and are quite safe from predators). It is important that you do not touch the babies - unlike birds, mammals can smell human scent. If you are not convinced of parental care, you can place four pieces of wool or light string in a tic-tac-toe formation over top, along the borders of the nest. If the wool is undisturbed the next morning, the babies were not fed during the night. This is rarely necessary and should only be done if you have a reason for suspecting the babies are not being fed (i.e. a dead adult rabbit found nearby). Within a week they are fully-furred and their eyes are starting to open, and they are weaned and independant when they are three to four weeks of age (only the size of a softball!) It is imperative that young rabbits are left alone unless there is obvious injury. However, if a rabbit (or any animal) was under attack by a cat it must come to the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre as soon as possible, even if there is no visible sign of injury. Even a tiny puncture from a claw or tooth is ultimately fatal if not treated promptly. On the other hand, a healthy infant rabbit's chances of survival are greatly reduced if introduced into captivity. Infant rabbits are very stressed and have a very low survival rate in captivity. They often won't eat, and can be a rehabilitator's greatest challenge. Also, do not pet the rabbit when bringing it to the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre. Even though it may seem to calm the animal, it is in fact very scared.

[Rabbits larger than a softball]

Rabbits larger than a softball are independent of the mother and can be left on their own.

[Infant squirrels with eyes closed]

Squirrels this age do not leave the nest unless they have been abandoned. Simply put them into a cardboard box with air holes. Keep them in a quiet, and warm place, and call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

[Squirrels eyes open, injured]

Put it in a cardboard box with air holes in a quiet and warm place, and call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

[Squirrels eyes open, uninjured]

If the parents are nearby, leave them alone. If you suspect abandonment, monitor for a few hours. If no parent can be found nearby, call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

[Other mammals]

Other mammals includes woodchucks, muskrats, beavers, bats, foxes, coyotes, etc. Do not attempt to handle the animal due to rabies risk and call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

[Deer - presumed orphaned]

It is normal for fawns to be sitting alone in a field, as the mom only stays with the fawn at feeding time, so leave the fawns alone. Only if the mom is known to be dead, contact your local Sustainable Development office.

[Deer - adult, hit by car]

Contact your local Sustainable Development office.

[Raccoons (infants or adults)]

Call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for advice.

[Skunks and bears]

Contact your local Sustainable Development office.

[Nuisance situations]

Call Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for advice.


The Don’ts of Wildlife

DON'T EVER feed a wild animal cows' milk, or formulas bought over the counter. These formulas do not meet the animal’s requirements and in most cases, cause great harm to the animal.

If you have caught an injured or orphaned rabbit, DON'T PET IT. Rabbits will be stressed, they may be sitting still while you are petting them, but they are terrified. Any undue stress can cause them to have heart failure. To avoid this, keep them in a quiet, dark and warm place. Keep them away from the smells and sounds of your pets.

If you feed the animals in your yards, DON'T feed late in the fall and stop feeding during the winter. The animals learn to depend on the availability of food from you and may not store for the winter months. So if you are going to feed later in the fall, it is best to continue feeding until the spring months.

When bringing animals to the drop-off locations provided for wildlife, DON'T travel with your pets in the car. The travel alone is very stressful for the animal, your pet in close quarters will only make it worse.

DON'T remove infant or orphaned animals from the nest, unless you are sure that they are truly injured or orphaned. To do that, please contact Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for further information.

If you have caught an animal and have it in a box, DON'T feed it anything, unless specifically advised by the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Center. You may give it a shallow dish of water, nothing deep because the animal may drown if injured. Do not feed the animal because they may have an injury that will be worsened if they eat. This takes vital energy away from essential functions and may cause death.