Wild Animals in Distress

How to Deal with a Wild Animal 

There's no doubt about it, it's a very stressful thing to find a sick, injured, or orphaned animal-stressful for you and for the animal. But there are a few simple things you can do to minimize the stress you both feel and, in the process, to increase the animal's chances of survival.

The most important thing you can do for a distressed animal is to KEEP IT WARM, DARK, AND QUIET — and keeping it warm, dark, and quiet is easy if you follow these steps:

  1. Find an appropriately sized cardboard box (not so large that the animal can thrash about and hurt itself, but not so small that it can't rest comfortably) and line the bottom of the box with a soft cloth (not terry cloth-animals can catch their toenails in the "loops" and hurt themselves further).
  2. Put the animal in the box, close it up, and put the box on a heating pad set on "low" or a hot water bottle. To make a homemade hot water bottle:
    • Moisten a washcloth and place it in a small Ziploc plastic bag.
    • Heat the unsealed bag in a microwave oven for 20 seconds at a time until the bag is very warm.
    • Carefully seal the bag and wrap it in a small towel.
  3. Make sure the box is in a quiet place, away from human noise, such as radios, televisions, and people.
  4. Call Wildlife Rescue or the nearest wildlife rehabilitation service for immediate assistance.
  5. Do not give the animal anything to eat or drink, and fight the urge to peek at it; it only stresses the animal out more — and gives it a chance to escape.

If you own a cat, put multiple bells on your cat's collar to warn unsuspecting birds.  Keeping your cat indoors, especially during the day, will benefit wildlife greatly.

Information Websites

  • For general information about what to do if you have found a baby wild bird, please see Cornell Lab's All About Birds page on the topic.
  • For wild birds in the San Francisco Bay Area, please see Santa Clara Valley Audobon Society's page with wild bird rescue information and resources. Please do not contact Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue for help with wild birds (unless the bird is an injured wild parrot).
  • Fort all wildlife throughout California, please see the Department of Fish and Wildlife's list of wildlife rehabilitators.
  • For a comprehensive FAQ of what to do if you have found a wild animal that might need help, please visit Wild Care Marin.