What to do if you find an injured wild animal
If you come across an injured wild animal, it can be hard to know what to do. Wild animals can be unpredictable when approached by humans, particularly when they’re in pain and frightened, so it’s vital to be cautious. Even though you’re trying to help, getting too close can result in injury to yourself and cause further distress for the animal.
Please also consider your own safety if the location or situation is unsafe. Children and young people should inform a parent/carer if they come across an injured animal.
How to tell if a wild animal is injured
Being able to get fairly close to an adult wild animal is a strong indicator that something is wrong, whereas being able to approach a young animal does not necessarily mean they are injured.
If you can see visible wounds, bleeding or obviously broken bones, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
Certain species should be contained using a box before we will attend, including:
- Birds except swans, geese, heron, gannets and birds of prey
- Rodents and other small mammals (shrews, voles, mice, rats and moles)
For more information about containing animals, click here.
Not sure if the animal is injured?
It’s not always clear if a wild animal is injured. An animal lying down is not necessarily a cause for concern; juvenile birds learning to fly will often spend a lot of time on the ground, as will resting mammals.
Some species, like rabbits, hares or young gulls learn to stay very still and remain silent to avoid being preyed on. This alone is not usually a sign of injury. Yelping noises, panting or squawks are not necessarily a sign that the animal is suffering.
Likewise, limping could be the result of a historic injury which hasn’t healed properly or other deformities. This is common with urban foxes who adapt to living with damaged limbs.
If you can’t see any obvious signs of injury, it’s best to monitor the animal from a safe distance over a period of time. If you can’t stay nearby, return to the location at a later time if possible. If the animal is in your garden, watch from a window to prevent causing further stress. As a general rule of thumb, you should be as far away as possible whilst still being able to see the animal.
How to make an injured animal more comfortable
Any animal can be unpredictable, particularly when they are in pain or feel threatened by humans. Always maintain a safe distance to prevent further stress to the animal and to avoid injury to them or yourself.
Our helpline team may ask you to help make the injured animal more comfortable while you wait for our officers to arrive. Try not to touch or move the animal unless advised to do so. If you are asked by our team to move the animal, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
We ask that certain smaller species are contained to prevent them from wandering off until we arrive and worsening any injuries. For more information, click here.
For larger wild animals, you may be asked to help calm them down by placing a towel or blanket over their head using a broom or other long instrument.
Injured wild animals need specialist help from trained experts. Well-meaning people sometimes try to treat wounds and keep injured animals in their care.
This makes it almost impossible to release them back into the wild successfully. Without professionals giving the right care, the animal’s condition could get much worse, or the animal can die.
If you find an injured animal, call our helpline on 03000 999 999 to get them the care they need.
How we will help
When our highly-skilled officers arrive, they will assess the animal and make a decision based on quality of life.
If the animal is assessed and found to be unharmed, it may be in the animal’s best interest for our officers to leave them where they are.
If the animal is otherwise healthy and is likely to survive their injury, they will be taken to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre where they will receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need to be able to thrive in the wild again.
However, if the animal is unlikely to recover from their injuries, the decision may be taken to humanely euthanise them. Where the injury is so severe that the type of animal would not be able to survive in the wild, for example, a deer with a missing limb or a bird with a broken wing, the best thing for them would be to end their suffering.
Unfortunately, if non-native, invasive species such as grey squirrels, mink and Canada geese come into our care, we cannot release them and by law, they must be put to sleep. The UK Government enforces legislation that determines that non-native, invasive species must be humanely euthanised and we do need to operate within the law.