***“Animal Help Tips” is offered as a public information source, not a formal instruction manual on how to deal with wild animal situations. The Wildlife Rescue League does not accept responsibility for any outcomes that might result from reading and acting on this material.***
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Be certain the animal is injured or orphaned. Watch and wait before taking any action. With species such as deer and rabbits, the mother may be nearby. If it is a feathered young bird hopping on the ground, watch to make sure mother is around. If a bird has fallen out of a nest and you can get to the nest, pick up the bird carefully and put it in the nest (birds cannot smell you).
If a bird hits a window, check it for signs of injury such as bleeding, head tilt, broken wing, etc. If it is injured, call the wildlife hotline immediately. If it appears to only be stunned, put it in a box and wait for 2-3 hours. At the end of that time see if it will fly away. If not, call the wildlife hotline.
If you handle the animal, take precautions for your safety and the animal's. Handle birds and baby mammals with a towel or lightweight jacket. Placing a towel over a bird will calm it. Birds and mammals can carry diseases or parasites which can be transmitted to humans, but in most cases safe handling techniques will prevent that. If you are handling raccoons, skunks, woodchucks (groundhogs), skunks, or bats, wear heavy gloves if possible.
Never attempt to capture an adult sick or injured mammal. Call the wildlife hotline for advice.
Place the animal or bird in an appropriately-sized box with padding inside (multi-layers of paper towels, or a soft towel or washcloth without holes or strings) and air holes for ventilation. Keep the box in a warm, dark, quiet place until ready to transport to a rehabilitator. DO NOT give any food or water as the animal could drown, die from shock, or have problems with the wrong food.
If you are not certain what to do, call the wildlife hotline: (703) 440-0800. The Hotline serves Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. If you live outside these areas please see the Resources page for assistance.