If you’ve found a wild animal which you think may be sick, injured or otherwise at risk, chances are you have some questions. We aim to cover the most common below…
Should I intervene or should I leave them alone? #
This depends on SO many factors. Please go to helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/assessing/ for advice on assessing whether the animal needs help. This article includes a link to our library of advice articles and to our helpdesk if you can’t find the answer on our website.
The animal definitely needs some help. What should I do? #
Our website holds a directory of more than 700 organisations and individuals who specialise in helping sick and injured wildlife. We recommend getting in touch with them for help. You can find their details by going to helpwildlife.co.uk/map and entering your location in the search box. There’s more guidance on this at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/contacting.
How should I get in touch with a rescue? #
It is always best to telephone as this is an urgent situation. Keep in mind that rescues are usually small voluntary groups so are unlikely to have reception staff. They can’t answer the phone and clean/feed/medicate all the animals in their care at the same time. Be prepared to leave a message and wait for a call back. If you’re calling a mobile number, you can also send a follow up text outlining the issue. If you’ve had no response from phone calls and texts you can also try sending a message to their Facebook page but don’t rely on this as a first approach and be sure to read and follow any instructions in their auto response where sent. See helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/contacting for more information.
The rescue/s I’ve called aren’t answering the phone. What now? #
Keep in mind that rescues are usually small voluntary groups so are unlikely to have reception staff. They can’t answer the phone and clean/feed/medicate all the animals in their care at the same time. Be prepared to leave a message and wait for a call back. If you’re calling a mobile number, you can also send a follow up text outlining the issue. If you’ve had no response from phone calls and texts, you can also try sending a message to their Facebook page but don’t rely on this as a first approach and be sure to read and follow any instructions in their auto response where sent.
We advise against only calling one rescue. Rescues quickly get full up and may not have time to return your call if they’re at capacity. It’s best to try and contact several rescues to maximise your chances of finding help quickly. See helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/contacting for more information.
While I’m trying to find help should I leave the animal where they are or put them in a box? #
If you’re certain the animal needs help and they’re small and safe to handle, getting them contained so they’re safe from predators, protected from the weather, and can’t wander off can be lifesaving. There’s advice on this at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/capturing/
If the animal is one which might be dangerous, e.g. a fox, deer, badger etc, then please do not try to handle them. Keep watch from a distance to monitor where they are and provide some protection from hazards. A wildlife rescue will need confirmation of the animal’s current location before they can send a volunteer.
Is there anything I can do to help while I seek assistance from a rescue? Should I give them anything to eat or drink? #
The main thing is to keep them contained, warm and quiet. It’s really important that you do not give the animal anything to eat or drink until they have been assessed by a wildlife rescue. Feeding an animal which is sick, injured, cold, or in shock can cause fatal complications. Feeding the wrong thing or in the wrong way can also cause harm.
There’s more information here – helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/short-term-care/
Will the rescue come and pick the animal up from me? #
Most UK wildlife rescues are very small voluntary groups, often run from family homes. They have very limited resources and must focus these on looking after the animals already in their care. If the animal you’re calling about requires specialist handling (e.g., a fox, badger or swan) then they’ll try to send someone. But if it’s a small animal like a garden bird or hedgehog, they will rely on finders bringing the animal to them if possible. If you don’t drive, there’s advice on other ways to get animals to rescue at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/transporting/
The rescue/s I’ve called are full/can’t help? What should I do? #
Keep trying more rescues. Using our directory at helpwildlife.co.uk/map we advise calling all the rescues which cater for the species you’re seeking help for within at least a 20 mile radius. If you’ve still not been able to find help, don’t forget to check the second tier of the directory. There’s more information on this at helpwildlife.co.uk/advice/contacting/. As advised in the article, if you’ve done all that and you’re still struggling to find help, get in touch with our helpdesk at helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will provide assistance.
As an aside, it’s very helpful if you can leave feedback on the directory listing of the rescues you call so that we know when rescues are full. This means we can update their listing and save others time in their search.
Should I contact the RSPCA? #
If you’re local to one of the RSPCA’s wildlife centres (Mallydams in East Sussex, Stapeley Grange in Cheshire, West Hatch in Somerset, or East Winch in Norfolk) then these are excellent options for your casualty. However, the National RSPCA have reduced their support for wildlife and, in our experience, the advice given by their helpline can sometimes be unreliable, likely because it is run by a contractor, and they may just tell you to take the animal to a vet, which isn’t always the right course of action. We also find that euthanasia rates for animals they collect tend to be higher than for specialist wildlife rescues. Try to get help from one of the independent rescues listed in our directory first and keep the RSPCA as a backup option if they can’t help.
Should I take the animal to a vet? #
In general, we recommend that a specialist wildlife rescue should be your first port of call. There are some myths around vets and wildlife such as that they’re legally obliged to treat wildlife for free. In actuality, all they’re really required to do is relieve suffering. Some practices only offer euthanasia for injured wildlife as they don’t have the facilities to care for them and can’t or won’t spare resources to seek out and transport animals to rescue placements. Vets don’t receive any training in wildlife care and a busy veterinary practice full of cats and dogs can be a very stressful environment for a wildlife casualty.
That said, there are circumstances where taking an animal directly to a vet is best, for example when an animal has a very severe injury. A rescue may ask you to take an animal suspected of having a serious injury directly to a vet. In these circumstances, we advise asking the rescue to recommend a vet which they know to be wildlife-friendly and who will pass the animal to them for rehabilitation if appropriate. If you’ve been unable to find help from a wildlife rescue or the RSPCA then contacting a vet is a valid plan C. Do just check that they’re willing to do more than simply put the animal to sleep regardless of their condition.