Although getting an animal to a wildlife rescue promptly (ideally within a few hours) is essential, what you do or don’t do in the hopefully small amount of time the animal is with you while you seek help, can make a life or death difference to the animal. Here are some important steps to follow
- If you haven’t already done so, refer to our guidance on capturing and containing the animal here.
- Once you have the animal contained, it’s important to bring them inside if at all possible. This helps to prevent escape and provides protection. Placing the box inside your bath or shower and closing the bathroom door is ideal. If you can’t bring the animal into the house then a shed or garage is the next best thing. Left outside, the animal could get too hot, too cold, rained on (leading to hypothermia), attacked by predators, or they could wander off and miss out on being helped.
- Keep the animal as quiet as possible, avoiding the temptation to check on them, stroke them etc. Try to keep children and pets away and keep the area quiet.
- Don’t offer anything to eat or drink. This may seem counter-intuitive but feeding an animal which is cold, dehydrated, or in shock can actually cause fatal complications. If the animal is in a quiet, dark place, they will usually sleep and not need to eat or drink. We/a wildlife rescue can advise you on any exceptions to this but always check with an expert first. Never attempt to force feed/syringe fluids into a bird’s beak as it is very easy for the liquid to get into their airway, and never give cow’s milk or alcohol to any wildlife.
- Keep the animal warm and dry (even water birds should not be allowed to bathe when unwell). For a bright, active adult, just being inside in a warm room should suffice. But babies, any animal which has gotten wet, or animals which have experienced a trauma such as being caught by a cat or being hit by a car, are likely to need supplemental heat. Make up a hot water bottle, wrap it in a towel, and place it at one end of the box the animal is in. Make sure that the animal can move away from the heat if it needs to and monitor it for signs of overheating (babies may feel hot to touch, adults may pant or spread themselves out flat).
NB: this advice is designed to cover the first couple of hours or overnight. If you are not able to get the animal to a wildlife rescue promptly, please speak to one of the large wildlife rescues with a 24 hour phone line for further advice about care beyond this period. You’ll find details of some of these at helpwildlife.co.uk/help