Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife People, usually with good intentions, attempt to rescue baby animals every day. Sadly, a lack of training in the proper care and diet can cause more harm than good. Sometimes an animal may not even need to be rescued! If the animal appears healthy and there is no immediate danger, then the following guide may help you to re-unite the baby with the parents.
If you have any questions about your rescue and you live in the Los Angeles area, please give call us – do not email! We take emergency calls 24 hours a day on our main line at (818) 899-5201. You may have to leave a message between the hours of 5:00 pm - 7:00 am (PST) but someone will get back to you in a timely manner even during evening hours!
Signs a wild animal needs your help
- Your dog or cat brought it to you.
- There is a dead parent close to where you found the animal.
- It appears to be bleeding or have a broken limb.
- Featherless or furless, and on the ground.
- It feels cool or cold to the touch or is shivering.
Common Wildlife Emergencies
Baby birds - not fully feathered
These should be put back in the nest or nearby in a makeshift nest, such as a box or plastic container lined with shredded tissue. The makeshift nest can be tacked up to a nearby tree where the parents can easily access it. The parents have no sense of smell & will not reject the baby. The parents will not feed their baby if you are visible, so observe from afar. If a parent does not return to the nest within two hours, rescue should be initiated.
Baby birds - fully feathered
The animal is unable to fly more than a few feet along the ground. These are considered fledglings and are usually being taught to fly and find food on their own. If adults are present, do not interfere. They will take care of the baby until he can fend for himself. Be sure to keep your cats and dogs indoors during this time. If it seems no adults are tending to the fledgling, and no imminent danger is present, wait two to three days before intervening. However, if no adults are present and there is an imminent danger, rescue should be initiated.
Photo credit: Noricum/Flickr If the squirrel is able to walk steadily & climb on his own, place him on a high branch & watch to see if a parent leads him back to the nest. If the squirrel is unable to climb, or his eyes are not yet open, follow the same procedures as for the not fully feathered baby birds.
Since infants are rarely seen above ground, you may have caught the mother in the process of moving her babies. Keep a close eye out and intervene if the mother does not retrieve “abandoned” babies within thirty minutes.
Racoons & Skunks
Skunks and racoons can be carriers of rabies, distemper & other diseases. You should not attempt to catch these animals yourself, just call a wildlife professional. If absolutely necessary to handle an orphaned or injured skunk or raccoon, be sure to wear heavy gloves and immediately secure the animal in a safe, durable container.
Photo credit: Kathy/Flickr Babies can survive on their own when they are at least five or six inches long, not counting the tail. If you find a deceased female, check the pouch for any live young. If live young are found, wrap them in a soft, ravel-free towel and transport to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Young opossums cannot survive long outside the pouch environment.
Opossums are generally shy, will avoid people and will appear dead when extremely frightened and may also emit a foul odor to dissuade predators from eating them! If found in your yard but not appearing injured, the best thing to do is leave the area and give the opossum time to recover. Put your dogs and cats in house. Do not immediately place the opossum in a plastic bag or garbage can! If after at least 4 hours there is no movement or signs of life, you can safely dispose of the deceased animal by wearing protective gloves and simply double-bagging it and putting it out with your trash. You can also contact animal control in your area, but not all local agencies will come out for wildlife remains and disposal, unless an illness is suspected.
Ducks in a pool
Photo credit: Alasam/Flickr You can discourage migrating ducks from enjoying your pool by putting brightly covered objects like beach balls or kids’ toys in the water. You can also cover the pool until the ducks have moved on, as well as trim low-lying shrubs and bushes to discourage female waterfowl from nesting on your property.
For other animal emergencies in the Los Angeles areaPhoto credit: Alasam/Flickr
Report a stranded marine mammal
Lost pet in Los Angeles
Report animal cruelty in Los Angeles
Report an animal bite or suspected rabies in a wild animal
Quick tips guide
Caring for wildlife before it gets to a rehabilitator
- Find a size-appropriate container with adequate ventilation like a cardboard box, plastic bin with holes, or a plastic cat/dog carrier.
- Place old towels, shredded paper or paper towels in the bottom. If it is a baby animal, create a make-shift nest. DO NOT use cat litter, wood shavings or any other bedding in the container as this can harm the animal if ingested.
- If it is a bird or other climbing animal, you could place a small branch inside for the animal to perch on or climb.
- DO NOT attempt to feed any animal unless instructed to do so by a wildlife rehabilitator. Many animals require specialized diets and feeding them the wrong thing can be deadly.
- DO NOT leave water or food in the container unattended as injured animals and babies can accidentally drown.
- If the animal feels cold to the touch or is shivering, you can provide mild heat in a few different forms. You can safely provide heat by warming up about 1 cup of rice in an old sock for about 30 seconds, and placing in the container. Be sure you test out the temperature before placing in with the animal! It should feel warm to the touch but not hot.
- Put the container somewhere quiet, dark and secure, ideally indoors rather than outside in your yard where other animals may be drawn to it.
Why can’t I keep it?
Many native and migratory birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even some invertebrates are protected by specific state and federal laws that were put in place to help protect wild, native animals, and help guarantee they receive suitable, species-specific care when they are sick, orphaned or injured. In most areas, it is illegal to possess wild animals unless you have the proper permits or are a licensed rehabilitator. Although not always possible to achieve, the ultimate goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release animals back to their natural home. Animals that are too badly injured or ill to be recover can be euthanized, and other survivors not fit for release are often placed in educational facilities and sanctuaries like the Wildlife Waystation.
Find a rehabilitator
or other wildlife information for your area….
- For state by state listings of rehabilitators, visit the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association or go directly to Finding a Rehabilitator to get started.
- Or try the Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
- National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association Resources
- Captive Turtle Care and Reptile Rescue Resources