Wildlife Rescue Tips

Rescuing wildlife can be dangerous for both the rescuer and the injured animal if the proper steps are not taken. Follow the tips below to ensure the best possible outcomes for all involved.

If your safety is in question, call our Wildlife Hotline at 503-292-0304 to speak to one of our Wildlife Solutions Counselors.

1. Prioritize your safety

Wild animals, even weak or injured wild animals, can be unpredictable. It is important for wildlife rescuers to be safe while helping wildlife.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Wild animals sometimes carry diseases that can affect people. Wear gloves and wash your hands after handling any wild animals. DO NOT handle bats directly.
  • Some animals can and will defend themselves with teeth, talons, or claws. Be particularly cautious of adult mammals and raptors of all species.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid putting yourself at risk from hazards like busy roads, ledges, water, etc.
What about animals that are too active to get close to?
Never handle bats directly as they can carry rabies and other diseases harmful to humans.

2. Safely contain the animal

  • Find a secure container that will comfortably fit the animal. Cardboard boxes, pet carriers, or even paper grocery bags with the tops folded over can be appropriate.
  • Line the container with absorbent material like an old towel or a t-shirt. DO NOT use straw, hay, or shavings.
  • Approach the animal cautiously if you feel safe doing so.
  • Get the animal into the container. There are several methods that can work:
    • Throw a towel over the animal so it can’t see you. Wear gloves, pick the animal up gently, and place in the container.
    • Set the container down beside the animal with the opening toward the animal. Gently use a broom or similar tool to push or herd the animal into the box.
    • Set the container down over the animal. Slide a stiff board or piece of cardboard under both the animal and box. Pick up the whole contraption and either slowly turn the container over and secure it, or secure the board to the bottom of the container.

3. Keep the animal calm and secure until you can take it to the Wildlife Care Center

  • Do not handle the animal any more than necessary to contain it – this is for your protection as well as for the animal’s well being. Wild animals are terrified of humans. They may fight back, try to flee, or freeze. Many people mistake the “freeze” behavior for tolerance or enjoyment of contact, when in reality it is a fear response. Limiting contact will reduce stress on the animal.
  • Keep the animal in a warm, dark, and quiet space. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • Many animals benefit from a heating pad set on low under half their enclosure, or a sock filled with dry rice and microwaved for 2-3 minutes.
  • Do not feed the animal. Most animals eat specialized foods, and feeding can be dangerous to the animal’s health. For example, did you know feeding a starving animal can kill the animal if it is not done properly?
  • Be cautious when choosing to leave water. Many wild animals do not drink standing water, and attempting to help them drink can result in pneumonia. In addition, if an animal spills its water and gets wet, it could get cold and may die. If in doubt, it is better not to leave water.
  • Bring the animal to the Wildlife Care Center as soon as you can. If you can’t bring it to the center during our open hours, or you believe the animal is in critical condition and needs immediate attention after hours, the Wildlife Care Center has a partnership with the 24 hour Emergency Veterinary Hospital Dove Lewis. To get in touch with them, call (503) 228-7281.