What to do with injured wild animals

If you find an injured wild animal, watch it first to see how badly hurt it is before deciding to take it to a local vet or wildlife rehabilitator.

Please note that in the winter months, avian flu may be a problem, so please check our avian flu advice before taking any action.

Read our guidance on how to handle it safely, below.

How to handle an injured animal

  • Weigh up the risks: only lift a wild animal if you're sure that you can do so without risk to yourself or others. 
  • Keep the animal away from your face, as they may bite or scratch.
  • Wear gloves when handling all wild animals, especially oiled wildlife - pollutants like oil can be hazardous. 
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling an animal.
  • Take care in dangerous locations, such as a busy roads. Watch from a distance first to see whether the animal is still alive, and call for help if you can't reach it safely.
  • If you need to handle a bat, you must wear thick gloves and be aware of the risks of rabies transmission - always follow the advice from the Bat Conservation Trust.

If you see any of these animals injured, keep a safe distance, don't handle and don't transport: 

  • Deer
  • Seal
  • Wild boar
  • Otter
  • Badger
  • Fox
  • Snake
  • Bird of prey (including owls)
  • Swan
  • Goose
  • Heron
  • Gull

Catching and boxing injured wildlife

If it's safe to catch and handle the animal, then put on some suitable gloves and quickly place it into a secure cardboard box with ventilation holes, lined with a towel or newspaper.

Keep the animal quiet and take it to a vet (call first to make sure they can take and treat the animal), one of our wildlife centres or your local wildlife rehabilitator.

Who to call for certain animals

Found a dead bird?

If you see a dead bird, please report it to the Garden Wildlife Health Project, and have a look at their factsheets on diseases affecting British birds, such as Trichomonosis, Avian pox and Salmonellosis.

Found a whale, dolphin or porpoise?

If you find a whale, dolphin or porpoise on a beach, keep a safe distance and do not touch them. Call us or the BDMLR immediately.  

If the animal is dead, please report it to the Strandings Hotline on 0800 652 0333.

Found a sick or injured grey squirrel?

By law, we can no longer rehabilitate and release grey squirrels, even if they've been injured and treated. Therefore sadly in some cases, the best option will be humane euthanasia to end the animal's suffering.

However, you may be able to help:

  • Free them if they're trapped, for example in your house or caught in a bird feeder, as the law still permits freeing the animal and releasing where found. For animals with only minor injuries, it's best to leave them in the wild.
  • Call the vet if you find an injured or sick squirrel. This is usually the quickest way to get help, as our officers may be out attending other calls. If they're unavailable, please contact us and we'll do our best to help.

Be careful handling squirrels - they have sharp teeth and can be extremely fast, so take care when trying to confine a sick or injured squirrel. Wear thick gloves and quickly place the squirrel into a secure metal or plastic pet carrier with ventilation holes, lined with a towel or newspaper.

Animals in traps

Never try to free an animal from a snare or trap - you risk hurting yourself and the animal, and it could be an offence if the animal was legally caught. Stay back to avoid stressing the animal and call us with the location.

Animals that have been caught in a trap can also be more seriously injured than they might look, so it's best that they are examined to check if they need veterinary treatment before being released.

When to contact the vet or a wildlife rehabilitator

Be careful when approaching wild animals, as they can scratch and bite when frightened - particularly if they're injured. If after watching from a safe distance it is possible to take the injured animal to a nearby vet or wildlife rehabilitator - be sure to call first to make sure they can assess and treat the animal.

If you're unable to transport the animal and can't find a wildlife rehabilitator to help, contact us online or call 0300 1234 999. Our call opening hours are 8am to 8pm, therefore you'll need to contact a vet or wildlife rehabilitator out of these times.

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