I found an animal. What do I do?

If you’ve found a wild animal that you are concerned about please read through these instructions to learn how to care for the animal before bringing it to us. If you do not see the information that you need please call our office at 215-249-1938. We are open 24 hours, 7 days a week for drop off. We currently have staff available from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Please keep in mind that not all animals need human help. Often times the animal is better off left in the wild. This is especially true for presumably “orphaned” animals. Often the parents are close by or the animal can be safely placed back in the nest. Please call the clinic if you are unsure whether the animal in question needs your help.

  • Adult Bird

    The most common causes of injury are collisions with cars or windows, dog or cat attacks and poisoning from lawn maintenance chemicals. In most cases, mild to severe head trauma (concussion) is common and must be treated as soon as possible.

    Broken bones are common, so handle the bird very gently and as little as possible. Do not stress the bird by holding it or allowing people to “come look.” Humans are predators to a bird and the torment of prolonged handling or exposure to humans on top of its injury may prove too great a shock for recovery. Every non-necessary exposure to humans worsens their chance of survival.

    Place in a secure container. Do not place grass, twigs or leaves in the container as these will only serve to spread parasites and bacteria to the bird, which is already physically compromised. Newspaper or paper towels on the bottom of a small box or even a paper bag will do fine. For very small birds try to find a small nest-like container such as a berry box and fill it with soft tissue.

  • Juvenile Bird

    The first thing to do if you find a baby bird out of its nest is to identify its stage of development: hatchling, nestling or fledgling. Hatchlings have little to no feathers. Nestlings have a few feathers starting to come in. Fledglings are fully feathered, but their adult wing and tail feathers need to get longer. Fledglings are the closest to being fully grown and although they cannot fly, they can hop and will be flying within a day or so.

    If you find a fledgling, leave it alone. It will be flying in no time. Only move it if it is directly in harms way. If you find a hatchling or nestling, look around for the nest. If possible, carefully place the bird back in the nest. Although it’s best to use a glove, it is okay to handle the bird without one. The baby’s parents will not reject the bird if you have handled it as birds have a poor sense of smell.

    If you cannot find the nest or if it is out of reach, carefully place the bird on a small towel in a secure container and keep the bird warm. Do NOT attempt to offer food or water to the baby bird. Birds can be easily drowned by dropping water into their mouths as their esophagus is located next to their throat and it is better to give them no food than the wrong food. Bring the baby to us as soon as possible. If you cannot get the bird to us quickly, call for interim directions.

  • Birds of Prey

    If you find an injured or orphaned raptor, call us for guidance on capture and transport for the safety of you as well as the animal.
  • Deer

    Fawns

    Many fawns are unintentionally “kidnapped” by well meaning people. Fawns will lay in a circle with their legs tucked underneath, like a cat, and remain very still. They have no scent, so being quiet and still is their only defense. The mother will leave the fawn alone so she doesn’t attract predators to her baby. Occasionally a fawn will cry to let the mother know to come feed them, but unless the fawn is crying for hours upon end, it is probably not orphaned. If the fawn is in harms way, you can move it to safety nearby where the mother can find it. Please call the Aark first for instructions on how to do this.

    There are times when it is necessary to bring a fawn to the clinic. For example, if you know for certain that the mother has been compromised or if the fawn is crying incessantly for a long period of time. Please call for advice if you are unsure.

    Adult Deer

    If the deer is injured, call your local police department or the Game Commission. We do not have adequate resources to do field work or to pick up injured animals.

  • Mammals

    Do not handle the animal without gloves. In the wild mammals carry fleas, mites, bacteria, viruses and parasites which can harm you or your pets. Use gloves and do not expose the animals to any humans or pets — for you and your pet’s sake and the sake of the animal.

    Do not offer food or water. Young mammals can be easily drowned by dropping water into their mouths. It is also easy for an animal to aspirate water into their lungs. Even if they do not drown, they are then at risk for pneumonia which lessens their chance of survival.

    While young mammals need to feed frequently, it is better to give them nothing than the wrong food. Cow’s milk is vastly different than that of smaller mammals and cannot be properly digested. The ensuing digestive problems often prove fatal. If you cannot get the animal to us quickly — call us for interim care recommendations!

    Do not stress the animal by holding it or inviting people to “come look.” Every non-necessary exposure to humans worsens their chance of survival. Animals do not “understand” that people are trying to help them. As a human, you are a predator and the torment of prolonged handling or exposure on top of their injury or orphaning may prove too great a shock for the animal. Animals that appear unfazed by human contact are either extremely ill or in shock from trauma. . If they are completely still, they are mortally ill or completely traumatized.

    Place the animal in a secure container. Do not place grass, twigs or leaves in the container as these will only serve to spread parasites and bacteria to the animal, which is already physically compromised. Newspaper or paper towels on the bottom of a small box will do fine. Make sure the box is securely closed. Find a way to get the animal into our facility. Unfortunately, we do not have adequate resources to do field work or to pick up injured animals. Try to minimize trauma during transport by minimizing the animal’s exposure to noise.

    A special note about baby bunnies:

    Just because you don’t see the mother rabbit with her babies does not mean they are abandoned. The mother rabbit only nurses two times per day and stays away from the nest so she doesn’t attract predators. Baby rabbits do not have a scent and won’t attract predators except by sight or sound. If you do find a baby rabbit, look around for the nest. Return the baby if possible – the mother will not care if you have touched the baby, though handling as little as possible is best. Rabbits are one of the hardest animals to rehabilitate. Unless you are absolutely sure the mother is not caring for them, please leave them in their nest. Bunnies do not take a long period of time to become independent of their mother. If you find a bunny with its ears up and eyes open, it is most likely able to be on its own.

  • Rabies Vector Species (Fox, Raccoons, Bats, Skunks, Coyotes, Groundhogs)

    Rabies vector species (RVS) are those at greater risk for contracting the disease. In Pennsylvania, these species are: raccoon, groundhog, bat, skunk, coyote and fox. Should you encounter any orphaned or injured RVS, DO NOT handle them. You cannot tell by visual inspection whether an animal has rabies. There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Any human exposure will mean that the animal involved must be killed and tested for rabies — even if no symptoms are present. Even when the symptoms of rabies begin to emerge, they vary dramatically. The stereotypical foaming at the mouth and aggression are not uniformly present. Friendliness to humans in a wild animal could be a symptom of rabies. It could also be an indication that the animal was (improperly) hand raised. Either way: do not touch the animal or allow anyone else to touch it. This applies to baby animals as well as adults. Any exposure to humans will mean the animal will have to be destroyed and tested for rabies. Call a wildlife rehabilitator or the Game Commission immediately for advice.

Please call the Aark for advice anytime you see any wildlife that you think may need help 215-249-1938. We can help determine if action is warranted and give you instructions on how to proceed. Thanks!