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What to do if you find a sick, orphaned wild animal

If you see what you think may be sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, don’t remove it from its natural habitat. The bird or animal may not need assistance and you could actually do more harm in your attempt to help.

Where an animal is in need of help, it requires specialized care to recover and return to the wild.

You cannot keep wildlife in captivity without approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Determining if wildlife

is orphaned

Some species leave their offspring alone temporarily, especially during the day.

For example, deer and cottontail rabbits spend much of the day away from their well-camouflaged offspring to minimize the chance of predators finding them.

To determine if young wildlife is truly orphaned, check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still around. Keep your distance. Keep cats and dogs away from the area inhabited by the young animal; the adult may not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are close by.

Figuring out what to do

Contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for help in assessing the situation and on what action you should take:

  • visit to contact your local district office;
  • call 1-800-667-1940 on Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and
  • view a list of wildlife rehabilitators who have agreed to have their contact information included on the ministry’s website.

If you must handle the animal, take care to minimize the risk of injury to yourself and to the animal.

Wear protective clothing and equipment, such as leather gloves, to avoid bites or scratches; wash your hands well after handling the animal.

Signs of injury or illness

Signs can include:

  • Blood, wounds or swelling on the body;
  • Body covered in fleas;
  • Unusual or uneven loss of fur or feathers;
  • Difficult or raspy breathing or sneezing;

•A dangling leg or wing; and

•Closed eyes; head tucked under wing

▪To report dead animals, including birds or bats, contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre ( at 1-866-673-4781.

If you suspect there is a public health risk from a sick wild animal, such as rabies, or you or your pet had contact with a suspected rabid animal, contact your local public health unit immediately.

Rabies is fatal for humans and animals if not treated.

Symptoms of rabies and several other diseases in animals can include tremors, aggressive behaviour, partial paralysis, convulsions, and loss of fear of humans.

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