What to Do When You Find Stray Animals or Injured/Abandoned Wildlife
It is not uncommon to find wildlife in your yard. In New Jersey, we typically encounter birds, rabbits/baby bunnies, raccoons, squirrels, deer/fawns, skunks, opossums, groundhogs, chipmunks, fox, ducks, geese, gulls, turtles, and bats. While your instinct may be to immediately try and help an injured animal, the first thing to consider is your safety. Animals that are stressed or fearful may become defensive or aggressive. In addition, wild animals can be carriers of diseases that can be transmitted to humans including rabies. Precautions should be taken to ensure you and your family members do not get injured (bitten or scratched).
What is Rabies?
Wildlife Carriers of Rabies
Should you find injured or abandoned wildlife, please follow these steps:
- Protect Yourself: Leave the animal alone until you receive instructions from a professional.
- Rabies Carriers - Contact your local police department: Animal control officers are available to help with sick or injured rabies carriers or potentially dangerous species (adult deer, herons, etc.).
- Other Species (Non-Rabies Carriers) - Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator: If other wildlife is encountered that may need help, contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to provide professional care to sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals so ultimately they can be returned to their natural habitat. Wildlife rehabilitators work with veterinarians to assess injuries and diagnose a variety of illnesses. Because of their training, wildlife rehabilitators can help determine whether an animal truly needs help.
To locate a wildlife rehabilitator, visit the following websites:
- In New Jersey: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/rehab_list.pdf
- Nationally: http://www.nwrawildlife.org/
- The New Jersey Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators (NJAWR) website also has a helpful flowchart to determine whether a baby bird or mammal that you have found needs help.
- When to contact your local veterinarian: If you are unable to reach a wildlife rehabilitator in a timely fashion (rehabbers are often volunteers that spend their free time caring for these animals), contact your local veterinarian. Staff members may be able to help you determine whether or not intervention is required. If wildlife is injured, veterinarians are allowed to house and treat the animal for a maximum of 48 hours prior to transferring it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Since we are not a shelter or a wildlife center and have limited care and capacity available for these animals, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital urges you to contact a wildlife rehabilitator first and to only use our hospital as a last resort. Our primary role is in the care of domestic pets, but we will accept injured or orphaned wildlife for stabilization purposes or to alleviate pain and suffering.
It is illegal for anyone to be in possession of wildlife without proper state and/or federal permits. Exceptions exist that allow Good Samaritans to intervene and transport injured or abandoned wildlife to a veterinarian or licensed rehabilitator. Wildlife do not make good pets! Attempting to rehabilitate wildlife without a license and proper training may cause serious harm to the animal and prevent its release back into the wild.
For more information on what to do if you find healthy or injured wildlife, please refer to the websites below.
- Raptor Trust - Injured Bird Information: http://theraptortrust.org/the birds/injured/
- Mercer County Wildlife Center: http://www.wildlifecenterfriends.org/
- NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife: http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/bornwild.htm
- Antler Ridge – Determining if you should intervene with mammals: http://www.antler-ridge.com/how_rescue.html
- Antler Ridge - Injured mammal information: http://www.antler-ridge.com/how_injure.html
- Woodlands Wildlife – Mammals and turtles: http://www.woodlandswildlife.org/index.htm
- Wild Baby Rescue - How to help wildlife: http://wildbabyrescue.org/
It is not uncommon to occasionally find lost dogs or cats in your neighborhood. While helping to reunite a lost pet with its family can be very rewarding, the first thing to consider is your safety. You need to take precautions so that you and your family members don’t get bit. If these animals are injured or scared, they may bite out of pain or fear. They may also have been exposed to rabies if they were bitten by a wild animal since they were lost. Rabies is a serious virus that can be transmitted to humans and cause death.
What is Rabies?
If you find a lost dog or cat, please follow these steps:
- Protect Yourself: leave the animal alone until you get instructions from a professional.
- Call the Non-Emergency Police Number: the dispatcher will contact the Animal Control Officer (ACO) for your county.
- Contact Your Local Veterinarian. Since we are not a shelter and have limited care and capacity available for these animals, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital urges you to contact a veterinarian in your county or your local ACO first. Our primary role with strays is to provide medical care to those who are brought in by Animal Control Officers.
NOTE: Lost animals have a greater chance of being reunited with their owners if they are kept in the county in which they were found. Contact your LOCAL police department and Animal Control Officer. Do not transport them out of the country.
The Benefits of Microchipping
In the event that your pet becomes lost, microchipping is a safe and permanent identification system to help reunite you and your pet even faster. Both dogs and cats can be microchipped, and no anesthetic is required.
Your pet’s veterinarian simply injects a microchip, about the size of a grain of rice (12mm), under the surface of your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. The process only takes a few seconds and can be performed during a routine office visit.
The microchip is read by passing a microchip scanner over a pet’s shoulder blades. The scanner emits a low radio frequency that transmits the microchip’s unique cat or dog identification code associated with a pet.
If your pet gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or veterinarian, they will scan the microchip. As long as you keep your contact information updated with the manufacturer of the microchip used in your pet, you will be contacted and reunited with your pet.
Other Forms of Pet Identification
If microchipping is not an option for you and your pet, be sure that your pet wears an identification tag at all times. You never know when your pet may escape through an open door or a broken fence.