A walk on the wild side: helping sick or injured wildlife
Several times a year, people stop by Woodford Humane with animals that are a little outside our usual fare. Sometimes it’s a tiny baby opossum; sometimes it’s a fawn found without a mother; one time, it was even an injured turkey vulture inside a cat carrier (don’t ask us how they got it in there, we have no idea). It’s in our nature to want to help an animal that seems to be sick, injured or orphaned; but what’s the best – and legal – way to go about it? First, know who to call for help. As much as our staff loves animals, we are not trained to handle or care for wildlife, and that is going to be the case at most humane societies – we’re not the folks to call. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains a listing of certified wildlife rehabilitators, broken down by county; you can find the list on their website, or give them a call at 800-858-1549. Rehabilitators are often trained to handle specific groups of animals – mammals, reptiles or birds – and each rehabber’s specialty is included on Fish and Wildlife’s list. If the animal is injured and in need of immediate help, call your veterinarian; not all clinics will be able to care for wild animals, but they may be able to direct you to one that can. Raptors – birds of prey like hawks, owls, vultures and eagles – are a different story entirely. Because they are protected by law, it is actually illegal for anyone who is not a certified raptor rehabilitator to handle them; and even injured, they can cause pretty serious injury if not handled correctly. If you find a bird of prey in need of help, contact Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky through their rescue line: 502-491-1939. It’s also important to know what not to do, so that you don’t inadvertently cause more harm than good. There are cases where the right thing to do is nothing; this is especially true for juvenile animals that appear to be orphaned, and with spring on the way there will be plenty of babies out and about. Well-meaning people often pick up and “rescue” an abandoned baby that is not, in fact, abandoned at all; moms may leave their babies alone for hours at a time, so unless the baby is in distress or injured, just leave it where it is. Mom is almost always nearby, waiting for you to leave so she can step in. Its mother is always a baby’s best chance at survival, and our desire to help can turn deadly. And finally, baby or adult, don’t try to take a wild animal home and raise it yourself. Without the proper training, you put both yourself and the animal in danger. Even if you are able to provide care, you’re then left with an animal that lacks the skills to care for itself in the wild, and lacks the manners to be a pet; either way, the animal loses out. Leave wildlife care to the professionals – they’re just a phone call away. Got questions? We’re just a phone call away, too. Give us a ring at 859-873-5491 or drop us an email at email@example.com.