How to Help Sick and Injured Wildlife: Small Mammals


Here are some helpful tips for encountering injured wildlife. Did you know there are over 2800 small mammal species? Rabbits, mice, and squirrels are just a few of the smaller wildlife you may encounter.

Out for a walk, you come across injured wildlife. What do you do?

First, determine if the animal is actually injured or sick. If the animal has been in the mouth of a dog or a cat, has obvious deformities or is showing abnormal behaviour, injury or illness is likely. From a safe distance, look for the following:

  • bleeding
  • favouring a leg
  • adult animal that is easily captured
  • trying to move but collapsing
  • unable to move
  • difficulty breathing
  • shivering/convulsing
  • obvious swelling
  • walking in circles
  • very thin and weak

Not all babies are injured wildlife!

Sometimes, people come across a baby animal and think that it must be injured or abandoned. DO NOT touch the animal, try to feed it, or take the animal with you! Mothers will often leave their babies to hunt or feed and return later in the day. Imagine if you left you child at Day Care, only to find them missing when you return…

How to Help Sick and Injured Wildlife: Small Mammals

The best way to help injured wildlife is to observe from a distance and wait. If the animal is truly injured, call the local authorities (links below) for further instructions. How to proceed will depend on the species of animal that you have encountered. Often small mammals can be transported by you to a licensed rehabilitation centre. Follow these steps before transport:

  • Wear gloves to protect from scratches, bites and disease.
  • Find an appropriate sized cardboard box with a lid and punch holes punched into the sides. A wire cage may be necessary for squirrels and other animals that can chew through cardboard.
  • Place a cloth or paper towel in the bottom of the box.
  • Put a towel over the animal’s body and head, only if this can be done safely.
  • Pick up the animal using a towel and place it in the box.
  • Only handle the animal for a few seconds to avoid extra stress.
  • Keep box in a warm and quiet place away from pets and children, until transport.
  • The animal may need to be warmed up by placing half of the box on a heating pad on low heat or a towel wrapped hot water bottle.
  • DO NOT put the animal directly on the heat source and ensure there is room in the box for the animal to move away from the heat.
  • DO NOT put food or water in the box.
  • DO NOT put food, water, medication into the animal’s mouth.
  • DO NOT pet, cuddle, or take Instagram photos of the animal.

Remember, these animals may be small but they are not harmless. They are wild animals that should be handled with caution or not at all.

Find an Injured Wildlife Rehabilitator

It is illegal to care for wildlife at your home. If you need information and direction, contact:

BC SPCA to report animal cruelty, neglect, and animals in distress, including wildlife. 1-855-6BC-SPCA (1-855-622-7722). Available seven days per week.

Or visit Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC to contact local BC Rehabilitators directly.

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